Residents, traders and the civil society of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) have expressed concern over the recent hikes in the prices of petroleum products and have demanded the government to take back its decision of adjusting fuel prices weekly.
Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran President Sohail Shujah Mujahid said that the “unexpected and repeated increases” in the prices of fuel have lead to a sharp increase in the prices of food and daily-use items. He said that traders and wholesalers are being “forced” to increase prices of the items to absorb the increase in cost of transportation. As a result, people living in remote areas are being affected the most, he said.
“The government needs to take back its decision of weekly adjustment of fuel prices to save people from starvation,” Mirpur Citizen Action Committee Convener Jehanzeb Khan said, adding that people belonging to the middle and lower-middle income groups are being affected the most by the decision.
Khan estimated that prices of food and daily-use items in AJK have increased by as much as 25 per cent in the past two weeks alone due to the rise in fuel prices.
“Businesses are unable to cope with rise in the prices of fuel, gas and electricity and are closing down,” said Khan, “This is no less than a murder of the business community.”
Anjuman-e-Tajran Arja Poonch President Chaudhry Younis and Secretary Genral Raja Shakil Ahmed Khan warned that the business community will be forced to take to the streets if fuel prices are not controlled.
Meanwhile, transporters across AJK have increased fares following increases in fuel prices and have refused to charge fares set by the AJK Transport Authority.
Transporters have raised fares by at least 10 per cent this week following increase in fuel prices, said Bashir Kashmiri, who came to Mirpur from Muzaffarabad. He said that transporters have also resorted to overloading their vehicles, making passengers prone to accidents.
When contacted, AJK Transport Minister Tahir Khokher said that transporters involved in overcharging and overloading will be penalised.
Despite increase in prices of fuel, the transporters have no right to increase fares — they are bound to charge the amounts fixed by the transport authority,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2012.
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