ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Sunday gave his go-ahead for the handover of Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.

Hours after the prime minister’s approval, KPK Chief Minister Pervez Khattak welcomed the move but at the same time called it ‘ridiculous’ and a ‘whitewash’ aimed at duping the masses.

In a handout issued by the CM Office, the chief minister demanded control over KPK’s entire power generation setup saying that mere handing over of Pesco meant that the provincial government would just distribute electricity bills and collect revenue for the federal government. The CM said that the PM must keep in mind his stature and refrain from ‘playing such tricks’.

The CM said that instead of playing such a prank with the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Centre must give the royalty of KP’s 4,200MW power, hand over control of dams and the whole production and distribution system. He said the Centre must end Pesco’s losses before its handover and then “we will not let it run into loss again”. The handout said, CM Khattak will soon write a letter to the federal government in this regard.

Taking a leaf from the PTI’s book and witnessing response of the federal government, the PPP’s Sindh government also decided to demand control of power generation and distribution companies in the province. This was decided at a meeting between Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and former president Asif Ali Zardari here on Sunday night. The meeting decided that a formal request in this regard will be made immediately to the central government.

Government sources said that Prime Minister Nawaz, on the request of Ministry of Water and Power has authorised, in principle, to formally handover Pesco’s control to KPK government and a formal letter would be dispatched to the KPP CM in next few days in this connection. The power ministry had initiated the move after severe criticism from PTI Chairman Imran Khan wherein he had challenged that if PTI government would be given chance they would put the house in order in just a few days.

Earlier, Federal Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif had said that immediate transfer of control was doable. “Yes it [transfer of control] can be done immediately. He [Imran] can take control of Pesco and handle the distribution of electricity and recovery,” he had said. “This is not about us failing. Over the past three to four months, there has been a reduction in line losses and theft. We do not claim there has been radical change, but there has been reduction, there has been improvement.”

But CM Khattak said their party chief had not demanded control of Pesco but that of Wapda, as it was KPK which generates most of the electricity being controlled by Wapda. He claimed that if given control over production, distribution and tariff determination, the provincial government would drastically cut power theft and loadshedding, increase recovery by hundred percent and bring down the tariff.

Khattak said that by handing over the control of electricity and gas generation and distribution was a requirement of the 18th Amendment and it would not be any act of generosity on prime minister’s part if he complied with the constitutional commands. He said if the PM has to just handover distribution companies to the provinces then he must handover Lesco’s control to his brother’s Punjab government and he would see how much willing Shahbaz would be to accept this liability.

The KPK CM said that instead of political point scoring, PM Nawaz should cooperate with the provincial governments in solving the problems of the people. He said KPK is very much part of the country and Centre must stop treating the provinces like step brothers. Khattak said it looks as if Nawaz has still not come out of the hegemonic mindset he had during his rule in 1988.