The federal government drew the ire of its political rivals on Saturday after it raised the price of petrol by Rs10.49 per litre and that of high speed diesel (HSD) by Rs12.44 per litre.
According to a notification issued by the Finance Division, the new price of petrol, effective from Oct 16 (today), is Rs137.79 per litre while high speed diesel will sell for Rs134.48.
Meanwhile, the prices of kerosene and light diesel oil (LDO) were increased by Rs10.95 and Rs8.84 per litre respectively. The new price of kerosene is Rs110.26 per litre and that of LDO is Rs108.35 per litre.
This is perhaps the first time for which data is publicly available that all the four major petroleum products are being sold above Rs100 per litre in the country.
The notification stated that oil prices in the international market had risen around $85 a barrel which was the highest since October 2018.
"Importantly, entire energy chain prices have witnessed a strong surge in the past couple of months due to higher demand for energy inputs and supply bottlenecks," it further stated.
The government had absorbed the pressure of increasing international rates and provided "maximum relief" to consumers by keeping the petroleum levy and sales tax to a minimum, the Finance Division said.
"Therefore, prices worked out by Ogra (Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority) have been approved," it added.
It is pertinent to mention here that the government had raised the price of petrol by Rs4 per litre at the start of the month as well.
Govt took a hit of billions to ensure minimal burden passed on to public: minister
Minister of State for Information Farrukh Habib defended the price hike, saying it was still lower when compared to the international petroleum prices as he blamed global inflation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“In the last 15 days, petroleum prices rose by 13.5pc globally but we have increased the rates by only 8pc,” the minister said in a media talk delivered in Faisalabad. “The difference was absorbed by the government. We chose to take a hit of billions on our revenue but ensured that the burden passed on the public of this hike was as low as possible.”
“Coal, through which electricity is generated and is used in a lot of our industries … it’s price has risen from $50 to $250. We import all of the edible oil. Its price has gone up from $500 to $1200 and $1300. This is extraordinary inflation that has taken place in the entire world.
“The circumstances have changed in the entire world due to coronavirus, which is why prices are going up all over the world.”
Habib cited a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reportedly saying that it was the greatest surge in inflation since 1970.
He detailed the government’s plans to curb inflation and held the previous governments responsible for the energy crisis the current government is embroiled in.
Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid also addressed the price increase while speaking at a ceremony in Islamabad, saying that Pakistan was in the grip of a wave of increase in international oil rates.
"No ruler wants inflation [...] a crisis in the world has come of [increase in] prices of oil, edible oil and wheat," he said.
The interior minister attributed the price increases in Pakistan to higher prices in the international markets.
Price hike is 'a calamity' for people: Maryam
PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz lashed out at the price increase, calling it a "calamity" that had fallen on the people like a "lightning bolt".
"When petrol and diesel become expensive then your electricity, wheat, bread, vegetables and everything become expensive," she explained.
She asked what fault it was of the nation that every day some new crisis was thrust upon the people.
"Not everyone has ATMs or friends who run your kitchen, house and expenses," she said in a veiled dig at Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The PML-N vice president said that MNAs and MPAs of her party had been instructed to go to their constituencies and "share the people's grief and pain".
Petrol bomb will push people to the brink of starvation, says Shehbaz
PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif blasted the latest hike in petrol prices, calling it "utterly shameful" and saying it would "push people to the brink of starvation".
"No words to describe the extreme cruelty this selected PTI regime has inflicted on the people in the form of yet another increase in the prices of items of daily use," he tweeted.
"These latest hikes along with petrol bomb will push people to the brink of starvation. Utterly shameful!"
PPP announces protest against rising prices
The PPP not only assailed the hike, but also announced a protest against the ongoing wave of inflation in the country.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwala said consultation had begun with other opposition parties for the protest, which would kick off from Islamabad.
He, along with other PPP leaders, said the people were left at the mercy of the International Monetary Fund and a "tsunami of inflation" was heading their way due to the price hike.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a tweet, reiterated his party's stance on the subject.
"The PTI has brought a tsunami of inflation in the country by bringing [prices of] petroleum products to the highest level in the history of the country," he said.
Bilawal said the government was actually "collecting the cost of its incompetence" from the people by raising petrol price by more than Rs10 per litre. He also compared the current government's response to the increase in international prices of petroleum products with that of what, he said, the PPP had done back when they were in power.
"Only a people-friendly government of the PPP can save the country from the tsunami of inflation," he said. "The rise in petrol and diesel prices the day after the hike in electricity prices proves that Imran Khan is an anti-people prime minister," the PPP chairman said.
Hike would make common man's life go from bad to worse: PSP's Kamal
Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal criticised the federal government for raising the price of petroleum products, which he said was akin to forcing the common man up against the wall.
“This has been repeated so many times that it now sounds strange even to say that the government does not [care for the common man],” he said while delivering a media talk in Karachi. “Forget giving them 10m jobs, the ones who already had jobs are now unemployed as well.
“This hike in prices of petroleum products [would make] the life of a common man go from bad to worse. You don’t give gas in the winters and electricity in the summers so the common man has been forced against the wall.”
Petrol and HSD are two major products that generate most of revenue for the government because of their massive and yet growing consumption in the country. Average petrol sales are touching 750,000 tonnes per month against the monthly consumption of around 800,000 tonnes of HSD. The sales of kerosene and LDO are generally less than 11,000 and 2,000 tonnes per month, respectively.
Under the revised mechanism, oil prices are revised by the government on a fortnightly basis to pass on international prices published in Platt's Oilgram instead of previous mechanism of monthly calculations on the basis of import cost of the Pakistan State Oil.