ISLAMABAD - The PML-N government yesterday claimed in the National Assembly that petroleum prices in Pakistan were the lowest as compared to those in oil importing countries of the world.

The government side also strongly dispelled the impression for not providing proper relief to the masses following decline in oil prices in the international market.

Winding up the debate over motion about non-reduction of oil prices in accordance with the international market, Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbassi claimed petrol was selling cheaper in Pakistan as compared to oil importing countries of the world.

“This is a misconception that no relief was provided to the masses following decline in petroleum prices,” said the minister in the absence of main opposition parties’ lawmakers. PPP lawmaker Shazia Marri also sought to defer the debate in the absence of main opposition party members, including the opposition leader. She was of the view that the government side in the business advisory committee had undertaken to wind up the debate on Thursday (today).

Minister Abbasi, in his speech, also took credit of selling diesel at low prices in the market. “Diesel price in the world is 83 cent per litre while in Pakistan it is 73 cent per litre,” he claimed.

Abbasi compared prices of petroleum with other world markets. “The present price of petrol in Pakistan is Rs 71.25 per litre while in India its rate is over Rs 100 and in Bangladesh Rs 130,” he added.

He said the government had decreased price of petrol by Rs 5 percent per litre. “It is wrong that impact of petroleum prices was not passed on to the masses,” he said, adding average price of petrol in the world was 97 cent per litre, but in Pakistan it was 68 cent.

“Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) is aimed to improve the system of gas in the country,” he said, adding LNG consumers would pay the cost of gas pipelines and no burden will be put on the people. About controversial LNG deal, the minister said a separate debate in the house was needed on this matter. “I am ready to answer each and every question from the opposition benches,” he said.

Likewise, Climate Change Minister Zahid Hamid said PIA had faced a loss of Rs 4.31 billion during the 15-day protest by its employees. “It is very sad that two precious lives lost,” he said. The minister further said PIA had only been converted into a public limited company as it would maintain the status of the national flag carrier.

“No employee of PIA would be sacked. It has been converted into a public limited company only,” he said. Hamid said the PIA bill was not passed in haste as proper discussion was carried out on it. “Discussions were held in the Senate and the national assembly standing committees where opposition representatives shared their views,” he added.

The minister shared that Pakistan Essential Services (Maintenance) Act, 1952, had been evoked in PIA for 12 times. He said the prime minister had announced Rs 2.5 million as compensation for each family of the deceased and Rs 500,000 for the injured. Earlier, opposition members demanded further decrease in the petroleum prices up to Rs 20 to provide proper relief to the masses.

Citing an international organization’s report, PPP lawmaker Shazia Marri was of the view that this government would default and become unable to return foreign loans. “Why is the government not sharing its stance on this matter?” she added.

Awais Leghari from PML-N defended the government stance over PIA privatisation. “Opposition should not go against privatisation on the pretext of protecting its employees’ rights,” he said, arguing the move was in the national interest.