ISLAMABAD: Reacting immediately to the government’s decision to increase prices of diesel, petrol and other petroleum products, the Pakistan Muslim League-N announced on Sunday that it would boycott Monday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) which is redrafting its recommendations on new terms of engagements with the US.
The party will also hold a protest rally in Rawalpindi on Wednesday against what it termed a “cruel and inhuman decision”.
The PML-N also said it would support every protest call given by businessmen to express solidarity with the people.
The announcements were made in a statement issued by the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
The PML-N leader termed the decision to boycott the PCNS meeting and its call for a protest rally as only the “immediate reaction” and said the party would devise its course of action after consulting the leadership and other parties.
Chaudhry Nisar, whose party has indicated several times in the recent past about a plan to mobilise people, said: “All patriotic and truly democratic political parties, ordinary people of Pakistan, traders, businessmen, students, lawyers and civil society’s representatives will have to take to the streets for their rights and to physically stop the government from taking such cruel and inhuman decisions.
“If we all accept the recent hike in oil and CNG prices, it will prove that we as a nation deserve to have a leadership like (President) Zardari.”
Chaudhry Nisar, who served as petroleum minister in the two PML-N governments, claimed that the recent increase in prices was not proportionate to the rise in world prices. He said the decisions to increase the prices of petroleum products and compressed natural gas reflected poor and faulty economic policies of the government.
He said while people were suffering from loadshedding and increase in prices of oil and gas, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani were busy in “foreign excursions”.
He said the prices had been increased to meet the expenses of the foreign trips and to cover the rulers’ alleged corruption.
PML-N’s decision to boycott Monday’s session has made the task of the bipartisan PCNS more difficult. The committee has been struggling to reach a consensus amid varying and changed positions taken by several parties about resumption of Nato supplies to Afghanistan.
PCNS Chairman Raza Rabbani said he had not been officially informed by PML-N’s members about the boycott and the meeting would be held as scheduled.
He expressed the hope that the opposition members would realise that the committee was performing an important national task.
Experts believe that a possible prolonged boycott by the PML-N can further delay the finalisation of a new report by the PCNS amid increasing pressure on the government for restoration of Nato supply routes.
The joint sitting of both houses of parliament on the mater will resume on Thursday afternoon after a five-day recess.
After a similar increase in oil prices in February, the National Assembly had unanimously passed a resolution urging the government to consider withdrawing the increase and the prime minister promised to do “whatever is possible”.
Chaudhry Nisar had cited it as one of the opposition’s conditions for supporting an amendment to the Constitution to validate over 20 by-elections.
Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza constituted a committee to devise a new mechanism for determining oil prices. The committee recommended that the price of diesel should be frozen till June 30 and the government should provide Rs15 billion subsidy for the purpose. It sought proposals from the provinces about prices of other petroleum products.