After many years of stone walling Karachiites, the will of the people finally prevailed and the postponed, but much awaited Nepra Hearing took place at the Marriot Hotel, Karachi. Khalid Saeed, Chairman, Nepra and his 5 member team flew in from the Federal Capital to discuss the 19 issues relating to the Tariff Increase application filed by KESC, seek a clarification and listen to the objections raised by members of trade, industry and civil society. And to their credit, the Nepra members were good enough to give a patient hearing to KESC, the interveners and all those who wished to speak on the much disputed electricity tariffs and was orderly and to the point. And the Karachiites must also be congratulated for being present at the hearing in full force. The Ballroom of the Marriot was packed to capacity, but what was surprising was the absence of our Pillars of Industry and Commerce and members of our educated and privileged society, who howl and protest the most. Missing were the Presidents, secretaries and senior office bearers of FPCCI, KCCI and KITE and all those who give chest-thumping speeches on Television, threatening to close down their factories and businesses indefinitely, if the electricity tariffs were not reduced. I suppose they were all busy cutting birthday cakes or advising the PM and CM on how to conserve electricity and make money. The only President who was present at the hearing was the out spoken Engineer M. A. Jabbar of the SITE Association, with whom I have interacted several times on the same issue. He gave a detailed account of why tariff should not be raised and the devastating effect it would have on our industry, our exports, foreign exchange earnings and an increase in unemployment. Credit must also be given to Choudhry Mazhar Ali, GS, KESC Shareholders Association, Roland DSouza of Shehri, Arif Bilwani, Nisar Sheikhani and our legal Eagle, Jawed Siddqi, who had filed a petition, relating to the tariff increase, in SHC against KESC and Nepra. on our behalf and was being heard on the same day. He had rushed from the SHC and on reaching the hearing, had immediately objected that the Nepra hearing was sub-judice, as the matter was being heard in the SHC. However, Nepra Chairman pointed out that as the hearing had been adjourned for two weeks, there was no 'contempt of court as such. Then there was of course our very own Dr. Qazi Ahmad Kamal, who had done us all proud. He had taken great pains to gather all the relevant information and presented them in a lucid and logical manner. He had done the same for our KESC petition in the SHC. The data presented by the good Doctor were so impressive, that they sat in dumb silence, while Dr. Qazi dissected and demolished the reasons for which KESC was asking for a tariff increase. By the time Dr. Q and the other representatives from civil society were through, KESCs team of 'Highly Qualified lawyers, accountants and engineers had no clue as how to counteract or what to say. The KESC management team, led by its CEO, Naveed Ismail, tried to defended the utilitys petition, seeking an immediate tariff increase of Rs. 1/kw, out of which, 36 paisa is being been demanded as a fuel purchase cost and 64 paisa as the controversial O&M expenses. They sat there, thumbing through files and whispering to each other, looking for some piece of evidence, which they could present to the Nepra members and hope for some relief, but that was not to be. In fact, Nepra Chairman seemed to be so impressed by the arguments presented to the committee that he seemed to have serious reservations about KESCs demand for a tariff increase. He observed that the present management of the KESC had caused further deterioration of management and operations of the utility and allowing it to increase power tariffs, would create serious problems for trade, industry and the consumers. NEPRA Chief was of the view that increase in electricity tariffs in the past had forced consumers to steal electricity and that a decline in tariffs will automatically decrease electricity theft. He ruled that the KESC management should cut its unnecessary expenses, which would enable it to overcome its financial crisis. And at the request of our friend, Abdul Mateen, who complained about defective electric meters and inflated bills, Nepra Chairman immediately directed KESC to set up a committee, which should include consumers representatives, investigate the matter and submit a report to Nepra within six weeks. But according to a report in the latest issue of the Engineering Review, (1st August 09), the visit of federal ministers to Karachi was to brush the real issues under the carpet and to protect the top KESC men from being embarrassed by a NEPRA inquiry, as they are relatives of VVIPs in Islamabad. Engr. Fazullah Qureshi, a former VC NEPRA, believes that KESC has "definitely failed to meet its commitments and it must initiate action under the relevant clause. As such, Nepra has again served a notice to KESC on its failure to meet the promises it had made in the privatization agreement. KESC had promised to revamp its transmission system and improve its power supply in three towns of Karachi by August 31. It was required to submit details in ten days, beyond which NEPRA could have fined KESC and also cancelled its distribution and generation license. But even now, KESC has failed to improve its service and despite its tall promises that there would be no load shedding during the Holy Month of Ramadan, Karachiites are being punished for challenging the all powerful KESC, with prolong power outages. Many believe there are powers in Islamabad who insist that no action must be taken against KESC, because action against the utility service would discourage foreign investment. Many also stress that we cannot takeover KESC, as at present it is in a terrible mess, unmanageable and needs huge investments to revamp its systems, which the government does not have. Therefore, under the present circumstances, the best option is to keep pressing KESC for improvements and only NEPRA can do that. One can only hope that NEPRA will not allow KESC or any other agency or person to influence Nepras decision relating to KSEC tariff increase, because if they do, then it would be the last straw which would break the consumers back and would extinguish the lights of the 'City of Lights for ever. (email: trust@super.net.pk).