Rolls back hike in prices of petroleum products
Under threat of a possible no-confidence motion, the minority government of Pakistan on Thursday rolled back the hike in the prices of petroleum products to December 31 levels. This was announced in the National Assembly by Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Announcing the decision, Mr. Gilani said he was resorting to this measure, which will further burden the exchequer, after consulting leaders of all political parties. The price hike — in effect from New Year's Day — had drawn across-the-floor condemnation, with allies and opposition parties demanding a rollback.
It was also cited by erstwhile ruling coalition member Muttahida Qaumi Movement as a reason for withdrawing support to the Pakistan People's Party-led government last Sunday. This pull-out reduced the ruling coalition to a minority, resulting in a government scramble for numbers as opposition parties sought to extract their pound of flesh.
Rolling back the hike in prices of petroleum products was the foremost demand of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) when it gave a 72-hour deadline to the PPP on Tuesday. The deadline was later extended by another three days in view of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer's assassination.
While the rollback was immediately welcomed, none of the opposition parties disclosed their cards on what the future course of action would be vis-à-vis the present ruling arrangement. The PML(N) had set a few other demands, including a 30-per-cent cut in government expenditure and streamlining power and gas supply, but the party has not made it clear whether it would press ahead with these now that the government has conceded on its main and most immediate demand.
The PML(Q) — the third largest party in the National Assembly after the PPP and the PML(N) — had said on Wednesday that it would support a no-confidence motion only if it is moved by the PML(N). “It is for the PML(N) as the larger parliamentary group to take the initiative for dislodging the corrupt and inept PPP government and as a smaller group we will follow them,” said the former Prime Minister and PML(Q) leader, Shujaat Hussain.