Whatever the real reasons for the nationwide power distribution/generation bottlenecks and however much the shortfall, it is the duty of the government of the day to answer for them as well as to address them. Yet the way in which Minister for Energy Hammad Azhar deflected criticism in the House, even from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI’s) own MNAs, inspired little confidence and showed that the ruling party’s game plan still doesn’t extend beyond blaming opposition parties, especially the last two to form governments in the centre, for just about everything that goes wrong. Granted, previous administrations did leave us tied up in unfavourable agreements with power producers, but for the present government to still hide behind these excuses, nearly three years into its tenure, would actually amount to admitting that nothing at all can ever be done about such issues and that, in the long run, runs contrary to PTI’s own interests as well.
Besides, it was any previous setup that forced the present one to delay maintenance work at a thermal power plant and fixing a turbine at Tarbela Dam till the thick of the hot season, instead of getting to it a little earlier as would be expected. Now the whole country is in the grip of load shedding just as the harshest days of the long summer have arrived and people have been left without electricity, sometimes up to 20 hours in some parts of the country, just when they need it the most. And nobody is going to be impressed by just how many megawatts of shortfall emerged out of nowhere in which province and how, in just another year or two, this government too expects to make load shedding a thing of the past. What people do notice is that PTI made numerous claims about neutralising the so-called circular debt yet instead it is growing at the fastest pace on record with the result that the end price paid for electricity by the consumer is not just unfairly high but the commodity is also in very short supply in just the months that it is needed the most.
All this will have a very telling impact on not just households but industry as well. Here we are, doing what we can to keep the third wave of the pandemic from completely derailing the economy yet overlooking something as central as providing adequate power at affordable rates for everybody. Now, with frequent outages, which run as long as 20 hours in some unfortunate parts of the country, surely, production and input costs will be affected no matter how much authorities try to soothe popular sentiment by implying that this is a very temporary problem and all will be well soon; even if that contradicts its own earlier assertion that everything is someone else’s doing and therefore things are not likely to improve in a hurry. So the common man on the street should at least be forgiven for seeing an all-too-familiar pattern in all this as he prepares to do deal with yet more pay cuts and job losses and even more misery for no fault of his own.
Things have now got so bad that PTI’s own members of the National Assembly have started lamenting, inside the National Assembly, that it is getting more difficult by the day for them to visit their own constituencies. For, there is no end to the complaints of everybody regarding the way the party is ruling over the country, especially if they happen to show up at a time of load shedding when people are sweating and more irritable than usual. Hammad Azhar could have done better when his turn came to speak than piling all that is wrong on others and accusing his own party-members of ‘playing to the gallery’ when in fact they were raising a very important issue.
This shows that the government’s prime strategy is diverting the blame instead of solving the problem. Prime Minister Imran Khan himself admitted that energy was the biggest problem of all faced by his administration. Now his ministers are beginning to give the impression that this is one problem that they are incapable of solving. Perhaps the PM should himself take very strong notice of the direction in which this particular issue is headed.