State Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik on Friday said raising the fuel prices by Rs30 was a “difficult decision”, but taken to “save the country from bankruptcy and destruction” a day after the government instituted the measure to revive a stalled IMF bailout programme.
“We made a difficult decision to save the country from destruction and bankruptcy and to bring stability,” Malik said at a press conference alongside PML-N senior vice president Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.
The presser came after the prices of petroleum and diesel hit record highs in the wake of the government's raising prices for a second time in a week — cumulatively by Rs60, leading to sporadic protests in various cities.
Another government mouthpiece, Daniyal Aziz, called on the public to be patient in a separate press conference.
"In a few months, you will see stability. God willing, there will be stability — there will be some pain also," Malik said. "Some of the pain the federal government has shouldered. I believe the government has given about Rs250 billion in subsidies."
He added that some of "those who have been blessed" would also have to bear the pain. "We are trying as much as possible to not burden the poor, for whom we announced Rs2000 per family to weather this crisis."
He reiterated that it was a difficult decision, but it was made to save the country from destruction, which he blamed on the PTI regime.
Malik said: "They had contracted to the IMF that they would raise petroleum prices. They had committed that they would also apply petroleum levy and sales tax in addition to raising prices.
"So when a country makes a sovereign commitment to an international organisation, and before leaving, its selected PM tears up commitments like how he did with the Constitution, [it begs the question] what did they want to do? I'll tell you what they wanted to do. They wanted to bankrupt and destroy the country."
But he mentioned that the markets were responding to the difficult measures, and conceded that his comments did not mean the pain felt by the commonfolk was any less.
"You have also seen the stock market, and the rupee stability. The markets have responded positively and the rupee is increasing and the dollar is reducing. This was a very difficult decision but it had to be done."
He said in a few months it would be evident that the government was taking people to the place that the PML-N has always taken them: "to progress".
'Unfortunate that PML-N has to take these tough decisions'
When he spoke, Abbasi said it was "unfortunate that it is always the PML-N that has to take these decisions", but not taking them would be unfair to the nation and country. He said the subsidies were unsustainable.
He said the subsidy had reached Rs125 billion that the government was paying after taking additional loans. "Pakistan's entire federal government is run on Rs520 billion, our defence expenditure is Rs1,700 billion, the subsidy reached Rs250 billion."
He pilloried the PTI regime for running the country on "lies and false promises". He said it is not possible to sell fuel at a lower price than the buying price.
If the prices were not raised, he said, the economy would have "drowned" and the "storm of inflation" that people would have to face would be unimaginable.
He then cautioned that it would take a long time and "we all will have to bear immense pain to take the country back to where the PML-N had left it in 2018".