Yet another hike smashes fuel prices record in Pakistan, prompts furore

PTI, Sep 16, 2023, 5:37 PM IST

Amid double-digit inflation, Pakistan’s caretaker government has effected yet another hike in the prices of petrol and diesel taking them to a historic high – over Rs 330 per litre – prompting immediate protests and a legal challenge too.

As on Saturday, USD 1 was equivalent to 296.41 Pakistani Rupee.

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.

After the hike, petrol and high-speed diesel (HSD) are costing over Rs 330 at the filling stations, “a psychological barrier that has been crossed for the first time in the country’s history,” the Dawn newspaper wrote.

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 caretaker government on September 1 jacking up the petrol and diesel prices by over Rs 14.

The rise is on top of Rs 32.41 and Rs 38.49 per litre increase in petrol and HSD prices since August 15.

Petrol and diesel have become costlier by 20 per cent since the caretaker government took over in August.

Meanwhile, the hike in the petrol and diesel prices has prompted Pakistan’s opposition parties to vociferously criticize it even as a judicial activist challenged it in the Lahore High Court.

Rejecting the massive increase in petroleum prices, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) announced sit-ins outside the governors’ houses in all four provinces of Pakistan. JI chief Sirajul Haq said the government has made the life of a common man miserable by increasing the petroleum prices on the directions of the IMF, Dunya News channel’s website reported on Saturday.

Sardar Abdul Rahim of the Grand Democratic Alliance too rejected the increase as he said that the PDM, i.e. the consortium Pakistan Democratic Movement’s agreement with IMF has “proved to be fatal for Pakistan’s economy.” In Lahore, advocate Azhar Siddique, the head of the Judicial Activism Panel, has filed an application in the Lahore High Court, in which the caretaker federal government has been made a party, Dunya News said in another report.

The petitioner pointed out how there was no mechanism to determine the prices of the products and that the increase in prices of petroleum products would lead to a new wave of inflation.

Earlier, the Finance Ministry blamed “the increasing trend of petroleum prices in the international market” for revising the existing consumer prices of petroleum products.

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 International Monetary Fund (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.

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