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LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) senior leader and former Federal Energy Minister Hammad Azhar has said that the Federal Finance Minister is creating ambiguity regarding petrol and diesel prices; “he should tell the nation whether the prices of petroleum products would increase or not”.

While addressing a press conference here on Thursday, he said that the ambiguity is creating hoarding of diesel and thus creating problems for the farmers. “When we left the government, 32 days of diesel were left in stocks, but still the farmers were facing its shortage,” he added.

He further said that it is wrongly attributed to the PTI government that they committed with the International Monetary Funds (IMF) to fix the petrol price between Rs 150 and Rs 250; “I confirmed with former Federal Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin that we did not make any such commitment”. “However, we did inform the IMF about how we will manage the subsidy on petrol after former Prime Minister Imran Khan decided not to increase its price till June. Thus, the ‘imported government’ should not hide behind the IMF to cover their failures and tell the nation the facts,” he added.

In response to the Federal Finance Minister’s press conference, Azhar said that as an energy minister, he had started a negotiation with Russia to purchase oil at lower rates; “many countries, including India, were already buying oil from Russia at 30 percent lesser rate”. “The work on this was completed when I was the minister. Hence, if the current government decides to buy oil from Russia then it will not need to give subsidy on petrol; in fact, the government will be in a position to decrease the fuel price,” he added.

“However, I know for a fact that this government does not dare to take such a bold step; only a government with an independent foreign policy can take such a bold decision,” he said.

Talking about blackouts throughout the country, the former minister said that load-shedding was taking place due to the incompetency of the present government; “Mismanagement of LNG supply to power plants led to worst kind of blackouts during the month of Ramadan,” he added.

“Why is the present government not fulfilling its pledge to decrease the electricity price to Rs 12 per unit? The previous N-League government’s imprudent decision to generate electricity on imported fuels (coal and LNG) inflated the prices of electricity in the country. Rather than building dams to generate cheap electricity, they opted for power plants run on expensive imported fuels. The then government made the most expensive LNG deals in history. Hence, we are seeing high electricity tariffs, which have put an extra financial burden on the people,” he said.

According to him, the way the Finance Minister showed an irresponsible approach to handling the economy during his press conference, Pakistan cannot overcome the economic challenges. When the PTI was in government, foreign exchange reserves were increasing, but after the vote of confidence, it depleted by 25 percent. No positive signals were coming from the present government that can give confidence to the business community; no one knows what settlement took place between the government and the IMF. After coming into power, the PML-N deliberately created both diesel and power shortages while inflation rose manifolds in the first month of its government.

“Rather than juggling with figures, for which the N-league is famous, it should handle the economy with a serious approach,” he advised the government and added that if they cannot handle the country then they should call for fresh elections immediately.

To a question, he said that if they make arrests, “things will go in another direction”. “We are not asking for power, we are demanding elections,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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