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Fuel price rise: An unusual confrontation between the London PMLN and the Islamabad PMLN

Tuesday night saw an extraordinary disagreement between the London PMLN and the Islamabad PMLN over the economic handling of the Shehbaz Sharif administration, prompting Mian Nawaz Sharif to leave the party meeting he was attending via video link from London.

According to PMLN sources, Mian Nawaz Sharif, who is supported by Ishaq Dar, is opposed to raising the price of gasoline. Miftah Ismail and Shahid Abbasi believed that the country’s economic situation was delicate and needed to be handled with care.
According to an Islamabad-based PMLN senior, the administration should not be pressured by the London PMLN on economic issues in order to avoid jeopardising the Pakistan-IMF accord.

The London PMLN complained that the government could have negotiated a better deal with the IMF, but it was advised that it should either return to Pakistan and accept responsibility, or let Islamabad make the decisions.

It was pointed out that there was a clear procedure in place for reviewing petrol prices, that the government had nothing to do with it, and that meddling with it would result in major difficulty.

Following these disagreements, Nawaz Sharif chose to leave the meeting, stating that he could not be a part of any government decision. Such an argument had never been heard before. According to a source, the language used in these arguments facing the London PMLN was inappropriate, which irritated Nawaz Sharif.

Interestingly, Maryam Nawaz was the one who made it public in a tweet Tuesday night that Mian Nawaz Sharif had strongly opposed the government’s move to raise the price of gasoline. She claimed that Nawaz Sharif stated that he would not accept even a paisa hike and that if the government was forced to make a decision, he would not be a part of it. Maryam went on to say that Nawaz Sharif later exited the meeting.

Although Maryam did not address the debate, insiders stated that what the PMLN observed last night was the result of a schism within the party over the country’s economic management. Marriyium had already opposed the hike and stated that she could not support the government’s decision.

It was the clash between the two camps — the Ishaq Dar camp and the Miftah Ismail camp — that was visible ever since Miftah took over as finance minister. Nawaz Sharif generally agrees with Ishaq Dar on the country’s economy, whereas Shehbaz Sharif has faith in Miftah Ismail, who has the full support of Shahid Abbasi.

According to independent sources, an increase in the price of oil was unavoidable due to the price at which it was purchased on the worldwide market. It had been told that failure to do so would jeopardise what had been agreed upon between the government and the IMF thus far.

Any breach of the agreement would be extremely damaging to Pakistan and its economy.It is claimed that at a time when Islamabad is awaiting IMF board clearance to restart its bailout programme for Pakistan, any deviation such as subsidising the oil price or compromising with the petroleum levy agreed upon with the IMF would entail plunging Pakistan into a severe economic catastrophe.