ISLAMABAD - The government yesterday came under fire in the Senate for “not transferring the benefit of reduced oil prices to the masses and its decision to tax gas consumers of additional Rs 101 billion.

The senators made a heated debate in the especially requisitioned Senate session on these two issues.

The opposition lawmakers demanded of the government for more reduction in oil prices keeping in view the international prices and the withdrawal of its decision, made by Economic Coordination Committee (ECC), to tax the gas consumers of additional Rs 101 billion for laying down gas pipelines. They said that the imposition of new tax on gas consumers was unreasonable when the government had already imposed Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) on them for the same purpose and called it double taxation.

The opposition benches also said that the government was taking solo decisions on the prices of petroleum products while ignoring the advices of regulator -Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA). Similarly, the Council of Common Interest (CCI) was being ignored to take important decisions on taxation.

Senator Jahenzeb Jamaldini from Balochistan gave a suggestion that the parliament should give a long-term strategy to the government over its economic policies.

PML-N Senator Javed Abbasi remarked that the criticism of the opposition was uncalled for as it was mere condemning the government instead of giving a way forward on the issues. However, PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar while replying to Abbasi said that it was hard for the opposition to understand the economic policies of the government and added, “Then how can we give suggestions to it”.

He said that the recent decisions of the government indicate that it did not believe in taxing the rich. He said that taxation should be made broad based and the policy of taxing the poor should be stopped

Babar said that not transferring the benefit of reduced oil prices to the people, levy of Rs 40 billion taxes recently and the decision to tax the poor additional Rs 101 billion for building pipelines networks demonstrated the PML-N government’s lopsided economic priorities as well as its personalized style of governance.

The government is taxing the poor through indirect and double taxation, protecting the rich unabashedly and is taking personalized decisions disregarding the institutional mechanisms of Council of Common Interest (CCI), the parliament and the regulatory bodies mandated by law, he said.

Farhatullah Babar said that the people had already been paying for the pipelines in the form of GIDC.

He said that the personalized style of taking unilateral decisions without consultation was reflected by the fact that even before the OGRA summary landed on the PM’s desk proposing Rs 11 per litre cut, the PM unilaterally announced a meagre Rs 5 per litre cut in petroleum prices without consulting anyone.

He called for reversing the decision of double taxation, transferring the benefit of reduced petroleum prices to the common people, taxing the rich, avoidance of taking personalized decisions and to take decisions through institutional mechanisms of the parliament and the CCI.

PTI Senator Noman Wazir while giving reference to a report said that the expenditures of the Federal Board of Revenue were more than its recoveries made through taxations.

PML-N Senator Lt General (retd) Abdul Qayyum remarked that it was the need of the hour to replace the old gas piles with the new ones as the existing system was under pressure and the government was doing nothing wrong.

“I have some unconfirmed information that Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif played a role in reducing the prices of oil up to Rs 5 per litre,” MQM Senator Mian Attique said adding that whether the “people now would have to look towards GHQ” for the redressal of their grievances.