ISLAMABAD: The ongoing power crisis in Karachi dominated the National Assembly’s proceedings on Thursday as a severe protest by the opposition forced the government to call the standing committee on energy to meet in the provincial capital on Monday to assess the situation and resolve the issue.
Also read: Load-shedding returns to Karachi
Deputy Speaker Murtaza Javed Abbasi issued the directives that the house committee on energy be convened on Monday to discuss the problem on a proposal of Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab Ahmed who had admitted that the opposition’s protest was justified.
The members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) staged a token walkout to register their protest over unannounced and hours-long loadshedding in the city which, according to them, had made the lives of the citizens “miserable”.
Protesting MQM members say K-Electric has intentionally created the crisis to get some benefits
They said that the K-Electric (KE) management had intentionally created the crisis to put pressure on the federal government as it wanted to get some benefits. They also accused KE of not implementing the agreement it had signed with the federal government at the time of privatisation of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation.
They said students were suffering as there was no electricity at home as well as at examination centres.
The issue first came up during the Question Hour when the opposition members, mainly from Karachi, lodged a protest when Minister for Power Awais Leghari while replying to a question claimed that the PML-N government had fulfilled its election promise of eradicating the menace of loadshedding from the country.
The issue flared up again when the MQM members moved a calling attention notice regarding the “failure of Nepra (National Electric Power Regulatory Authority) to make KE accountable, particularly for unprecedented loadshedding in Karachi”.
The power minister faced the wrath of the opposition members when he forcefully announced that the government would not provide power to those areas where electricity theft was rampant. He said the government could no more bear the burden of electricity theft and, therefore, they would not provide electricity to the feeders where people were not paying their bills, be it his own constituency or be it the constituency of the prime minister or of the NA speaker or of the Senate chairman.
Mr Leghari asked the house to allow the government through a resolution to recover the losses caused by power theft by increasing taxes on petroleum or tax rates to completely end loadshedding.
He said if the gas companies were not providing gas to KE despite agreements then what Nepra could do. He said even then Nepra was making efforts to resolve the crisis.
The opposition members started shouting when the minister was providing details of the number of feeders with zero loadshedding and where loadshedding was being carried out.
Opposition Leader Syed Khursheed Shah, however, challenged the minister, saying that the government was including “technical losses” due to its own inefficiency as power theft. He claimed that recently a third-party investigation had pointed out that more electricity was being stolen in Lahore than the combined losses of Peshawar and Quetta and Hyderabad and Sukkur.
Mr Shah said those suffering due to power outages would not accept the minister’s claims about the eradication of loadshedding. He said KE did not want to generate electricity through oil-run plants as it wanted to save its money. He said it was the responsibility of Nepra to force KE to run its plants. He said it was the responsibility of the federal government to ensure equal distribution of power supply to all provinces.
MQM’s Abdul Waseem alleged that KE wanted to run away from the country after handing over the company to another firm after making a huge profit.
S.A. Iqbal Qadri, also of the MQM, claimed that KE had not set up any new plant in violation of the agreement it had signed at the time of its privatisation.
“What action Nepra has taken so far? How many visits Nepra officials have made?” he asked.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sheikh Aftab said that a Nepra team had already been sent to Karachi to assess the situation. He said that he would ensure the presence of Nepra officials in the standing committee meeting. He said besides officials of KE and the gas company, the elected representatives of Karachi should also be invited to the meeting.
Meanwhile, the National Assembly passed the Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Bill, 2018, suggesting severe punishment for those involved in human trafficking.
Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2018