Govt to deliberate on power issue for second time amid protests

Govt to deliberate on power issue for second time amid protests

ISLAMABAD/
KARACHI/
LAHORE:

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq will resume emergency efforts for the second day to resolve the issue of skyrocketing electricity bills in a follow-up meeting with all concerned authorities in Islamabad on Monday.

A day earlier, PM Kakar gave authorities 48 hours to think of short- and long-term solutions regarding electricity theft, distribution and bills to alleviate the burden on the public.

The second meeting scheduled to be held today will include all provincial chief ministers along with energy and electricity-related ministries.

Amidst nationwide protests and fervent outcry over soaring electricity costs in the midst of runaway inflation, Kakar’s rallying cry for action arrived in the midst of broader political, economic and constitutional uncertainties.

Read Govt falls short of giving power relief

While the first meeting yielded no definitive actions, Kakar had expressed the need for a roster of individuals and entities benefiting from free electricity, urging the concerned ministries and departments to provide this information. Additionally, he instructed power distribution companies to outline a strategy for tackling electricity theft.

The emergency meeting, which extended for almost two hours, also emphasised the necessity of implementing reforms and establishing viable short-, medium-, and long-term strategies within the power sector. Kakar deemed such measures crucial for alleviating the challenges burdening the populace.

Nationwide strike, protests

The general public and trade associations have initiated large-scale protests nationwide against massive electricity bills and heavy taxes, with demonstrations being held in different cities pushing the government to finally take notice.

The business community in different districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s (K-P) Mansehra, including Balakot, rejected the hike in electricity bills and held a shutter-down strike on the trade association Anjuman-e-Tajran’s call. They also held a rally against an increase in taxes and inflation in electricity bills.

All business centres across the district, including the city, remained closed. A huge number of traders protested the government’s silence on the subject and took out a rally from the main square to the Water & Power Development Authority (WAPDA) office.

Another protest was held in the Chhach area of Kamra Cantt in the Attock district of Punjab. The protesters refused to pay electricity bills until the end of “the cruel tax.” They raised slogans against ‘oppression of the poor’ and civil disobedience.

Read More Nationwide protests erupt against inflated electricity bills

Meanwhile, hundreds of citizens surrounded the Bakra Mandi ISCO grid station in Rawalpindi and torched electricity bills.

The protestors raised slogans against the government. The irate citizens said that they would neither submit bills nor let the authorities cut off electricity from their houses.

The massive protest resulted in a traffic jam in the area.

Charsadda saw the Awaami National Party (ANP) protesting and shouting slogans against the government and the WAPDA department.

Protestors alleged authorities of unfair power charges and claimed that all electricity in K-P is generated from hydel power and yet fuel adjustments are being charged in their electricity bills.

A violent protest was also held in Chota Lahore and Colonel Sher Khan Kalay in Swabi. Protesters blocked Swabi, Mardan, Chota Lahore, and Yar Hussain roads, saying that the authorities have now exhausted the patience of citizens and they should not test it further.

Monday marks the fourth day of public protesting and torching electricity bills due to a hike in tariff prices.

It is pertinent to note that the government has proposed to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) a potential increase of Rs3.55 per unit in power tariff, with an aim of recouping the elevated amount within a span of six months.


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