Pakistan's caretaker government came under increasing fire by political parties after it announced a massive hike in fuel prices. Several parties highlighted that the Pakistani population is already battling with soaring inflation and dwindling purchasing power, and this latest hike will worsen their economic situation.
The Ministry of Finance on Friday night announced the price hike of petrol by Rs 26.02 and diesel by Rs 17.34 per litre following clearance from caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar. After the hike, petrol and high-speed diesel (HSD) are costing over Rs 330 at the filling stations, Dawn reported.
Jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) claimed that the price hike was a "conspiracy" to instigate "civil war" in the country and called it "a cruel blow" for people below the poverty line who are already struggling with rising prices of essential goods.
“The caretaker government is an extension and continuation of the PDM government in all respects. PTI was expecting that [caretaker Prime Minister] Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar would choose a better path to ease public woes,” said the statement.
Meanwhile, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also criticised the government for the price hike, claiming it to have done so on the instructions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). JI's emir Sirajul Haq called for people to join protests by his party in a bid to force the government to rollback the prices.
Other parties like Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party and those in the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) also rejected the increase in petrol and diesel prices. While GDA's Sardar Abdul Rahim also claimed the previous government's agreement with IMF for the decision, IPP's Firdous Ashiq Awan opined that the interim government should provide relief to masses instead of further burdening them.
Pakistan's economic crises
The fuel price hike comes on the heels of over 27.4 per cent increase in the rate of inflation in August, putting an unbearable burden on the masses, as petrol and HSD are used by all private and public service vehicles.
The rise is on top of Rs 32.41 and Rs 38.49 per litre increase in petrol and HSD prices since August 15. The combined increase now works out at Rs 58.43 and Rs 55.83 per litre within one month. Petrol and diesel have become costlier by 20 per cent since the caretaker government took over in August. On September 1, the caretaker government had jacked up the petrol and diesel prices by over Rs 14.
No GST is charged on petroleum products but the government is charging Rs 60 per litre petroleum development levy (PDL) on petrol and Rs 50 each on HSD under the commitment with the IMF. In July, the IMF transferred USD 1.2 billion to cash-strapped Pakistan, part of the USD 3 billion bailout programme for nine months to support the government's efforts to stabilise the country's ailing economy.
Pakistan’s economy has been in a free fall mode for the last many years, bringing untold pressure on the poor masses in the form of unchecked inflation, making it almost impossible for a vast number of people to make ends meet.
(with agency input)