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The devastating impact of rising fuel prices



In Pakistan, petroleum prices were raised yet again to Rs248.74 per litre for petrol and Rs 276.54 for diesel. This is the fourth time petroleum prices have been raised in a period of 1-1.5 months under IMF guidelines or pressure.

Subsidies have been eliminated almost altogether, although there may be some residual subsidies that are to be adjusted. The agreement with the IMF requires full price recovery plus PLD taxation of Rs30-50 per litre and GST of 17%. This means more has yet to come.

While the elimination of subsidies may be a rational and reasonable IMF requirement, demanding PLD and GST in such an abrupt manner when international oil prices are extremely high, is rather ruthless and shows a high degree of insensitivity to the poor of this country.

While in USD terms, Pakistan prices may not be so high, in local rupee terms, the current prices are more than 100% of the usual prices and have increased rather abruptly. The wages of the poor, however, have not increased at all and cannot increase in tight economic circumstances.

The IMF can very well argue that it is Pakistan which has brought its economy to a level that it had to approach the Fund. And it is not the first time that Pakistan has gone to the IMF. This is the 16th or 17th time an IMF loan is being sought over the last 30 years or so. Successive governments in Pakistan have been pursuing an elite agenda, not collecting taxes and extending subsidies that benefit the rich and powerful.

The question the IMF must consider: how is any of this the fault of the poor? The poor in Pakistan should have resisted and revolted.

The fact is that Pakistan has no choice. It has to accept the IMF conditions or be ready to face default. The default may not be a good idea, although some nihilist but respectable economists have argued in favour of default rather than meeting the IMF conditions.

Let us come back to the petroleum pricing issue. One way of answering the price growth issue is to look at the prices in comparable countries or in the region. In India, the current average/typical gasoline prices are at Pak Rs277 per litre. Indian prices have always been higher than Pakistan, for which there is no apparent reason except for higher taxation in India.

Otherwise, the Indian petroleum industry is much larger and more efficient than Pakistan’s. India exports petroleum and is highly competitive, although not much is known here about India; financing military expenditure and cross-subsidizing exports could be some of the possible reasons. It should be noted that India is getting 30% cheaper crude oil from Russia. However, it may not be more than 10% of their current requirement. It is on the rise though by the day.

The lowest petroleum prices in the region are in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh government has started indicating that subsidies are becoming unsustainable. An oil price rise is expected there. In most countries, diesel prices have been kept lower than that of gasoline on the simple premise of public use of diesel in passenger transport and goods traffic.

In Pakistan, for one reason or the other, this logic has not been accepted. However, the current high diesel prices in Pakistan are due to high diesel prices. We have to put off this discussion for a later date when prices stabilize. It may be noted that in Sri Lanka, despite the widely known economic conditions and default, diesel prices are still lower than in Pakistan and elsewhere except in Bangladesh. Both Bangladesh and Srilanka have maintained quite low diesel prices. Export competitiveness appears to be the major driver in their energy pricing policies.

In the US, petroleum prices have been lower than elsewhere in the advanced countries due to the highly competitive oil industry and local abundance of oil production. American benchmark crude oil prices have always been lower than elsewhere. The US retail prices of petroleum products have always been considered benchmark prices.

This time, diesel prices are 10 per cent higher than gasoline in the US. This is due to higher market prices of diesel which are a result of demand, supply and other issues. Usually, diesel and gasoline prices are almost the same in the US as opposed to Europe and other advanced countries.

In such a bleak scenario, there are very few options and prospects for good. However, there is a possibility that the oil price may go down. It may take a year or so to stabilize around $90-95 as indicated by future contracts.

The rupee may get strengthened as has happened recently among the good news of the IMF’s agreement finalization process. The rupee may improve if all other financial sources follow IMF funding. The government may be able to pass on the savings to the consumers or use it to meet other deficits and subsidies.

There are some cost reduction opportunities as well, however small these may be: efficient buying, reduction of demurrage and other losses, and negotiating fair margins by the oil refineries and E&P companies.

An unfortunate aspect of Pakistan’s local crude oil pricing formula is that the wellhead prices are paid at international prices. There is no price advantage. As foreign oil producers are squeezing us, local ones are doing the same, even when it is public-sector companies. Similarly, oil refineries are making hay while the sun shines.

There is an S-curve ceiling and flour pricing formula in the case of local gas. Why is this not so for oil? It would protect both the producer and the consumer. Reportedly, there is a windfall profit formula which apparently has not been activated. Every penny is important in the energy business, as it is consumed in millions and billions of units; be it barrels, cubic feet, kWh or MMBtu.

Finally, how to protect the poor from such excruciating prices? We have been proposing for quite a while a low-price gasoline brand for motorcycles and smaller and older vehicles. This is a low–RON gasoline. Apart from being cheaper, it provides direct and targeted subsidies for the needy.

IMF supports targeted subsidies but opposes unintended benefits for high-income groups. The government of Pakistan has not yet been able to make a decision about this. Instead, it has announced a stipend of Rs2000. This has not yet been implemented or is not visible.

This was announced simultaneously with the increase of the first Rs30 increase. There is a need to suitably enhance this amount.

Energy conservation measures have been announced which may reduce consumption, although that does not directly affect prices. However, a reduction in consumption would reduce imports, reduce the current account deficit and affect the exchange rate in a positive manner. Reduced exchange rates would also reduce retail oil prices. The price raise itself may reduce demand. On the lighter side, all poisons have antidotes.

The writer is a former member of the Energy Planning Commission. Email:

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government contests Imran Khan and Qureshi’s exoneration in the cipher case




On Thursday, the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court contesting the exoneration of former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the well-known cipher case.

Citing procedural and jurisdictional issues, the Ministry of Interior has appealed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) ruling.

In hearing the cipher case, the High Court allegedly overreached its power, arguing that judges cannot change laws where Parliament has not expressly passed legislation.

Despite receiving government-funded legal representation, the petition emphasized Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s lack of cooperation during the trial, submitting 65 separate motions and neglecting to cross-examine witnesses.

The petition contended that in order for a retrial to satisfy legal standards, the High Court should have ignored important evidence that was given during the trial. It requests that the appeals contesting the IHC’s June 3 acquittal be given a hearing date by the Supreme Court.

Case history

The cipher issue concerns a supposed diplomatic document that disappeared from Imran Khan’s custody. The cipher allegedly contained threats from the US to remove Khan from office, according to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and several aides, including Asad Umar, are named in the First Information Report (FIR) submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in accordance with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act.

The then-foreign secretary received a diplomatic cipher from Washington on March 7, 2022, according to the FIR. The lawsuit claims that by manipulating the data for their own benefit, Khan and Qureshi put the safety of the country at risk. It alleges that on March 28, 2022, Khan secretly met at his Bani Gala home and gave his Principal Secretary, Muhammad Azam Khan, instructions to change the content of the cipher to his advantage, jeopardizing national security.

The document asserts that Khan still has custody of the cipher, jeopardizing Pakistan’s encrypted messaging systems and possibly helping foreign forces, which would be detrimental to the nation. A complaint has been filed by the FIA’s Anti-Terrorism Wing against Khan, Qureshi, and other individuals for improper use of state secrets and unapproved possession of the cipher.

Acquittal by the Islamabad High Court

In the cipher case, on June 3, the IHC cleared Khan and Qureshi when Justice Aamir Farooq issued a succinct ruling in their favor. Their sentences were appealed in the case, which has since been a source of political and legal controversy, leading to their acquittal.

This acquittal and the ongoing legal and political struggles surrounding the cipher case are highlighted by the government’s subsequent move to contest it.

With potentially huge ramifications for the parties involved and the larger political scene, the Supreme Court’s decision over whether to hear the appeal will be keenly scrutinized.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urges political stability in order to accelerate economic expansion.




Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, emphasized on Thursday how important political stability is to Pakistan’s economic development and how the nation cannot prosper without it.

His concern was that export growth had not progressed, and he emphasized that stability in the current climate is vital to draw investments and carry out the necessary reforms.

In his criticism of the tax system, Abbasi brought up the erratic nature of tax laws and the transient nature of the most recent tax slab implementation. Insisting that difficult choices are unavoidable for economic recovery, he emphasized the necessity of designing a tax system that is equitable and does not burden the people.

Furthermore, arguing that the effectiveness of organizations like the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is essential for economic governance and transparency, Abbasi urged for changes within these and other organizations.

Abbasi, in his discussion of more comprehensive fiscal plans, suggested that the National Finance Commission (NFC) award be reviewed again and that power distribution companies (DISCOs) be decentralized to the provinces.

In order to reduce inefficiencies and corruption at the provincial level, he recommended looking into ways to share the cost of defense spending and decentralize the management of energy resources.

In closing, Abbasi emphasized that Pakistan’s economic trajectory will stay stagnant unless comprehensive changes are implemented immediately. To move the nation towards sustainable progress, he urged policymakers to give stability and structural reforms first priority.

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Through in-app QR payments, Zindigi and SBP streamline transactions involving sacrificial animals.




With its in-app QR code payment system based on Raast, Zindigi—powered by JS Bank—has elevated the convenience of cashless payments for the procurement of sacrificial animals to a whole new level for Eid ul Adha.

This program uses QR code payments to streamline transactions for sacrificed animals for the general public and traders. It is a component of the State Bank of Pakistan’s Raast quick payment service.

This feature enables users of Zindigi and users of any digital banking apps or wallets to safely and easily make payments at certain cattle markets throughout Pakistan using Zindigi QR. The consumer must scan the QR code of the livestock merchant and pay the transaction amount in order to complete the payment.

In order to further financial inclusion and digital innovation in Pakistan’s developing economy, Zindigi and the State Bank of Pakistan have partnered. Both organizations are committed to improving the efficiency and accessibility of financial services, especially on holidays such as Eid ul Adha, by utilizing the most recent developments in fintech.

One of the most important steps toward promoting financial inclusion and economic empowerment at the local level is the integration of livestock markets into the digital economy. Farmers and retailers may take charge of their financial operations and help realize the larger goal of an inclusive digital Pakistan by adopting digital payments.

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