LAHORE - While announcing to investigate Rs3.25 billion over- billing in Lesco, State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali yesterday informed the media that some areas in Punjab had become no-go-areas for electricity officials and they were unable to check power theft there.

“Officials are thrashed by the defaulters and power thieves in these areas and police refuse to cooperate with them,” he said, adding he would take up the issue with Punjab CM and also hold meeting with IG of Punjab police on the issue.

Addressing a news conference at Lesco head office here, the minister said he had instructed the Wapda staff to surround the police stations in case of non-cooperation and he would personally join their protest.

The no-go areas identified by the minister are: Okara, Depalpur, Kasur and Kangan Pur.

The outspoken minister himself revealed the massive over-billing in Lahore Electric Supply Company and vowed to put the culprits behind the bar. But contrary to his claims, the findings of an earlier committee he had formed around a year back on Rs2.50 billion over-billing in Kasur circle have not been made public so far.

Official sources say the Lesco’s XENs and SDOs in Kasur, involved in the crime, are blue eyed of powerful local PML-N leaders and no one could dare act against them.

Thousands of consumers in Lesco and other power distribution companies (Discos) get exaggerated bills every month. Excessive billing is being done by the Discos to cover power theft mostly in connivance with the company staff.

Adid Sher said the over-billing would be controlled after the completion of mobile meter reading projects in Discos. The snaps of the units consumed by a consumer would be placed at the bill under the project, he added.

About non-payment of bills, he said no one would be spared on non-payment, no matter how powerful the defaulter may be. To substantiate his claim, he told reporters that the Lesco disconnected power supply to Wing Commander Office, a PML-N MNA, Principal Office of Veterinary College, Revenue Commissioner Office, District & Sessions Judge Office and a known lawyer over default of millions of rupees.

The minister announced to disconnect supply to defaulter agriculture tube-wells from June if the long standing payments were not made by the farmers.

“We had meetings with Kissan Ittehad and they promised to pay their outstanding bills in instalments but they did not fulfil their commitments. We are now left with no option but to disconnect their power supply from next month,” he said.

Thousands of farmers especially in Multan Electric Power Company and other Discos have not been paying their bills for months. They have called for decrease in tariff and also complain of over-billing. The farmers held a series of protest demonstrations under the banner of Pakistan Kissan Ittehad for acceptance of their demands. But their concerns are yet to be addressed.

The minister, during the press conference, reiterated his party’s stance to end load shedding from Pakistan till March 2018.

He said the power generation, which was hovering around 13,000MW when PML-N took control of government, exceeded 16,000MW and was likely to touch 18,000MW by next year. He said six to eight hours load shedding would be conducted in Ramazan in urban and rural areas except the high losses feeders where its duration may increase. He said government would ensure uninterrupted power supply during Sehar and Iftar in the holly month across the country. He said industry would face nine to 10 hours load shedding in Ramazan. He said traders would be requested to close down their shops till 9pm to provide maximum relief to domestic sector in the holly month.

To a question, he said the national grid was receiving 283MW from Nandipur Power Project (total capacity 425MW) and 42MW from Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park (capacity 100MW).

He criticised PTI Chairman Imran Khan over statement about load shedding in KP province.