LAHORE - Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has called a National Energy Conference for Monday (today) to discuss the deepening power crisis, which forced the people in various cities to come out on the streets on Sunday to protest against the rulers. The energy conference is expected to devise a strategy to overcome the electricity shortage. According to reports, participants will also discuss the possibility of allowing two weekly offdays and suspending power supply to commercial users at 8pm daily to make the saved power available to domestic consumers. Though the convening of the conference is a right decision, it has been taken much too late. The rulers have decided to discuss the issue only after seeing that people have run out of patience and that the riots may get out of control. In fact, a party that came to power with the promise of providing the common man with food, clothing and housing has miserably failed to honour any of its commitments during the past three-and-a-half years. Its performance in all fields has simply been disappointing, notwithstanding its tall claims to the contrary. Many industries have closed down because of power shortage, as a result of which millions have lost jobs. The remaining industries, if any, will also 'breathe their last in the near future in case the power crisis is not overcome. And there is no possibility of the government getting to grips with the problem anytime soon. When people lose jobs it becomes difficult for them to make both ends meet. And when even feeding a family becomes difficult, clothing and housing become luxuries that cannot even be thought about. If the generation capacity of all units is utilised properly, there will be no energy crisis. But it is quite strange that in spite of raising the electricity tariff and other taxes every now and then the government has not been able to clear the dues of the IPPs. The question of power crisis will stay on rather may worsen - unless the rulers bring themselves to the level of the common man. In other words, unless the president, the prime minister, the provincial governors, chief ministers and other high-ups are subjected to the same cruel loadshedding as the ordinary mortals have to face, they will never realise the gravity of the problem. Similarly, leaders who are opposed to the construction of dams like Kalabagh more on political than technical grounds should also be made to face the power crisis. The top people have electricity supply available round the clock and in case of any major technical fault, they continue to receive the supply through standby generators, so, they have simply no idea how torturous power cuts are. Once they sweat for 12 hours or so a day and find it difficult to stay in their offices in their sophisticated suits, they will realise that there is an urgent need for new power projects and dams. This is the easiest way to evolve consensus. The ANP leaders will also see no fault with Kalabagh Dam and they will see no chance of Nowshera drowning, if they are not provided with electricity for 12 hours a day in their offices and homes. Our real problem is that our leaders are not of the people. They are not aware of their miseries. Then, power theft is another major problem. Exceptions may be there, but WAPDA officials from top to bottom are responsible for this corrupt practice. They help power thieves in return for illegal gratification. Relative of a WAPDA official told this scribe recently that his cousin was making Rs 100,000 per month. (And seniors to him have still higher monthly incomes.) Because of the growing corruption, WAPDA which was once one of the most prestigious institutions of the country is going down by the day. Power theft will not come to an end unless there is an enactment to provide for capital punishment to power thieves as well as abettors. Once a few electricity thieves and their facilitators are hanged, things will start working smoothly. But those involved in this abhorrent practice will not let the government even think about such a harsh step. The proposal of observing two weekly offdays and suspending power supply to commercial centres after 8pm are not advisable. A poor country like Pakistan should work 365 days a year. In fact, it cannot afford the luxury of more than a single offday. Officials are already under instructions not to switch on their air-conditioners before 11 am. This means they should use ACs only for a few hours per day. But now when the winter season is about to start after a few weeks, power consumption by government offices will automatically go down. Thus, two offdays will practically save little electricity. Therefore, there is no need for going for two offdays. And in case the government still takes such a decision, it means it has failed to get its orders about the use of ACs implemented. The government already knows that businessmen do not close their shops at 8pm. They resisted such orders in the past and will not be ready to accept them now. In such a situation, only practicable decisions should be taken.