ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Tuesday said that petroleum prices were being jacked up by a staggering Rs19.95 per litre.
The minister said that the decision was made “in the national interest” as he announced that the cost of High-Speed Diesel (HSD) was being increased by Rs19.90 to dial in at Rs273.40 per litre while that for petrol was hiked by Rs19.95 to Rs272.95 per litre.
He also said that the new rates were to be effective immediately.
Dar explained that the hike was due to the increase in the prices in the international market over the last 15 days.
He also stressed that his team had tried to “work” on the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority’s (Ogra) recommendations until the wee hours of the night but found themselves with their backs against the wall.
“The basic reason behind the delay in the announcement was that we were looking at if there were ways to reduce the price, if there was any room for that,” he said adding that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had also been taken into confidence and that the approval came albeit with reluctance.
“We all know that the international commitments we have with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding the petroleum levy, if they weren’t there then we would have announced either partial adjustment or whatever the premier would have deemed appropriate to give a lower increase,” he said, “but everyone knows we have a standby agreement.”
He also emphasised that it was the previous PTI government’s decision to renege on its promises with the IMF which had been detrimental to the country’s national interest.
Notably, it was expected that the government would resort to deny consumers relief in the petroleum prices, however, that expectation had stood at a far lower rate — Rs3.66 for HSD.
Earlier this month, however, fuel pump owners had gone on strike demanding that the government increase their profit margins. After successful negotiations, the government had agreed to comply to this demand, increasing their profit margins by Rs1.64 per litre on both petrol and diesel
An MNA Salahuddin of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) at the National Assembly meeting today demanded the government withdraw the fuel price hike.
The lower house had convened under the chairmanship of Deputy Speaker Zahid Akram Durrani where Salahuddin expressed his views saying, “Today the finance minister has increased the price of petrol at a time when inflation in the country has increased by 30% and people are forced to commit suicide.”
“The government remembers the promise made to the IMF, but what about the promises made to the people,” he lamented, “this cruel increase in the price of petrol should be withdrawn.”
Meanwhile, the business community and local traders have expressed outrage over the development, threatening to call a strike nationwide should the price hike not be reversed.