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Pak transporters strike against oil prices

Commuters in Karachi face hardships as public and private transporters are on an indefinite strike over record increase in fuel prices this month, reports Kamal Siddiqi.

world Updated: Jul 22, 2008 23:19 IST
Kamal Siddiqi

Commuters in Karachi faced hardships on Tuesday as public and private transporters went on an indefinite strike over record increase in fuel prices this month.

On Sunday, the government has announced its highest ever increase in fuel prices — the fifth increase this year, which has pushed motor gasoline to Rs 86.66/litre.

Transporters said that they could not continue to run buses on the old fares.

The strike crippled most of Karachi and threatens to spread to other parts of Pakistan.

The government is pushing for a minimum Rs 2 increase in fare rates while the bus owners are asking for increase by at least Rs 6. “Enough is enough,” said Irshad Bukhari, who heads the Karachi Transport Ittehad, the city’s main private transport union. Bkhari said that the government has to do more to boost public transport and also promote the sector.

But rise in fuel rates is only one of the worries facing people. Inflation in Pakistan has reached double digits with economists predicting one of the worst years in decades.

The State (Central) Bank has said that inflation may exceed the 11 per cent that was earlier predicted.

Already, the decline of the Pakistani Rupee against the dollar, which has slided from Rs 63 in the beginning of the year to Rs 71 this month has pushed up prices of most consumer items as in most instances raw materials are imported. “This situation is worrisome, people are having sleepless nights due to rising prices,” commented Speaker of Parliament, Dr Fehmida Mirza.

The government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani is facing increasing criticism over rise in prices.

In the past three months Gilani has been in office, the prices of such staples as rice and wheat have rise significantly. Much has to do with international demand and the government’s inability to check smuggling of essential items to Afghanistan, which push up prices as supplies dwindle.