Opposition assails price hike, plans protests

Published October 17, 2021
This file photo shows PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. — DawnNewsTV/File
This file photo shows PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. — DawnNewsTV/File

• Seeks withdrawal of unprecedented increase in petroleum prices
• Shehbaz terms ‘mini-budgets’ proof of govt’s economic failures
• Bilawal says only a people-friendly govt can save Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: While flexing muscles to kick off protests from the federal capital against the government over unbridled inflation and hike in petroleum and electricity prices, the opposition on Saturday demanded immediate withdrawal of unprecedented increase in petroleum prices.

The two mainstream opposition parties — Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) — vowed to take to the streets against the price hike but did not give any date for the protest.

The government on Saturday made highest-ever increase in petroleum prices in one go as it raised the price of petrol and high-speed diesel by Rs10.49 and Rs12.44 per litre, respectively.

Terming it a ‘continuation of the mini-budgets’, PML-N president and Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif lashed out at the government for the petrol price hike and the recent 14 per cent increase in electricity prices. “One mini-budget after another is a telling proof of the economic failures of the PTI government,” he said.

He demanded that the PM resign instead of crushing people to death with inflation. Despite getting concessions, Imran Khan completely failed to serve the people, he said, reminding the premier of his opinion that rising inflation rate meant the PM was corrupt. “Imran should accept his own assessment and resign instead of clinging on to the office of prime minister,” he said, adding that people were screaming and cursing the government. “How will the people survive with petrol at a historic high of Rs 137.79,” he questioned?

“How will they (people) run their homes and feed their children? How will they pay Rs10,000 electricity bill out of a monthly income of less than Rs20,000? Are these the good days that Imran claims to have brought to Pakistan? Imran had promised the nation petrol at Rs46 per litre but hiked it up to historic level, is this the reality of Imran being a truthful leader?” he asked.

The PML-N president said increase in petroleum prices created a chain reaction of inflation in every product. “Yet Imran complains the people of Pakistan do not understand the cause of inflation. The nation understands very well that there is just one reason for this insane inflation, which is Imran Khan,” he remarked.

PML-N Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal called the party’s provincial chapters to organise protests against the brutal inflation.

In a statement, he said the PML-N with other opposition parties would stage a protest in the parliament against the ‘cruel step’ by the PTI government. He said the government had dumped the burden of its failures and incompetence on the people of Pakistan.

Demanding an immediate withdrawal of the increase in electricity, petrol and diesel prices, Mr Iqbal warned the government that it would trigger the worst storm of inflation.

PPP’s reaction

While assailing the hike, the PPP announced protest against the government over the ‘ongoing wave of inflation’.

“Consultation has begun with other opposition parties for the protest, which would kick off from Islamabad,” said PPP Senator Saleem Mandviwala while addressing a press conference in Islamabad.

He, accompanied by other PPP leaders, said people were left at the mercy of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and a “tsunami of inflation” was heading their way due to the price hike.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in a tweet, stated: “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.”

The government was actually “collecting the cost of its incompetence” from the people by raising petrol price by more than Rs10 per litre, he observed.

The chairman also compared the incumbent government’s response to increase in international prices of petroleum products with what the PPP government had done in such situation. “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 a day after the hike in electricity prices proves that Imran Khan is an anti-people prime minister,” the chairman said.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2021

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