THE PML-N government has launched a crackdown against power and gas thieves in Punjab. The drive has been welcomed and is an important part of the new national energy policy. It is expected to help public power and gas utilities save billions of rupees and cut their surging revenue losses. The FIA has also been engaged in this campaign to make it more effective. The two gas companies are facing theft and losses of around 11pc, with each percentage point costing them over Rs2bn. Similarly, the theft and losses suffered by Pepco are estimated to be a whopping 25-28pc of the total electricity output. Each percentage point adds Rs8.5bn to the revenue loss of the company. Gas and power theft not only adds to the losses incurred by the utilities, it also puts additional financial burden on consumers who pay their bills honestly as governments tend to incorporate these losses into their bills.

While the results achieved so far have been encouraging, those involved including powerful businessmen and corrupt officials have yet to be apprehended. Many of the suspected gas and power thieves are either related to politicians or are elected members of the provincial and national assemblies. Mostly they belong to the ruling party and sometimes to opposition parties, including the PPP. The crackdown should not be seen to be aimed at political opponents alone and it is hoped that the government will also punish its own people who are involved. The drive launched by the utilities against gas and power pilferage is not new. The PPP government had also launched a campaign to prevent theft. But it lost momentum before it could even take off because the companies did not get the required cooperation from the PML-N provincial government then. Police would refuse to accompany the raiding teams and to register cases if PML-N leaders were involved. With the PML-N in power at the centre and in the province, it is hoped that the campaign maintains its momentum in the weeks to come.

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