LAHORE: Many a people lost their patience on Saturday after the caretaker federal government announced yet another massive raise in the petroleum products, adding to the miseries of the common man, already burdened by high inflation in the country.

On the other hand, various bodies representing the business community have also expressed concerns over the huge raise in the POL prices, terming it devastating for the public at large. They also demanded the government to immediately talk to the IMF and convince the lending agency to help Pakistan in easing the masses’ routine life.

“What the government wants to do to us? So far, its actions show that it is hell-bent on crushing us, either through increasing POL prices or electricity and gas tariffs. These are really worst times for the common people like us,” deplores a biker while getting fuel at a petrol pump on Jail Road. “I don’t expect any relief for the poor of this country even in future,” he said.

The over Rs26 per litre hike in the petrol price left the people in a shock, as most of them were unanimous in saying they should better migrate to some other country. “I am earning Rs40,000 to Rs50,000 per month. But for the last one year or so, I am really meeting my house expenses by borrowing money from friends or relatives,” commented another man at a fuel station in Johar Town.

He said the latest petrol price hike has forced him to think to move abroad, where he and his family could live without such financial stress. “Have you calculated that with this fresh increase, the per litre petrol price is now equal in Pakistan and USA, where the per capita income is over USD40,000,” he said, demanding the government to withdraw the increase to save the poor.

A shopkeeper in a Johar Town market said the daily sale at his shop, like many others, has been drastically reduced due to the sky-rocketing prices, that would be pushed further up by the recent increase in the POL prices. “This market, which was once full of customers in the peak hours, has now fewer of them. This is just because of the extraordinary inflation,” he said, appealing to the government to at least provide some breathing space to the people.

The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) President Kashif Anwar said he could feel the pain of the masses, that had been heightened by this raise in the POL prices. “I know the people are under immense financial stress caused by such government decisions. But, I tell you one thing that this all is for a short time and there will be good times soon,” he maintained.

He hoped that the ongoing crackdowns, especially on the hoarders of dollars and other foreign currencies, besides power and gas thieves, flour and sugar smugglers and those not paying their taxes, would eventually bring the prices down within the next couple of months.

Anjuman Tajiram Pakistan’s secretary general Naeem Mir said the situation of the masses is worsening fast due to the record inflation and various other factors. “Everyone knows that the POL prices are being increased due to IMF agreement that was not honoured by the former premier Imran Khan, causing trouble for the entire country,” he said.

Mir said the situation is very alarming and if the government fails to honour the IMF agreement, the country would default eventually, leaving the people with no option but to buy petrol at a much higher price.

He said the government, in a bid to give relief to the poor, would have to give targeted subsidies through a viable plan and tax the rich. If it doesn’t do this, it should be ready to face massive public protests in future, he warned. “I don’t see the situation improving any soon, and people will have to put with this for the next few years,” he added.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2023

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