Warnings from both the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) about confirmed gas shortages for Punjab and Sindh respectively, means that residential consumers and businesses are in for a tough winter. Federal Energy Minister Omar Ayub had, as early as the start of August, informed a Senate standing committee that the problem of gas loadshedding would continue this winter as countrywide demand for gas had risen to 7.5 billion cubic feet per day while supply would fall short by 3.5 billion cubic feet per day. Sindh was a complete disaster this monsoon season with rains flooding almost all of Karachi and electricity cut off in many areas for days on end.
The crisis forced the Army to be called in to help by the Federal government, thereby escalating an already intense war of words between the centre and the PPP-led Sindh government. According to reports some localities of Karachi are already facing unannounced gas loadshedding well ahead of winter, indicating a more widespread problem in the coming weeks. For Lahore, the SNGPL has committed to providing gas for cooking only and announced that supply to industries will remain suspended. While it has ensured sufficient and timely import of LNG to plug the gap, if the PTI government’s recent handling of the recent wheat and sugar supply crises is anything to go by, SNGPL’s promises must be taken with a pinch of salt. Clearly the PTI has little to show for its two years in office in terms of solving the gas crisis.
Meanwhile, a separate crisis is brewing, as K-Electric (KE), Karachi’s sole power supply company, remains at loggerheads with the PTI government, the primary issue being the former’s exclusive rights to distribute electricity to Karachi. A chaotic public hearing to discuss issues related to the company held by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) had to be cut short due to disruption caused by chants and sloganeering by various participants against KE. Last month, Planning and Development minister Asad Umar had threatened to ‘take over’ KE if its ‘performance’ was not improved. It must be mentioned here that KE’s majority ownership is private and as such is a more efficiently run company than government-owned/run power distribution companies, which is why such typical browbeating by PTI ministers only makes matters worse. The government should strive to resolve issues rather than exacerbating them.