- CJP seeks rational answers, not true-lies, from relative offices
The apex court chief is on the warpath regarding cases whose commonality is violation of basic human rights, including issues of grave public importance callously ignored by successive governments. The rising prices of petroleum products have brought this matter of immense long-term national importance and immediate citizen’s concern by adversely impacting their already leaking pockets, in the CJP‘s cross-hairs, not a very comfortable situation be in for Pakistan State Oil, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, relevant ministries and departments, and the many other cooks (if not crooks!) despoiling the national fuel broth.
Main issues comprise the entire oil import process, the taxation labyrinth during which the fixed price of petrol, Rs62.38 per litre, was jacked to Rs92.80, with the CJP holding all concerned institutions accountable for such oppressive taxation. The SC’s removal of mobile phone taxes has provided welcome relief to suffering consumers, but just for two weeks. So, another aspect clouding the judicial exercise is that a similar crusade launched by former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry for slashing prices of sugar, flour and gas, in fact led to commodity shortages and floundered on the frenzy of human avarice, hoarding, speculation, market forces, middlemen and economic-political realities.
On Thursday, the PSO deputy managing director was grilled by a Supreme Court bench headed by the CJP, and intricate complexities and technicalities of the topic, with its ever-ballooning circular debt, gigantic loans taken to keep the oil supply process moving, government levies, marketing companies’ and petrol dealers’ cut, and inland freight equalisation margin, were explained to a perplexed and dissatisfied CJP, who ordered another hearing on Friday with secretaries of petroleum, energy and FBR chairmanin attendance. But instead of relying solely on court orders, or squeesing the ordinary consumer, it is far better to broaden tax base and practice frugality by banning import of gas-guzzling luxury vehicles and encouraging hybrid ones, as the country’s motor gasoline import bill would catapult by 80 percent to 14 million tonnes by 2020-21, and overall POL products demand grow by 18 percent. Otherwise, smoothly-moving wheels of economy and meeting financial targets will forever remain a fiction or illusion.