ISLAMABAD - The federal government had to face tough questions from the main opposition party, PPP, in the Senate on Wednesday over the disconnection of electricity to power feeders in Sindh, by the Water and Power Ministry, for non-payment of outstanding dues.

However, State Minister of Water and Power Abid Sher Ali asserted that Sindh government had to pay an outstanding amount of power bills to the tune of Rs 56 billion at any cost.

The remarks of Abid Sher Ali led the walkout from the opposition benches after Leader of the Opposition Aitzaz Ahsan said that this was a dispute between the two governments and ultimate sufferers were the poor masses that were facing electricity disconnection and acute water shortage as a result of this. He warned that they would stage protest demonstration in Sindh against federal government if electricity was not resumed in Hyder Abad.

Leader of the House Raja Zafarul Haq viewed that a meeting should be held between Water and Power Ministry and Sindh Government to resolve the matter as water was a basic necessity but the payment of dues was also important. While Deputy Chairman Senate Sabir Baloch, who was in the chair, ruled that the matter should be brought into the notice of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Moula Bakhsh Chandio, for the second consecutive day, raised the issue before the House that Ministry of Water and Power had disconnected power connections to water tube wells in Hyder Abad and the people of the area were facing acute water shortage. He further said that the ministry had disconnected power supply to feeders in the area and the people were facing the brunt of summer heat without electricity.

He warned that if electricity was not resumed Chief Minister Sindh Syed Qaim Ali had the right to protest in the same way as Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif had been protesting against the former PPP government against loadshedding.

Abid Sher Ali remarked, “Sindh government was defaulter of Rs 56 billion of power dues and out of this money Hyder Abad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) has to pay Rs 27 billion.”  He said that Hyder Abad Development Authority was consuming electricity of Rs 180 million daily without paying any bill. “I talked to the Chief Minister Sindh and he assured to pay the money but it was never paid,” he said adding that the ministry was forced to disconnect the power supply in such areas.

“The opposition will stage protest walkout if the minister will not announce resumption of power supply of water tube wells in Hyder Abad,” Aitzaz said before staging a protest walkout.

Rahman Malik said if some people did not pay bills all people of the area could not be punished it.

However, Abid was not ready to hear the arguments of the opposition and asserted there will be no solution of the issue without the payment of dues. “At least Sindh should pay 25 percent of the total outstanding amount,” he proposed.

Raza Rabbani opined the power supply should be resumed and the problem shout be brought before the Council of Common Interests (CCI) as subject of electricity was in the part II of the Federal Legislative List.

Abid clarified that electricity connections had been disconnected to those who were not paying power bills and not those who were paying the bills “Action has been taken against illegal connections and the government did not do any illegal action,” he said.

He said load shedding hours has been increased in those power feeders in which power losses were much and the government had no solution except this.

Earlier, responding to a call attention notice of Senator Saeed Ghani, Abid said that the government had asked NEPRA to increase tariff rate of coal fired power plants of 660 MW from 7.1 cent to 8.11 cent as no bidder was ready to come on the previous rate. He said the reason behind the increase was that investment was not coming on the previous rate Ghani had said that NEPRA determined the upfront tariff for coal fires power plants at the rate of 7.1 cent in June 2013 but the government increased it again up to 30 percent and this move was against its claim to generate cheap electricity.