Wide ranging protest on petroleum prices hike
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was previously criticized for protesting for oil price hike with a threat to quit government and then standing down completely from their stance all together. MQM is the second largest ally of Zardari’s weak collation government. This time MQM has again launch a protest over 6% over-night price hike in petroleum products by walking out of the house at the beginning of the session today. Following the MQM, Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) also walkout in protest. More government allies, PML-Q and Awami National Party (ANP), also join in demanding government to withdraw increase in petroleum products prices during the National Assembly session. Petroleum Minister Dr. Asim Hussain responded to the sharp criticism levied by PMLN’s Nisar Ali Khan that his ministry has nothing to do with the price increase as it neither responsible, nor empowered to fix the petroleum prices. He added that such adjustment in the petroleum prices is in the ambit of Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA).
The protest is ranging from all quarters, but the analyst said that it has more to do with demand of early election and maneuvering for upcoming senate election than any real concern on plight of a common man. During last four years PPP’s government has miserably failed in showing any sign of governance. It’s all efforts are focused on holding the power by any means necessary. Collation partners are constantly entertained and corruption is the order of the day. The media and TV talkshows is mounting pressure on PPP government to take back the petroleum products price increase. The price increase in petroleum products is due to change in oil process in international market. Government has not much option on their hands, passing it on to the consumer is one of the few choices. But common man is already suffering from rising inflation and its purchasing power is already eroding away fast.
The public is already burdened with heavy direct and indirect taxation. One of the bigger contributors to national tax bucket is the salaried person who’s tax is deducted at source. The elite class of Pakistan that includes feudal politicians, big business men, and corporate entities don’t pay much tax. Demand for reduction in petroleum prices is wide ranging. Government may take back little part of the prices increase to calm the angry public, but real solution lies in improving the economy and increasing tax base. Taxing the agriculture sector that has enjoyed unjust exemption for too long is needed, but the feudal already sitting in the parliament is not going to let it happen.
Petro Death Illustration by Murad Ali Shah Bukerai