Opposition leaders slam govt’s ‘brutality’ as petroleum prices soar to all-time high


ISLAMABAD: The historic hike in prices of petroleum products has drawn condemnation from opposition parties’ leaders, with PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif accusing the PTI government of being “insensitive and heartless” to the sufferings of inflation-hit masses.

The government last night notified an unprecedented increase in the prices of all petroleum products by up to Rs10 to Rs12 per litre for the next fortnight ending on Feb 28 “to pass on the impact of higher international oil prices” and application of additional petroleum levy, as committed to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

These are the highest-ever prices of all the products and also perhaps the highest-ever increase in their prices in one go.

The government had last increased the petrol prices by Rs 3.01 to Rs147.83 on Jan 15.

Shehbaz, the PML-N president, hit out at the PTI-led government, saying “it is snatching people’s right to live”.

He urged the masses to “teach Prime Minister Imran Khan a befitting lesson in the next general elections”. Sirajul Haq, the Jamaat-i-Islami head, said his party “will not remain silent on this brutality”, adding that the hike was another example of the government’s “brutality” as he threatened a protest march towards Islamabad.

PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari criticised the rate hike and said the days of the “‘selected government are numbered”, adding that the citizens will not accept it at any cost.

Bilawal also said the long march planned by his party on Feb 27 will hold the government accountable for its policies. PML-N’s Ishaq Dar noted the rate hike was unaffordable for the public, saying it was the result of a “dictated devaluation in Pakistani rupee”. Meanwhile, PPP’s Nafisa Shah questioned how people would make their ends meet after the steep hike. Another PPP leader Naz Baloch, formerly a PTI member, said the price surge would directly result in a new high in inflation.

The decision for the unprecedented hike was announced yesterday by the Ministry of Finance after Prime Minister Imran Khan agreed to raise a levy on all petroleum products by Rs4 per litre to honour the commitment made with the IMF for smooth continuation of the ongoing Extended Fund Facility (EFF). However, the GST rate on all these products was kept unchanged at zero.

Petrol and HSD are two major products that generate most of the revenue for the government because of their massive and yet growing consumption in the country. Average petrol sales are touching 750,000 tonnes per month against the monthly consumption of around 800,000 tonnes of HSD. The sales of kerosene and LDO are generally less than 11,000 and 2,000 tonnes per month, respectively.