Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif on Friday said his government’s move to raise fuel prices was necessary to save the country from bankruptcy.
Pakistan on Thursday hiked the price of petroleum products by Rs 30 per liter. After the price hike, petrol is now priced at Rs 179.85, diesel at Rs 174.15, kerosene at Rs 155.95 and light diesel at Rs 148.41.
In his first address to the nation since taking office last month, Shahbaz spoke mostly about the domestic problems facing the government.
Its main focus was on a relief package for vulnerable groups after the government raised oil prices to get a support package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The Prime Minister said steps to increase fuel prices were necessary to save Pakistan from going bankrupt.
Shehbaz said the decision to increase the price of petroleum was difficult. “We have raised the price of petroleum with a heavy heart; we have to make decisions in difficult economic times. This is due to the incredible rise in the price of petroleum in the world market,” he said.
“The previous government announced subsidies which could not be supported by the exchequer. We decided to give priority to the country in our interest,” he said.
To mitigate the effects of the rise in petroleum prices, he announced a relief package of Rs 28 billion per month to provide Rs 2,000 per month to about 14 million families.
“These families make up about 80 million people, one-third of the country’s total population,” he said.
Shebaz also blamed the previous government for the current rise in petroleum because they are committed to the IMF.
“You have made an agreement with the IMF, not us; you have complied with their tough terms, not us; you have imposed the burden of inflation on the people, not us; you have pushed the country into economic turmoil, not us …,” he said.
He announced to start consultations with all political parties to agree on an economic charter so that no government can change the economic direction of the country in future.
Justifying the no-confidence vote against former Prime Minister Imran Khan, Shehbaz said the previous government had destroyed the country. “We have changed a corrupt government to the demands of the people,” he said.
Shahbaz came to power last month when he formed a coalition government after removing Khan by a no-confidence vote.
The new government faced tremendous economic and political challenges but began to take tough decisions to address these problems by raising oil prices.
In his speech, Shahbaz touched upon the issue of relations with India.
“For lasting peace in South Asia, it is India’s duty to reverse the steps taken in Kashmir on August 5, 2019, so that we can make strong progress in resolving all issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Tensions between India and Pakistan have risen since New Delhi repealed Article 370 of the Constitution on August 5, 2019 to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. India’s decision has provoked strong reactions from Pakistan, which has degraded diplomatic relations and expelled the Indian ambassador.
India has explicitly told the international community that repealing Article 370 is its internal matter. India has repeatedly told Pakistan that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country “was, is and will be”. It advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.
India has told Pakistan that it wants normal neighborly relations with Islamabad in an environment free of terrorism, hostility and violence.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)