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Senators slam price hike, demand relief for public

05 December, 2013

ISLAMABAD: With the cost of several food items at an all-time high, the senators on Wednesday urged the government to take concrete steps to control this trend, especially the rise in the prices of petroleum products, electricity and essential items.

Opening the debate on the motion regarding price hike, Pakistan People's Party's (PPP) Senator Mian Raza Rabbani said the high prices of various commodities have been affecting the common man. "The price of potatoes, onions and tomatoes are reaching the sky," he remarked and urged the government to take concrete steps to control the prices of petroleum products, electricity and essential items.

He alleged that the proposed tax amnesty scheme would only benefit the rich and elite class. Rabbani said oil prices had decreased internationally and its benefit should be passed on to the people. He claimed that parliament was being bypassed on the amnesty scheme. Meanwhile, Awami National Party's (ANP) Haji Muhammad Adeel noted the past government had announced a relief package for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA due to heavy losses in the war against terrorism. However, sales tax, income tax relief had now been withdrawn under the package, "while those who had plundered national wealth were being benefited under the amnesty scheme".

Adeel said industries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been closed and businesses ruined due to bomb blasts and suicidal attacks. He recommended that the salaries in higher judiciary, army officers and bureaucrats be decreased by 50 percent. He also claimed that the atomic weapons were not safeguarding Pakistan, rather the case was other way around. The ANP senator recalled that such an amnesty scheme was also announced by the PPP government, which his party opposed.

Adeel said austerity was the only way to control inflation. Taking part in the debate, Kamil Ali Agha of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q said even the middle class was finding it hard to pay electricity bills due to the phenomenal rise in electricity prices. He said solid steps should be taken to provide relief to the consumers. Speaking on the occasion, Col (r) Tahir Hussain Mashahdi of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said edible items were out of the reach of the poor due to high prices. He noted domestic consumers were facing problems due to low gas pressure.

Senator Abbas Khan Afridi observed that a large number of people in the country were not paying tax, which was a major cause of price hike. However, he claimed that majority of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa people were taxpayers. He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa people were mainly associated with two businesses trade and transport which have been affected due to stoppage of NATO supplies.

Khalida Parveen said the government should formulate long-term policies for development of agriculture, which is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy. She said Pakistan is an agricultural country but the prices of various agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers and machinery, were high. Speaking on the issue of inflation, Saeed Ghani said printing of currency notes in a large number was also increasing inflation. He said the government should reduce its non-developmental expenditures and pass on relief to the general public.

The senators spent two hours to discuss the recent hike in the prices of petroleum products, gas and electricity and other essential items during the third sitting of the 99th session. Eight members of the House, including three of PPP-P, two independent and one each of ANP, MQM and PML took part in the two-hour debate. The chairman presided over an hour-and-thirty-two-minute-long sitting of the House, while the deputy chairman chaired the remaining part of the proceedings. Leaders of the House and opposition were present throughout the sitting.

On Monday the Senate had lamented that the Parliamentary Committee on Appointment of Superior Courts Judges has become powerless and asked for it to be made more effective. They said that the panel should be abolished if its decision have no worth.


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