Posted on 10 months ago
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Prolonged power outages coupled with hot and humid weather in Ramazan, pushed people over the edge, besetting major part of the country, particularly Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, with violent protests causing damage to official and private property. Urban areas suffered 12 to 14 hours of load shedding on Monday and rural feeders faced up to 18 hours of power cuts as one of Chashma Nuclear Power Plants and three plants in Muzaffargarh (AES Lalpir, PakGen and KAPCO) remained partly or fully offline after being damaged by a storm on Friday. The severity of the protests jolted the federal government in more than one way as apart from facing popular fury it received threats from allies - PML-Q, ANP and MQM - to withdraw support if the problem was not solved soon. Lahore was cut off from Islamabad as protesters put up tents on the motorway, blocking it form 11am and causing tens of kilometres of vehicular queues on both sides. The Charsadda-Peshawar road was blocked at River Kabul. Power officials and buildings were attacked in Islamabad, Abbottabad, Charsadda, Okara, Multan, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot and Sheikhupura and many of them were set on fire.
Roads remained blocked by protesters till late in the night. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Water and Power continued to fudge figures of generation and national demand in a bid to make them look less pathetic, disregarding ground realities and that violent protests that marked the day. It reported computed demand of 18,300MW in the country, excluding KESC, and generation of 13,300MW - a shortfall of 5,000MW, or around 27 per cent. But up to 18 hours of load shedding belies the official claims. These figures are grossly misleading also because they neither include massive line losses nor huge exemptions that the ministry maintains. The current documented line losses are around 25 per cent; they bring generation down by almost 3,000MW. Besides, the power sector maintains exemptions for VVIP houses, defence installations and hospitals, which takes away another 1,500MW from the system. The fact that the federal and provincial governments owe around Rs800 billion in electricity bills outstanding for more than one year, the state of affairs speaks of willful official negligence of an issue that is a matter of life and death for socio-economic development. Now that NAB has undertaken upon itself the recovery of outstanding utility bills from public and private sectors, the period required for the process is a minimum 45 days and this is too long a time for already exhausted people. The whole scenario suggests that those at the helm of affairs badly lack political will and this has been demonstrated in four and a half years of the PPP-led government, certainly a dangerous tendency.