In the latest case of national outrage, top officials from the Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) were arrested on a host of corruption charges. Ever since the trifurcation of WAPDA’s power wing and the further break up of PEPCO, authority has devolved to autonomous electric boards, making management even more difficult amidst rampant corruption. This misuse of authority manifests itself in theft; in the authorisation of this theft, stealing power, equipment and materials including underhand deals with influential third parties.

According to figures, 115 billion units of electricity are generated in the country out of which only 77 billion units are ultimately paid for. By this estimate, about 35% of electricity simply “goes missing.” Even after entertaining the very real possibility of technical losses (which should stand at about 6%), this is an unacceptable rate of theft and inefficiency and must be addressed if the government is as serious about the energy crisis as it claims. It is disheartening to see that the very officers who have to ensure that their line staff is not involved in theft or illegal connections, are the ones engaged in said activities. There are a number of technological possibilities that could help limit this, including smart metering, which would eliminate the use of a manual meter check. Still, ultimately, it will come down to management and accountability. Since there is no real body overseeing operations at the management level, the individual consumer has a large part to play in holding their officers to account.

The citizen must not become a silent bystander as power is stolen right beneath their noses. Illegal or suspicious activities must be reported as soon as they occur. Neighbourhoods where some homes never lose electricity must be brought to the attention of investigative and law enforcement bodies. Real pressure must be put on the government to curb corruption, especially where powerful industries and businesses are involved. The common Pakistani family must not be made to suffer at the hands of power thieves, any more than it already does.