Islamabad - “Give me in the name of Allah. The exorbitant bill of electricity has compelled me to beg,” an old man in his late seventies, sitting outside a mosque in G-9/4, was imploring each and every worshiper coming out of the mosque at night time.

Covering his body against chilly winds with a woollen shawl, the old man was holding an electricity bill in his hand, which belonged to his daughter living in Pir Wadhai area of Rawalpindi. The bill was of Rs 2,679 but as she failed to pay it within due date, so after inclusion of surcharges the payable amount was Rs 2,902.

“My daughter, the mother of four, is a widow who works as housemaid to earn livelihood for her family. How will she pay such a huge amount?” According to the man, his daughter lives in a small rented old house. The rent of the house is five thousand rupees per month and to pay a bill of almost three thousand rupees was beyond her reach. “The unusual high electricity bill has disturbed her family system,” said the old man. “If she fails to pay the bill, the owner of the house will expel her.”

A boy sitting beside, according to the old man, was his grandchild. He was one of the four children of his daughter, who at daytime sells miswak (a teeth cleaning twig) at Pir Wadhai bus station to help his mother. He was closely observing the appeals of his grandfather, choked with emotions, and the responses of the people. “If you don’t believe, get the bill and pay it,” the man requested the people.

High inflation and exorbitant electricity and gas bills have made life miserable for the lower-middle class of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. People with menial jobs and meagre salaries are finding it difficult to pay electricity and gas bills.

Last year, in August-September, extensive over-billing was witnessed that caused countrywide protests. The excessive electricity billings were challenged in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) by some parliamentarian of the opposition.

In the petition they argued that “throughout the world, utility services tariffs are determined while keeping in view the purchasing power of citizens, but in Pakistan power tariffs were gone beyond the purchasing power of the common man.”

Later on, Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif while expressing displeasure on the over-billing directed the concerned authorities to correct the bills on emergency basis, besides ordering for audit of the issue.

However, the issue of over-billing is still unresolved and the consumers receive such bills on regular basis in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Despite the ongoing load-shedding, that continues to exist even in winter, the consumers are receiving high bills. The power company is facing an onslaught about what consumers claim that bills are higher than the electricity consumed. The consumers claim their bills are more than normal as compared to previous winter seasons.

Muhammad Owais, a resident of Margalla Town who has got a floor of a small house on rent, said that his electricity bill was five times more than the usual bill. “I visited the concerned department five times to correct the bill,” he said.

Fahim Rizwan, who lives in G-9 sector of Islamabad, said, “I don’t see any difference in the bills of summer or winter. It seems that during the upcoming summer, the consumers will have to pay high electricity bills.”

According to an official of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO), “Consumers are charged according to their consumption. No one is deliberately overbilled.”