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Supreme Court expresses grave concerns over petroleum price hike


News Analysis |

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has shown grave concerns over the interim government’s decision to increase the prices of the petroleum products by yet another Rs 7.5 per liter. A three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar; constituted of Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Umar Ata Bandial conducted a hearing of the suo motu case.

CJ showed discontent with the price hike and said, “Instead of giving relief to the people, you are making it hard for them to survive.” He scolded the authorities for raising the price of petroleum time and time again and putting the undue burden on the poor masses across the country.

CJ showed suspicion over the methods used to import the petroleum products in the country. He questioned, why are the customs duty and sales tax is levied on petroleum products, leading to price hike? He declared that court would seek assistance from the unbiased experts in the area.

The rupee is depreciating, money is going out of the country, and the stock market is plunging. In this dire economic situation, with extravagant spending of PML-N government in its last few months, exchequer is struggling to cope with the expenses.

Moreover, he ordered the relevant stakeholders to find the way out of this quagmire and bring down the prices of petroleum products. The bench termed the petroleum hike an unjust policy which can be equated to indirect taxation.

The court inquired, if it was important to increase the petroleum prices, then relief should have been provided by reducing the taxation already levied on masses. The deputy attorney-general held the increase in global prices and devaluation in rupee liable for this bitter decision.

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At the start of this month, the caretaker government had increased the petroleum prices to rake in additional revenue.  After the huge backlash, Ali Zafar, the caretaker information minister had argued that price hike was inevitable and a bitter decision which interim government had to take.

The reactionary increase in price, amid deteriorating rupee and ballooning twin deficit, was expected. Besides, the caretaker government was well aware of repercussions of its decision. It is believed that it purposely increased the price to benefit the oil marketing companies and dealers.

It may have forced the interim government to take this decision. But, the accusation of foul play which is benefiting the petroleum lobbies and connected groups must be investigated by the Supreme Court, which adjourned the court hearing until July, 08.

Given the recent record of CJ Saqib Nisar, it also expected a reactionary order from Apex Court, to cut the prices. Therefore, it kept the prices high enough to accumulate as much revenue as profit in short span of time. The interim government had held the worsening economic conditions responsible for the price hike, which deputy attorney general also echoed in the court.

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Nevertheless, government’s decision has put the masses living on the edge in jeopardy as the cost of eatables and other commodities has surged quickly. Moreover, increase in the cost of doing business will further hamper the exports, making it difficult to bring in more dollars to benefit falling rupee. The rupee devalued by over 15% since November 2017 reaching 124 in the open market on June 20. Though, after dipping to 125, it has gained some value, but the pressure persists.

The rupee is depreciating, money is going out of the country, and the stock market is plunging. In this dire economic situation, with extravagant spending of PML-N government in its last few months, exchequer is struggling to cope with the expenses. It may have forced the interim government to take this decision. But, the accusation of foul play which is benefiting the petroleum lobbies and connected groups must be investigated by the Supreme Court, which adjourned the court hearing until July, 08.

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