MABAD/LAHORE/KARACHI - The Presidential Ordinance raising prices of petroleum products stunned the people throughout the country on Thursday, triggering brawls and clashes at various filling stations and leading to protests against the government.
With the promulgation of the late-night Presidential Ordinance of imposing Petroleum Development Levy instead of Carbon Tax, suspended by the apex court, the prices of petroleum products immediately shot up in the market.
The President has promulgated Petroleum Development Levy (Amendment) Ordinance-2009 by substituting the words 'carbon surcharge with 'petroleum levy and it shall come into force at once.
The Supreme Court of Pakistan just two days back had suspended the enforcement of the carbon tax to provide interim relief to people in a petition filed by PML-N leader, Iqbal Zafar Jhagrha. However, the court on Thursday adjourned the hearing for four weeks.
Defending the Presidents step, Spokesman of the President former Senator Farhatullah Babar told reporters that the Aiwan-e-Sadr by issuing the Ordinance, under at the advice of Prime Minister, achieved two important objectives firstly; it showed respect to the independence of judiciary by upholding its verdict. Secondly, it demonstrated that law making is to be done in accordance with the Constitution and that the Parliament was supreme.
He said the Supreme Court had opined that the levy of Rs120 billion under the name of Carbon tax appeared questionable and pending a decision on it had stayed the levy. However, he argued, The government accepted the interim order of the Supreme Court with an open heart. It issued an Ordinance levying petroleum development levy (PDL), as allowed under the Constitution. There is no contradiction between the two. The President has not suspended the Carbon tax. It was already suspended by the court verdict.
However, political analysts questioned the promulgation of an ordinance at a time when the case is in the court of law.
Changing the name of carbon tax with PDL is not sufficient and the Aiwan-e-Sadr did act against the court, which provided an interim relief to the people. This could lead the institutions back to the 2007 situation, they observed.
The Presidential spokesman said law making through Ordinances was not the desirable way of legislation but under circumstances when the National Assembly was not in session and circumstances so warranted, the Constitution under Article 89 provided for the promulgation of Ordinances.
The President, under advice of the Prime Minister promulgated the Ordinance, and it is within the ambit of the law and the Constitution. It is not important at what time the ordinance was issued. What is important is whether the issuance of Ordinance was within the ambit of the Constitution and the law or not. It is under the constitution and law, he asserted.
Relief to the people is most important and no political government can be unmindful of it, he further said. The government has been striking a delicate balance between providing relief to the people on the one hand and taking hard political decisions for long term economic viability on the other.
Levy of PDL is a difficult political decision but at the same time critical for long-term economic viability.
Those who wish to challenge the Ordinance; may do so. There is complete freedom to everyone and the judiciary is free and independent.
Those who wanted to pit organs of the state against one another have been disappointed with the adjournment of the carbon tax levy case by the apex court, he said.
Following is the text of the Ordinance No XV of 2009 Ordinance further to amend the Petroleum Products (Petroleum Development Levy) Ordinance, 1961 whereas it is expedient further to amend the Petroleum Products (Petroleum Development Levy) Ordinance, 1961 (XXV of 1961), for the purposes hereinafter appearing.
And whereas the National Assembly is not in session and the President is satisfied that circumstances exist which render it necessary to take immediate action: now, therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by clause (I) of Article 89 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the President is pleased to make and promulgate the following Ordinance: -2 short title and commencement: - This Ordinance may be called the Petroleum Products (Petroleum Development Levy) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2009.
(2) It shall come into force at once.
2.Amendment of Ordinance XXV of 1961. In the Petroleum Products (Petroleum Development Levy) Ordinance, 1961 (XXV of 1961), hereinafter referred to as the said Ordinance: - (i) in the long title and the preamble, for the word Surcharge the words petroleum levy, shall be substitute: and (ii) for the words Surcharge wherever occurring, the words petroleum levy shall be substituted:
3 Amendment of Section I, Ordinance XXV of 1961. In the said Ordinance, in section I, in sub-section (I), for the brackets and word (surcharge) the brackets and words (petroleum levy), shall be substituted.
4 Amendment of Section 2, Ordinance XXV of 1961. In the said Ordinance, in section 2, (i) in Sub-section (1), for the words carbon surcharge the words petroleum levy shall be Substituted; and (ii) after clause (4B), the following new clause shall be inserted, namely: (4Ba) petroleum levy means the levy payable under section 3, 5 Amendment of section 3, Ordinance XXV of 1961. In the said Ordinance in section 3, (i) In Sub-section (1), for the words carbon surcharge the words petroleum levy shall be Substituted; and (iii) after Sub-section (1), amendment as aforesaid, the following new Sub-section shall be inserted, namely: (1A) Every licensee shall pay development levy at such rate and in such manner as the Federal Government may, by rules, prescribed, 6 Amendment of section 7, Ordinance XXV of 1961 In the said Ordinance, in section 7, the words and comma Except for the fifth schedule, the shall be omitted.
7 Amendment of Fifth Schedule, Ordinance XXV of 1961. In the said Ordinance, in the Fifth Schedule, for the words 'Carbon Surcharge occurring twice, the words 'Petroleum Levy shall be substituted.
Meanwhile, scuffles, brawls and clashes between the motorists and the filling station workers were order of the day across the country over dispute of fuel prices.
Eyewitnesses said that the brawls took place between the motorists and the petrol pump workers after the latter failed to satisfy the former that the govt has once again increased the fuel prices through a Presidential Ordinance.
'The motorists were of the view that the govt has slashed the prices of petroleum products after the Supreme Court suspended the carbon tax. But the filling station owners were saying that President Zardari ordered the increase in fuel prices through an Ordinance, Shafiq Ahmed, a bystander commented.
Reportedly, police were called in at petrol pumps in different parts of the country after the scuffles took place over the dispute of fuel prices.
Interestingly, some petrol pump owners were left with no other option but to suspend the fuel supply to those who were arguing over the cut in fuel prices.
'We received telephone calls in a great number on Thursday regarding the scuffles at the filling stations over the dispute of fuel prices, a police official at the Police Emergency Service (Rescue 15) in Lahore told this reporter.
The cheerful people turned furious and staged strong protest demos against the govt for increasing the fuel prices through an ordinance shortly after the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended imposition of carbon tax, forcing the govt to cut down fuel prices to a considerable extent.
The transporters have announced wheel-jam strike across Punjab on July 14th against the hike in fuel prices, demanding the President to withdraw the Ordinance.
On the other hand, the Punjab Bar Council has condemned the Ordinance and announced strike on Friday (today) across the province against the govt for increasing fuel prices.
The growers, transporters, businessmen, traders, lawyers and general public took to the streets in various parts of the country and staged protest demos against the PPP-led govt, demanding the President to 'respect the feelings of the honourable court and withdraw anti-people Ordinance.
Terming the Ordinance as the 'social-murder of the transporters, Punjab Urban Transporters and Inter-City Transport bus owners Association announced wheel-jam strike across Punjab on July 14th.
'We are going on wheel-jam strike on July 14th, against the steep increase in fuel prices. We cannot run buses after purchasing fuel on high prices, as the inflation-stricken public are unable to afford transport fares, Bashir Siyal, transporters leader said, when contacted.
Lawyers took out protest rallies in various cities of the Punjab and chanted slogans against the Presidential Ordinance.
The lawyers associations staged strong protest demo at PMG Chowk Lahore and Chowk Ghanta Ghar Faisalabad, against the govt for issuing anti-public Ordinance.
They also chanted anti-govt slogans and termed the ordinance as unconstitutional and illegal. They also condemned the govt for increasing fuel prices through an ordinance.
The Pakistan Industrial and Traders associations Front (PIAF) Thursday took a strong exception to increase in petroleum prices through Ordinance and termed it as an 'anti-trade, anti-industry and anti-people decision.
The PIAF Chairman Irfan Qaiser Sheikh, Iqbal Baig Chugtai and Khawaja Shahzeb Akram said that there were other avenues through which the govt could generate revenue instead of increasing prices of petroleum against the will of the masses.
They said that the interim relief given by the Supreme Court had given hope for the industrial revival but the overnight raise has dashed all the hopes.
The urged the govt to review its decision in the larger interests of the country in general and for the sake of economy in particular.
In Karachi, the issuance of the Ordinance has triggered serious resentment among the masses.
Talking to The Nation on, they said it is a sheer injustice that corrupt rulers are spending huge sums from the national exchequer on their useless foreign tours while increasing financial burden on the masses.
I cant believe that the Supreme Court decision has been made null and void overnight only through a Presidential Ordinance. In fact, this move has deprived the already despondent masses of their hope of justice, said Hanzlah Usman, an employee of a private company.
Farheen Jafri, a student, termed it a sad incident saying the reimposition of tax on petroleum products would further weaken the already fragile government and could trigger a massive retaliation from the people.
The government is busy in robbing every penny from the citizens by imposing indirect taxes, said a teacher Saman Iftikhar. She termed the Supreme Court as only source of hope for the people, adding that bypassing its decisions was a shameful act on the part of the government.
Shamoon Abdullah, a government servant, said that the government should avoid taking dictation from the IMF and other foreign institution while making policies of public interest.
Many people who were unaware of the new tax were bewildered when they were demanded raised rates for petrol and diesel at filling stations on Thursday morning. Hot arguments and scuffles were also witnessed between citizens and petrol pump staff in various parts of Karachi.
Pasban and other organisations staged separate protests against the Ordinance.
In Multan, the citizens burst out against the government, as a spree of protest demonstrations held here on Thursday.
Shouting slogans against government, the protesters took to the roads and expressed strong reaction against the government. 'Its a bomb, petrol bomb, observed a protester.
The lawyers and members of district as well as high court bars assembled at Chowk Kachehri and staged a demo. The black coats blocked the chowk, as a result of which traffic got suspended. They carried out non-stop sloganeering against government and PPP.
'Its contempt of court on part of president. He has increased petroleum prices in defiance of Supreme Court orders. Well move court against this ordinance, declared Mumtaz Noor Tangra, president of district bar, while addressing the protesters, who were holding black flags and placards inscribed with anti-government slogans.
Similarly, the owners and workers from transport industry held a demo under the banner of Mutahidda Shehri Mahaz at Chowk Kumharanwala against presidential ordinance on petroleum prices.
In Faisalabad, four senior lawyers and a police inspector were injured in a clash with the staff of petrol pump located outside Chiniot Bazaar.
District bar association has protested against the incident and announced to observe strike for two days.
As per reports, senior lawyer Najeeb Ahmad Khan along with his son went to police petrol pump and asked about the rates of the petrol. The petrol pump staff told him the new rates after the Presidential Ordinance. Resultantly, they had a clash and the staff of the pump injured the lawyer.
However, other members of the bar reached there where the pump staff hit them with sticks due to which lawyers including Malik Amjad Hussain, Hamayun Wahla and Ahmad Hassan Randhawa were injured.
Meanwhile, SHO police station Kotwali Mian Khalid was also injured. The injured were admitted to hospital. Police have arrested the staff of the pump.
In Rawalpindi, people flayed the Presidential Ordinance increasing the prices of the petroleum products.
They demanded of PPP-led government to withdraw the ordinance so that the poor might get some relief. A number of brawls and quarrels were witnessed between the pumps staffers and vehicle owners. Some petroleum pump owners stopped the supply of oil in the city, which multiplied the miseries of motorists.
Azam Ali, a university student, while talking to TheNation on Thursday, said that PPP-led government and its allies had gained power in the name of public welfare but they were fulfilling their own vested interests. They have increased burden for the poor people, he added.
He said that the electricity tariff had already been increased due to withdrawal of subsidy on dictation of IMF. He regretted Pakistan was the poor country but its rulers were billionaires and the poor population was unable to get two times food even. He maintained that rise in prices of electricity and petroleum products would affect the national economy and trade also.
PPP led government is getting profit of Rs 20 per every liter from its own people, said Zia Shah, a social worker. He demanded to restore the previous prices of the petroleum products and reduce the electricity tariff as well.
Saira Khokar, while condemning the fresh increase in fuel prices through presidential Ordinance said that it was bound to severely affect the middle and poor class. She said that rulers were sucking the blood of the poor masses by imposing unnecessary taxes and not cutting down non-development expenses.
Nisar Ahmed, a government employee, described the increase in oil prices as a cruel step by the PPP regime and said that the move had shocked and dismayed the people who were already finding it difficult to manage both ends meet. He also strongly criticized the government for increasing oil prices and demanded withdrawal of the decision.
Rana Shahid, a political worker, said that the prices of oil should be reduced as the oil prices in international market had come down to 61 dollar per barrel. People should be given the benefit of the downward trend in oil prices, he stressed.
Meanwhile, Jammat-e-Islami held a protest rally against price hike in petroleum prices at Benazir Bhutto Road. The rally was led by JI Ameer Raja Abdul Waheed and many other office-bearers.