STRAIGHT TALK

The long hot summer months have not even started, but the government has warned us of the threat of a looming power crisis that the country will be facing in the coming months.

According to the print media, Minister of Water and Power Khawaja Asif while addressing a press conference on the issue of loadshedding, admitted that the increased power outages will persist this month.  Long forgotten are the tall promises made by the PML-N during election time, when it claimed it would end loadshedding in three months, which was then extended to six months, then one year and even now after four years, the power outages will continue to persist this month. Regarding the looming water crisis, we are already witnessing ugly protest scenes in the city, including the offices of CBC, whose staff have misbehaved with the residents demonstrating against the water shortage.

In an effort to downplay the problem, the minister has stated that the provincial government is politicizing the water issue and there is no anomaly in this regard.

He said all the provinces had their representatives in Irsa and the current Chairman of the authority is also from Sindh and if there is any anomaly, he should point it out, as Irsa has full record of water storage and release. For the record, the issue of power crisis the country would face in the coming years was foreseen and raised way back in 1994, when a group of concerned citizens, including Helpline Trust, had filed a Public Interest Litigation against KESC in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. On the instructions of the Supreme Court, regular meetings were held every Saturday and the CEO, Chief Engineer and other senior technical officers of KESC were ordered to attend these meetings and draw up a White Paper, with suggestions on how to manage the power crisis in Karachi. A detailed report was prepared by technical experts, giving short and long-term recommendations on how to improve power generation, distribution system, prevent power theft, reduce demand for electricity during peak hours, etc.

Some of the short-term recommendations to reduce power demand during peak hours were: Complete shutdown of all bill board lights, shopping malls, government buildings, shadi halls, etc, after sunset, 2x10hrs shifts and staggered holidays in industry, etc. The proposal was forwarded to FPCCI and KCCI, but was immediately rejected.

Unfortunately, the government also changed at that time and the PPP government that came into power, transferred the Supreme Court to Islamabad. As we did not have the funds to attend the hearings, all our efforts went waste. If only 30% of our recommendations had been implemented, the country would not be facing the power crisis that it is experiencing now.

Instead of taking action to resolve the problem, the present government had made false and misleading promises, that it will resolve the issue in three months, which was then revised to one year, then three years and now it seems that there is no light at the end of the dark tunnel. The government has admitted that it has no clue as to when the power crisis will end and has asked the nation to pray for rain and the PM and his chief minister have promised us that there would be no loadshedding during Ramadan, especially during Iftar and Sehri, so let us hope and pray that this statement is not misleading and put out just to appease the public, as there are already reports of prolonged power breakdowns.

During the last elections, the people had voted for the PML-N, in the hope that this government would resolve the power crisis within six months, as promised by the party at that time and they would fulfill their promise of improving the lives of the citizens, but unfortunately that has not been the case.

Instead of introducing good governance and investing in power generation units along with improving the output and efficiency of the existing units, the government has been on another tangent indulging in chasing rainbows and tinsel programs, like distributing laptops to gain popularity.

General Musharraf, in his long eight years of governance, had the opportunity to tackle the power crisis and to take positive steps to set up power generation plants and revamp the dilapidated and outdated distribution system, but did not take advantage of this chance.

Rather, his government took the easy way out, by allowing the free importation of Independent Power Plants, without exercising due diligence by examining the ground realities. This led to massive corruption and misuse of authority and plunged the country, including this City of Lights, into darkness. Unfortunately, the present government has also been unable to rectify the mess and has also failed to provide the basic facilities like electricity, gas, clean water and decent health and education system and safety of life and property to the citizens. KESC has now been replaced by KE, under a new management and though there has been some improvement in its service, the problem of power generation has not improved and a looming power crisis is very real in Karachi. The country had voted for PML-N with ‘Great Expectations’ and with the hope that the government would end the load shedding, as promised, stop the wanton killing of innocent citizens, introduce good governance and end the suffering of the people, by providing them the basic amenities of life, like clean water and electricity, but by and large that has not been the case. The past years of the PML-N government have not been very inspiring and there is already talk of mid-term elections, with Imran Khan and the opposition flexing their muscles in the wings. As such, it is not clear if the last elections were just a means to push AZ and his Merry Men out of their Ivory Tower or a serious attempt to introduce Good Governance and improve the quality of life of the citizens. So, are we going to see another elections and perhaps a change in government in the coming months and if so, who will win the coveted prize? And even if this government falls, then who will replace it and will it be able to resolve the numerous issues facing the country, especially the looming power and water crisis? Email: trust@helplinetrust.org.pk