In the midst of the political fracas at the national level, the day-to-day wheeling and dealing, compromises and so on, it becomes all the more difficult not to mistake the ongoing cracks within the coalition over petrol price increase from the usual shadowboxing. The reality was brought home when PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, in response to MQM Dr Abdul Qadir Khanzada’s clamours against the PPP, angrily told him that sincerity demanded that the party break up with the alliance.  While the MQM might say that they are not afraid of doing so given that they have done that in the past, a charge that the PML-N could face is that it was not as energetic an opposition as it ought to have been.

One of the legislators from the ANP suggested a way out that the government should give up the profits it was drawing in the form of levies. The solution is workable but one that the PPP will most likely turn down over reasons of bridging the fiscal gap, though the real need is to cut down on the excessive spending. The furore ended with the parties stepping out of the assembly in protest asking the government to take back the decision. Within the four walls of the National Assembly, this appears business as usual; the ruling PPP is no stranger to such slanging matches, while the parties at times find it difficult to stay consistent when there is little or no mileage to be derived. With the oil prices going up reportedly by a staggering 25 percent, one is at a loss for words to detail its impact on economy.

As things stand, in the weeks and months ahead, the inflationary cycle will get worse, since the country has been hit hard due to the cumulative effects of the energy shortage. Something must be done to stabilise the prices for longer periods of time, much more than is currently being done. The criticism that it is for the first time the local oil market is made to undergo frequent fluctuations is quite right; previously, any raise in petrol prices was associated with a mini-budget and hence was planned after intervals long enough to bear the fallout. The present mechanism simply cannot work mainly because the economy has already started to collapse. Ultimately this will add to the poor opinion of government organs like Ogra and the Petroleum Ministry that are being bombarded with calls for dissolution, a reflection of the revolutionary fervour that these unpopular measures are generating.