Days after ‘historic’ relief package, Pakistan jacks up petroleum prices to record high

Pakistani attendants fill vehicles at a gasoline station in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 5, 2019. (AFP/File)
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Updated 05 November 2021

Days after ‘historic’ relief package, Pakistan jacks up petroleum prices to record high

  • Price of petrol gone up by Rs8.03 to Rs145.82, high-speed diesel’s by Rs8.14 to Rs142.62 per liter
  • Government ‘cognizant of responsibility to provide maximum relief to consumers,’ Finance Division says

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Thursday increased the prices of petroleum products by as much as Rs8.14 per liter, days after Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a “historic” $700 million relief program to mitigate the impact of surging commodity prices. 
Pakistan fixes the rates of petroleum products on a fortnightly basis to pass on the impact of the fluctuating international prices to consumers. 
The price of petrol has been increased up by Rs8.03 to Rs145.82, while that of high-speed diesel by Rs8.14 to Rs142.62 per liter. Similarly, kerosene oil has gone up by Rs6.27 to Rs116.53 and light diesel oil by Rs5.72 to Rs114.07 per liter. 
Reviewing the proposals worked out by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority (OGRA) and the Finance Division on November 1, the prime minister had not agreed with the proposed hike and directed authorities to maintain the petroleum prices, according to the Finance Division. 
But the premier, in his address with the nation two days later, had cautioned that fuel prices would undergo an increase in the coming days. 
“It is pertinent to mention that maintaining the 16 October 2021 petroleum prices had some underlying concerns for e.g. cash flow issues due to the short recovery of the cost,” the Finance Division said in a notification. 
“It is important to note that in the previous petroleum prices, already a significant relief was provided to the consumers.” 
The statement said the government was “cognizant of its responsibility to provide maximum relief to the consumers,” which had dented the petroleum levy budget of Rs152.5 billion during July-September, as compared to Rs20 billion realized only. 
It said the petroleum prices had been increased partially, compared to rates proposed by OGRA. “In fact, the government has absorbed the bulk of the pressure after making adjustments in the sales tax and petroleum levy.” 
The new prices have already taken effect. 
The increase in petroleum prices comes days after PM Khan announced the “biggest welfare program in Pakistan’s history” to mitigate the impact of surging commodity prices due to the global price hikes and rising inflation. 
The prime minister’s announcement came as the statistics bureau said that Pakistan’s annual inflation rate rose to 9.2 percent in October, compared with 9 percent in the previous month and 8.9 percent in October 2020. 
The subsidy is expected to provide relief to 20 million families, or 130 million people, offering them a 30 percent discount on per unit purchases of three basic edible items: ghee, wheat and pulses for six months. 

At least 18 killed in bus-car crash in northwestern Pakistan

Updated 10 sec ago

At least 18 killed in bus-car crash in northwestern Pakistan

  • Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed
  • Bad road infrastructure and use of unfit vehicles are other causes of frequent accidents

ISLAMABAD: At least 18 people were killed on Tuesday and several others were injured after a bus traveling from the northern Gilgit region to Rawalpindi had a head-on crash with a car, officials said.

Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural areas, are in poor condition.

There have been a number of transport tragedies in Pakistan recently, including when more than 40 people were killed after a bus fell into a ravine and caught fire in the southern Pakistani province of Balochistan last month. Earlier this month, a head-on collision between a passenger bus and a speeding truck trailer near a tunnel in Pakistan’s northwestern Kohat District overnight killed at least 17 passengers, including women and children.

The latest crash happened in the Shatial region in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“A Gilgit to Rawalpindi bound bus met with an accident in the Shatial area of Kohistan at 715pm,” Fiaz Ahmad, deputy commissioner Diamer district in Gilgit-Baltistan, told Arab News over the phone.

“The accident took place when the bus collided with a car coming from the opposite direction.”

The official said 18 people had been killed, of whom 13 were from Gilgit-Baltistan and five were from Kohistan.

Ahmed said district administration, Rescue 1122 and hospital staff had taken part on the rescue mission and shifted all injured passengers to a nearby hospital in Chilas. 

Dildar Khan, a police chief in the area where the accident took place, told AP 22 people had died. 

Imam Shafi, a Gilgit-Baltistan Tourist Police officer who took part in the rescue operation, told Arab News there were 27 passengers in the bus and five in the car it collided with.

“All dead bodies and injured have been shifted to Chilas Hospital. Only one child is missing,” the policeman said. “Among the 13 from Gilgit-Baltistan who died, three were women.” 

An emergency was imposed at the District Headquarter Hospital Chilas.

“All doctors and paramedical staffs are on duty,” Dr. Mubashir Hassan, Health Director for Diamer Division, told Arab News on Wednesday morning from the emergency ward at the Chilas hospital.

“We will try our level best to provide all facilities for them and with all possible resources.”

Petroleum minister denies fuel shortage, says Pakistan has sufficient stock

Updated 7 min 14 sec ago

Petroleum minister denies fuel shortage, says Pakistan has sufficient stock

  • Musadik Malik admits the ‘danger’ of hoarding amid volatility of petroleum prices in international market
  • Minister says the government can take administrative measures against people rationing fuel in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: State Minister for Petroleum Dr. Musadik Malik dismissed reports of fuel shortage in Pakistan on Tuesday, saying the government was complying with the regulatory requirement of maintaining a substantial quantity of petrol and diesel in the country.

Malik issued the rebuttal during a conversation with a local news outlet amid reports that commuters were facing problems in the country’s most populous Punjab province where several petrol pumps had temporarily suspended their service.

“We held a meeting with the oil marketing companies in the morning,” he told Geo News. “Currently, the country has the stock of more than 20 days of petrol and more than 25 days of diesel.”

The minister asked the media to intimate the government about any artificial shortage created by owners of petrol pumps in any part of the country, saying action would be taken against such elements.

“In certain regions, there is a danger that people are hoarding since they believe that petrol prices are being increased on an international level,” he continued. “But we have got administrative measures that can be used to deal with such situations.”

Malik categorically denied that the country’s ongoing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had anything to do with the prices of petroleum in the country.

He maintained the subject was not being discussed between the two sides, adding any fluctuation in fuel prices was due to the volatility in international market.

Pakistan is facing a major dollar liquidity crunch which has led the government to unofficially suspend import of various items, including essential goods, to save its foreign currency reserves that have hit an alarming level of $3 billion.

Under the circumstances, a nationwide power outage last month also led to speculations about fuel shortage in the country for power generation, though senior government officials denied the claim.

‘Mob attack’ on film set in Pakistan takes mainstream and social media by storm

Updated 14 min 2 sec ago

‘Mob attack’ on film set in Pakistan takes mainstream and social media by storm

  • Incident occurred on Monday evening during shoot of ‘Sajin Mahel,’ directed by Nabeel Qureshi and starring Hira Mani
  • Mani told Arab News armed men entered set in a “pre-planned” attack and beat up crew after director had a spat with neighbors

KARACHI: A “mob” attacked a film set this week while some of Pakistan’s most popular actors were shooting for an upcoming movie in Karachi, the actor in the leading role, Hira Mani, said, while a police report of the incident said five crew members were injured. 

The incident, which has taken Pakistani mainstream and social media by storm, occurred on Monday evening during the shoot of upcoming film ‘Sajin Mahel,’ directed by Nabeel Qureshi, and starring Mani, her husband Salman Saquib (popularly known as Mani) and Gul-e-Rana.

Mani said the attack happened after the film director got into a spat with neighbors who complained about noise from the shoot, which was taking place in a rented property in Karachi’s PIB Colony. An “armed mob” forcibly entered the house, she said, describing it as a “pre-planned” attack by people aiming to disrupt the shooting. 

“They manipulated the policemen sitting outside the premises [by telling them] that something inappropriate was taking place inside,” Mani told Arab News. “They were going to burn us, [they were] chanting ‘Allah O Akbar’.”

The attackers, according to Mani, were demanding to speak directly to Qureshi and the top actors, who were locked up for their protection in a room of the house by the owner, a man identified in a police complaint only by his first name, Shakir.

Calls to the police went unanswered, she added:

“They [attackers] had almost reached the cast when the [paramilitary] Rangers arrived and rescued us after almost an hour.”

According to a copy of the first information, or police, report (FIR) seen by Arab News, producer Ali Hussain said up to 50 people, many of them carrying sticks, barged into the house where the shoot was ongoing and beat up its owner, Shakir, who rents the property for film shoots. The attackers also allegedly beat up crew members and injured five, including one who was hit on the head with a pistol. 

The FIR said several pieces of equipment were stolen from the set, including a 2k light, bulbs, C-stands, avenger stand, 10kg jib weight, set pancake and cables and three mobile phones. 

Arab News heard a sound recording of the incident, shared by a member of the cast, in which women could be heard screaming and shouting. The sounds of blows being exchanged is also heard and Mani is frantically yelling to suspects that there were women and children in the house. 

Mani said three people had been arrested since the complaint was filed. She said this was not the first time that violence had ensued at this particular location, recalling a similar incident last year when Pakistani actor and comedian Yasir Hussain was directing the TV series, “Aik Thi Laila” at the spot.

Speaking to Arab News, Hussain complained that while Shakir rented out the property for large sums for Tv and film shoots, he did not take responsibility for controlling crowds.

During the shooting of “Aik Thi Laila” he said, uninvited entrants on the set fought with the producer when they were asked to leave. Over 100 people subsequently entered and attacked the crew, forcing the team to cancel the shoot twice. The actor said he couldn’t complain at the time since he wasn’t the show’s producer. 

“We wanted to wrap the shoot so we didn’t post any [Instagram] stories either,” Hussain said. “This is quite scary and this needs to end.”

Arab News could not reach the owner of the house, Shakir, or police for comment.

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

Updated 08 February 2023

Pakistan PM postpones Ankara visit as Turkiye-Syria quake toll tops 8,300

  • Pakistan has sent relief goods to the two Middle Eastern states on commercial and military airliners
  • As rescue activities continue, time is running out for the thousands who are trapped in the rubble

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Wednesday postponed his visit to Ankara after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency in 10 southeastern provinces that were hit by a major earthquake that has so far claimed more than 8,300 lives in Syria and Turkiye.

The prime minister called for “tangible and timely material support” for Turkiye a day before while pointing out that Ankara had generously helped Pakistan in the wake of the 2005 earthquake and floods in recent years. He also established a relief fund for quake victims and urged well-off individuals to contribute.

Sharif decided to travel to Turkiye to express solidarity with its people and government while announcing to reschedule a national conference to discuss the security situation in his own country.

“PM visit is postponed due to [the] ongoing relief activities in Turkiye,” federal information minister Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a brief message to the media on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, rescue activities continue in Syria and Turkiye after the 7.8-magnitude earthquake jolted the two countries earlier this week. According to World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, time is running out for the thousands injured and those still feared trapped.

Reports emerging from the two countries say thousands have taken refuge from rains, snow and aftershocks in mosques, schools and bus shelters after losing their apartments and houses.

Some estimates suggest that nearly 23 million people have been affected by the quake which will require significant relief and reconstruction activities in the coming days.

Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already sent two planeloads of relief goods to Turkiye and Syria.

The country’s air force also said in a statement on Wednesday it had dispatched tents, blankets and other essential items on two C-130s to Turkiye to help its people.

In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

Updated 08 February 2023

In latest transport tragedy, 22 people killed in bus-car collision in Pakistan

  • Fatal road accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed
  • Bad road infrastructure and use of unfit vehicles are other causes of frequent accidents

PESHAWAR: A speeding bus collided with a car and plunged into a ravine in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, killing at least 22 passengers and injuring 12 others, police said, the second such deadly accident in less than a week.

The bus was traveling to the garrison city of Rawalpindi from the Ghizer district in the north when the accident happened near Shatial village, 500 kilometers (30 miles) north of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said Dildar Khan, an area police chief.

He said rescuers transferred the dead and injured to a hospital, where some of them were listed in critical condition.

Last Friday, 17 people were killed in a head-on collision between a passenger bus and a speeding truck near a tunnel in the Kohat district in northwest Pakistan. On Jan, 29, another deadly accident happened in southern Pakistan where a bus crashed into a pillar and fell off a bridge, killing 40 people.

Deadly accidents are common in Pakistan due to poor road infrastructure and a disregard for traffic laws.