ISLAMABAD - Amid calls for immediate withdrawal of recent oil price increase, the Senators belonging to the Opposition, PML-N and government’s ally, Awami National Party (ANP), on Tuesday separately staged token walkouts from the Senate on different counts.

The House started discussions on the recent increase in the petroleum products and CNG prices on a motion jointly moved by Opposition and Treasury Senators. The first walkout was staged by the PML-N over the non-serious attitude of Adviser to the Prime Minister on Petroleum and Natural Resources Dr Asim Hussain, who was pointed out by Leader of the House in Senate Ishaq Dar while having chitchat with fellow Senators sitting on backbenches, when the House was busy in suggesting valuable suggestions to the government over the issue.

Later, ANP and PML-N staged separate walkouts during the concluding speech of Dr Asim Hussain, which according to protesting Senators was “traditional” and not sufficient to justify the government’s decision of increase in prices of petroleum products and CNG.

“Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) is an independent authority and thus does not fall under the administrative control of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources,” Dr Asim started his concluding speech with these lines after the furious and hard-hitting speeches of around dozen Senators. The remarks created a stir in the House. Even Chairman Senate Nayyar Hussain Bokhari criticised Dr Asim for such “careless attitude”.

“OGRA is not above the Parliament. After such hectic debate in the House over POL prices, you (Dr Asim) are telling us OGRA is not under government’s control,” Bokhari said.

He said ,whosoever, was responsible person, organisation should come to this august House and inform us about the exact situation.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Senator Ishaq Dar of PML-N while opening debate called upon the government to immediately freeze petroleum development levy like it did in previous year to pass on some relief to inflation-ridden people of the country. He said government should evolve a transparent mechanism involving increase or decrease in prices of petroleum products.  “The mechanism has been made so complicated deliberately that even I am unable to understand it.”

He said country’s Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh had no interest in country’s affairs, as he was busy in brokering deals between Pakistani and the US governments.

Dar said situation had reached to an extent where government allied parties were sharing the same reservations as the Opposition used to do.

Senator Nuzhat Sadiq of PML-N, who was also one of the movers of the motion, observed that government was not following OGRA’s Act in this regard that was resulting in increase in POL prices. She said as per international market rates the price of diesel in Pakistan should not be more than Rs 95.88 per litre, but contrary to that, diesel was available against Rs 115 per litre.

Senator Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi of MQM said whenever government finds itself in need of money it increases the POL prices to meet its lavish expenditures. Senators Zahid Khan and Afrasiab Khattak of ANP were of the view that being coalition partners such decisions of the government adversely impacting their position among the masses.

They urged the need of formation of national economic policy to address the challenges Pakistan have been facing on economic front. Haji Adeel of ANP said his party was not bound to blindly praise each and every policy of the government. He said mechanism to calculate price of petrol was also imperfect. Senator Ilyas Bilour called upon the government to withdraw the unlimited powers of OGRA in this regard.

In his concluding speech, Dr Asim said formula evolved by OGRA for monitoring of prices of petroleum was transparent and there was no fudging ,whatsoever, in oil prices fixing mechanism. He said that the petroleum prices were calculated on the basis of Arab Freight rates under which inland freight margins and overseas margins were charged.

“Moreover, Rs 10 per litre are charged under petroleum levy (PL) while Rs 8 per litre are charged for diesel. Later, GST is also charged,” he said. He also brushed aside the impression that the GST was used by the Federal government and said that the GST was divided between the Federal and provincial governments.

“Out of the total Rs 323 billion, the Federal government got Rs 129 billion while the rest were transferred to the provinces,” he said.