ISLAMABAD: In a rare display of harmony, Senate members from both sides of the aisle on Wednesday rejected the recent hike in fuel prices, with a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz lawmaker saying it is impossible to defend the move, a Pakistan Peoples Party legislator demanding that the agreements reached between the International Monetary Fund and the present coalition government and the previous PTI government be placed before the parliament, and a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf lawmaker criticising the coalition government for not reducing petroleum prices despite a price decline in international markets.

The first salvo from the treasury side was fired by Senator Irfanul Haq Siddiqui who minced no words in declaring that he agreed with the protesting opposition.

Recalling that the then opposition used to castigate the PTI government over increase in petroleum products, Senator Siddiqui said the POL price hike had the same impact whoever was in the saddle. “It leads to price hike, poverty and hunger,” he said, admitting that the move could not be defended.

PML-N sides with protesting opposition; PPP demands deals with IMF be laid before the house; PTI welcomes proposed voting on matter

While expressing alarm over hike in petroleum prices, PML-N legislator Saadia Abbasi proposed a discussion on the issue, followed by voting to see if the house accepts or disapproves the increase. “It would be hypocrisy with our office and the oath if we fail to discuss people’s sufferings,” she said, pointing out that the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari had already rejected it.

PPP stalwart and former Senate chairman Mian Raza Rabbani blasted the elite in all major parties for “playing a game with the masses”. He said the agreements reached with the IMF by the previous PTI government and the present government should be placed before the parliament. “The parliament has a right to know who did what,” he remarked. He said the parliament was being kept in dark, because sharing the agreements with the parliament was “not in the interest of elite on both sides”. Economic sovereignty had been mortgaged to the IMF under the agreement, signed by the PTI government, with the fund, he alleged.

Senator Faisal Javed of PTI welcomed the proposal of voting on the issue of petroleum prices and said the recent hike, in case of voting, would be rejected by the entire house with the exception of few. Yet the present government would increase the POL prices in coming days also, he believed.

Unemployment and prices of essential commodities were rapidly increasing since the ‘imported government’ took over, he said, while calling for immediate dissolution of the National Assembly and holding of fresh elections.

Minister for Law and Justice Azam Nazeer Tarar, however, said due to imprudent financial policies of the previous government, Pakistan was on the verge of bankruptcy. He said the present government had taken tough decisions, including the one related to petroleum prices, to save the economy but expressed the hope that people would witness relief soon.

Mr Tarar said it was the previous PTI government that signed an agreement with the IMF and committed not to provide subsidies on petroleum prices.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Dr Shahzad Waseem criticised the government for not reducing petroleum prices despite a price decline in international markets and stability of the rupee against the US dollar. He said Miftah Ismail was the one to have imposed petroleum levy of Rs30 in 2018 and to increase it to Rs50 in June 2022.

The Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) also criticised the increase in prices of petroleum products, with its Senator Ataur Rehman declaring that his party had already rejected the move.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2022

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