IMRAN ALI KUNDI, RAUF KHATTAK & ASHRAF JAVED ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR/LAHORE People form all over the country including traders, general public and transporters have expressed their indignation over the increase in petroleum prices and said the step would bereave them of their daily necessities of life. The business community in the Federal Capital on Monday turned down the Government decision to enhance the petroleum prices, as they believed it would create multiple problems for the overall economy and hit industrial and agricultural sectors badly. The businessmen told TheNation that Government had unnecessarily increased the petroleum prices and this would further accelerate the inflation, which is still in the double digit. It is worth mentioning here that Government had increased the petroleum prices for the ongoing month of February. The prices of petrol were enhanced by Rs 6.10 per litre, High Speed Diesel by Rs 3.35, Light Diesel by Rs 2.97, kerosene oil by Rs 3.32, and HOBC by Rs 7.41 a litre. Ch Saeed, former president Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, while talking to TheNation said, There was no need to increase the petroleum prices as it was on the declining side in the international market. He said as Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FoDP) did not honour their commitment to give aid to Pakistan, so Government is looting the public. The present decision would increase the cost of doing and put negative impact on the exports of the country that would increase imports, he added. Kashif Shabbir, President Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told TheNation that the decision would put negative impact on the overall economy of the country. He said due to hike in petroleum prices, the transportation cost would go up. Value addition sector and textile industry would suffer a lot. On one side Asian Development Banks report exposed that electricity prices would go up by 45 percent with Rental Power Plants, while on the other Government enhanced petroleum prices, he added. Zahid Maqbool, President Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, Unprecedented hike in the oil and electricity prices by about 29 percent and 46 percent respectively during the last 18 months has dashed all hopes for business revival in the country. He said that productivity of industries had also been affected due to the increase in tariffs of electricity and gas and the recent hike would directly affect the industrial sector. Due to rising cost of production in Pakistan, foreign investors are moving to other countries of the region, he said and added that many textile industries had already been shifted to Bangladesh and unemployment rate in the country had reportedly been increased to 15 percent. He said frequent increase in the tariffs of gas, power and oil would accelerate the capital flight from the country and discourage local & foreign investors. Therefore, larger national interest demands that Government should take back this decision to save economy from further damage, he added. Meanwhile in Peshawar, almost all the petrol pumps remained closed as a protest. Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) also came down hard on the Government saying the increase would add to the rising inflation and the cost of industrial production. The business community also rejected the increase in the oil prices and said that it would push up the price of commodities causing further harm to their business. Leading member of the SCCI, Zia-ul-Haq Sarhadi, who is also chairman of FPCCI Standing Committee, told TheNation that the increase in petroleum prices would further damage the national economy. The already exorbitant inflation is sure to surge further and the prices of kitchen items would go further higher and all this would make the life of common citizens more miserable, was the response of almost all the people hailing from various walks of life in Peshawar while talking to TheNation. Sarhad Public Transport Association (SPTA) staged a protest demonstration and burnt the effigy of President Asif Ali Zardari on the occasion. Led by SPTA President Haji Zahir Shah, the transporters at Haji Camp Bus Terminal chanted slogans against the Government and demanded to bring down the oil prices. They maintained that rates of the petroleum products were not rising in the international market. On the other hand, it was observed that fare list was removed in most of the public transport vehicles plying on the city routes and in the coming days an increase in the fares is expected. In Lahore too, traders, industrialists and growers rejected the unjustified increase in fuel prices and said that the increase would lead to high inflation in the country besides multiplying the miseries of the poor. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry Monday took a strong exception to the government for making whopping increase of over 9 per cent in the prices of petroleum products and termed it a severe blow to the industry, agriculture sector and the inflation-hit consumers. In a statement, the LCCI Acting President Faisal Iqbal Sheikh said that the fresh hike in Petroleum prices would not only push up prices of commodities but it would also aggravate the already deteriorating economic situation. He said that the increase in petroleum prices would add to the rising inflation and cost to industrial production that was already under pressure because of higher electricity and gas charges. The increase in the transportation cost of goods would not only inflate manifold but it would also be adding to the miseries of the masses. Pakistan Industrial and Traders Associations Front (PIAF) also took a strong exception to increase in petroleum prices and termed it as an anti-trade, anti-industry and anti-people decision. In a joint statement, the PIAF Chairman Irfan Qaiser Sheikh said that there were other avenues through which the government could generate money instead of increasing prices of petroleum against the will of the masses. He urged the government to review its decision in the larger interests of the country in general and for the sake of economy in particular. President Muthidda Kisan Mahaz Ayub Khan Mayo termed the increase in the fuel prices as economic-murder of the farmers who are facing hard times at present. He said that the sharp increase in the prices of petroleum products would increase the agriculture input cost and put extra-burden on the poor farmers. Meanwhile, the transporters have threatened to increase the transport fares if the Government would not withdraw the fuel prices immediately. Bari Baloch from Quetta adds: Traders, growers, transporters and general public have strongly rejected the increase in the fuel prices urging the government to immediately withdraw increase in the prices of petroleum products. They were of the view that it would further add to the miseries and suffering of already under burdened people. A meeting of Balochistan transporters, presided over by Haji Noor Muhammad Shahwani held in Hub town on Monday and expressed its great concerns over price-hike in fuel that affected the people of every segment of life particularly the poor class. It said that the recent 9pc increase in the prices of petroleum products would cause negative impact on society as masses were already in shock over hike in electricity tariff and other increase in prices of other edible items. The office-bearers of Balochistan transporters were of the view that the increase would further aggravate the economic condition of the poor people and would increase lawlessness and chaos in the country. They stressed that the government instead of putting all burden on the people should cut down its own expenditures and luxuries. Sources close to transporters of Balochistan told The Nation that owing to 9pc increase in fuel prices the transporters intended to increase the transport fares if the government did not withdraw fuel prices immediately. Likewise, growers expressing serious concerns have said that the increase in petroleum prices would increase the cost of agriculture products as high-speed diesel was being used in tractors, tub-wells, harvesters, thrashers and other agriculture machinery. We are already confronted with numerous problems particularly increase in electricity price and recent increase in fuel prices will largely affect poor farmers as besides other financial burden, the charges of transportation will be multiplied, said Zahir Khan Badini, a farmer.