ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, on Monday announced a cut in petrol and electricity prices despite a steep rise in the global oil market, pledging to freeze the new rates until the next budget in June.
The move comes as Khan’s opposition, already engaged in street protests over what they say is his mismanagement of the economy and rising inflation, says it is set to propose a no- confidence motion in parliament to oust him.
Petrol and diesel prices will be slashed by 10 rupees a litre and electricity rates will be cut by 5 rupees per unit, Khan said in a televised address to the nation.
The prices of both commodities have risen multiple times in the past year under directions from International Monetary Fund (IMF) as part of a reform agenda it agreed upon with Pakistan in 2019 and which is set to continue with a $6 billion rescue package.
“We have decided that we will not raise prices of these two things until next budget,” Khan said.
Khan’s announcement came as the price of Brent crude oil recently surpassed US$100 a barrel in the global market.
Pakistan’s economy has lately been under pressure due to a widening current account deficit and depleting foreign reserves.
“This will be achieved by reducing PDL (petroleum levy) in the short-term but by a funded subsidy in the long term,” Energy Minister Hammad Azhar said in a tweet.
“You know why is this being done as you see the opposition is already marching toward Islamabad,” an opposition leader, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, told Geo News TV, referring to Khan’s pledges.
Khokhar’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has begun a protest march from southern Sindh province against rising inflation. It is scheduled to reach Islamabad on Mar 8.
Another main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) of former two time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has been lobbying for a no-confidence move in parliament against Khan.