The record surge in the prices of petroleum products and CNG has evoked an involuntary cry of pain and protest from all classes of people living in the country. They felt shocked and bewildered and were sunk further into the deep depression caused by the heavy burden of making both ends meet in this corruption-ridden and un-secure society. The across-the-board anger should serve as a warning to the government of the reaction in store unless it decides to take back the hike.
Soon, it became obvious, as experience had shown, that the increase would not remain confined to the petroleum sector alone and would cast its dark shadows over goods and services in general. The transporters, while demanding the withdrawal of the increase, decided to raise intercity fares by five to 10 percent, but in practice, minibuses plying in the city are also charging higher fares. There are threats of civil disobedience by the traders backed by an ultimatum to the government to take back the price increase within 72 hours; such is the rage of traders who see their businesses go down, as lesser number of people could now afford to buy their products. The spectre of cheaper Indian goods flooding the market and driving them out of the competition is becoming real, thanks to the authorities’ myopic decision to give New Delhi the MFN status.
In a scenario like this one could expect how the political parties, particularly the opposition, would react. There were reports that some parties (JUI-F, for instance) took out public rallies. The PML-N boycotted Monday’s meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security and will hold a protest rally on Wednesday. Its leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the price hike was the worst injustice done by the present government to the poor people; the President and the Prime Minister seemed unconcerned about their plight and were touring abroad. He urged the people not to accept this surge in prices. Even the PPP’s coalition partner MQM has called for withdrawing the increase, practising austerity and cutting down non-development expenditure. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami, both denounced the decision terming it an example of anti-people policies of the government.
The people have been passing through a long and trying period of high prices in every conceivable field, forcing them to be content with a progressively lower standard of living. Many a lower middle class, and even middle class, family found its fortune wither away, pushing it into the poverty bracket, not to talk of those who were just managing to keep their body and soul together; as their wages could not square up with the runaway inflation. For the first time in our crisis-ridden history, proud Pakistanis could not claim that no one sleeps hungry or by the roadside in the country. Yet, the pity is that there is no let-up in the wasteful official expenditure, fuelling anger and resentment that could, aided by other scourges of misgovernance, loadshedding and water scarcity afflicting the country, easily boil over and threaten stability.