ISLAMABAD - Following the Prime Minister’s directive, the Ministry of Petroleum has withdrawn the notification about the increase in the prices of petroleum products, bringing them to last month's level, official sources said late Sunday.
The Petroleum Ministry issued a notification of decrease in prices after circulating a notification of decrease in the share of petroleum levy by the Finance Ministry.
As per notification about POL prices, per litre prices of petroleum products would stay at their previous level, so the price of petrol will stay during this month at Rs 103.07 per litre, High-Speed Diesel at Rs 109.21 per litre, kerosene at Rs 99.94 per litre and light diesel at Rs 94.32 per litre.
Earlier, in accordance with an announcement by the federal government on Thursday, from March 1st, the price of petrol was increased by Rs 3.53 per litre (3.42 per cent) to Rs 106.60, that of High Speed Diesel by Rs 4.35 (3.99 per cent) to Rs 113.56, kerosene by Rs 3.75 (3.76 per cent) to Rs 103.69 and light diesel by Rs 3.93 (4.2 per cent) to Rs 98.25.
On Sunday, Prime Minister's directives to withdraw the POL price hike ran into controversy as his powerful Adviser on Petroleum & Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain expressed his ignorance about such a decision.
Consequently, contrary to Prime Minister’s order to revoke the notification and withdraw the hike in petroleum prices, the masses were charged in accordance with sweet will of the petrol pumps owners across the country – at increased rates.
Confusion and panic was obvious at the filling stations, as brawls took place over additional charging.
Though the withdrawal of price increase came after public outcry and walkout of Opposition parties – PML-N and MQM – from the National Assembly on Friday as they said that given the prevailing inflation, this increase was a 'merciless decision' of the Federal government and they demanded its immediate reversal, yet the powerful government gurus by paying no attention to public woes added fuel to their miseries. Implementation over the orders of PM was not materialised throughout 24 hours (Sunday) owing to a controversy between Finance and Petroleum Ministries’ top guns.
The controversy over the decision of withdrawal of hike in the prices of petroleum products has forced the masses to bear the brunt of high prices of the products as petrol pumps were found charging the consumers with old, higher prices.
The controversy touched a new height on Sunday as Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority was of the stance that it had not received any advice to reduce the prices of petroleum products while Petroleum Ministry neither bothered to write to Finance Ministry to seek decrease in the share of imposed petroleum levy on petroleum products nor the Finance Ministry itself sprang into action despite the orders of PM Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to provide relief to the masses.
Sources were of the view that Finance and Petroleum Ministries were at loggerheads over the notification of decreasing Petroleum Levy (PL) imposed on petroleum products.
They also said the controversy among powerful high-ups of both Ministries added to miseries of the people already facing the worst loadshedding, inflated prices of essential commodities and rising tariff of utilities on account of fuel price adjustment for a long time.
“There must be an inquiry by the quarters concerned as millions of rupees have been collected illogically from the innocent consumers on petroleum products,” sources said, adding that oil mafia has earned hefty money due to a controversy between Finance and Petroleum Ministries over not writing a summary seeking withdrawal of Petroleum Levy.
The government is charging the petrol consumers by Rs 10 per litre on petrol while Rs 8 per litre on diesel on account of petroleum levy.
Interestingly, Dr Asim Hussain had earlier expressed his surprise over the receiving of Prime Minister’s order to withdraw the latest price hike in POL products and said prices will be reduced in line with the advice of PM as and when received.
He said his Ministry had not received any directives from Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf to decrease petroleum prices.
While on the other hand, Finance Minister Saleem H Mandviwala has reportedly said change in the prices of petroleum products is done by Petroleum Ministry, and OGRA and Finance Ministry has nothing to do with it. Both the Ministry and the regulator should act in accordance to the orders of the PM and if Petroleum Ministry required decrease in petroleum levy so the Ministry should write to Finance Division.
During a meeting at the PM House, Finance Minister Saleem H Mandviwala briefed the PM about the overall economic situation and the compulsions and rationale for recent increase in petroleum prices.
But PM Raja ordered immediate reversal of the hike, stating that it would adversely affect the life of the common man.
He emphasised that the government accords highest priority to the welfare of the people and will pursue policies to facilitate them. “Government will not impose any additional burden on the common man and will do its utmost to alleviate the sufferings of the people,” he said.
Despite the orders of Prime Minister to withdraw the March 1 hike in petroleum prices, the prices of petroleum products remained unchanged on Sunday, as the Ministry of Petroleum delayed issuing a notification to decrease the Petroleum Levy.