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LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Central Punjab General Secretary and former federal energy minister Hammad Azhar has claimed that the government was going to increase electricity rates by 80 percent in three months.

While addressing a press conference on Thursday, he said Federal Finance Minister Miftah Ismail Sahib used to say that the electricity tariff should be 12 per unit, but the same person was going to increase it by Rs 13 per unit. “From this month, the present government has abolished Rs 5 per unit subsidy given by our government while it has also announced to increase the electricity tariff by Rs 7.91 per unit in next three months,” he added.

He revealed that the country was facing 8000 megawatts shortfall which was causing long hours of load-shedding. “In comparison, in our tenure, only a 500 megawatts shortfall existed,” he added. “In addition, the government was going to increase the price of gas by 47 percent, which was never discussed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). “Why was the government taking this step?”

He averred that the PTI government did not raise the prices of petrol under the pressure of IMF and added that the countries controlling the IMF were giving subsidies on petrol. “The government claims that they have withdrawn the subsidy on the pretext that the PTI government had made an agreement with the IMF in this regard,” he added.

He denied that their government made any such agreement; “we had told the IMF that we will give the subsidy till the end of June and also about the sources from which subsidy will be given. The same case applied to the Rs 5 subsidy on electricity tariff,” he added.

“Devaluation of the rupee by Rs 24 in two months was another major cause behind the hike in prices of petrol. Did the IMF also ask them to weaken the currency,” he added. “Incompetency of the government has created economic madness and unbearable inflation in the country. The indecisiveness in the first 48 days of the present government led to the downfall of the economy as it was not sure about staying in power. Even now, the government has no plan to handle the economic crisis,” he said.

He failed to understand why the government was showing reluctance in buying oil from Russia; “the whole world was buying petrol from them. The country was facing very serious economic problems and the government should now tell the truth to the nation,” he added. He advised the government to take serious steps to revive the economy instead of attacking the PTI.

To a question, he said that through an ordinance you cannot undermine the supremacy of the parliament; “our lawyers will take the matter to the court and take all steps to safeguard the supremacy of Punjab Assembly”.

To another question, he said that on May 25, the government’s brutality was at its peak whereas they had instructed their workers to remain peaceful and not retaliate. “Next time, we will come more prepared so that our march is not compromised but we will remain peaceful and it is our constitutional right to hold protests,” he added.

The former minister said any impartial person with good repute could be appointed as the Chief Election Commissioner; “the present Chief has become controversial and he himself would say that he was no longer neutral”.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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