ISLAMABAD, Aug 8: The Council of Common Interests (CCI) on Wednesday constituted a high-powered committee to work out ways and means for an equitable distribution of electricity in the country.
As soon as Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf finished his formal opening speech at the 19th meeting of the CCI, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif started complaining about long hours of unscheduled loadshedding in his province, sources close to the meeting told Dawn.
Shahbaz Sharif, according to the sources, spoke at length about the financial havoc the power crisis was wreaking on the province. He bemoaned that despite “good recovery records” achieved by electricity corporations in Punjab, “we are not getting due share of electricity”.
After patiently listening to Shahbaz Sharif, the prime minister asked him not to encourage demonstrations against loadshedding in the province. Mr Ashraf also requested him to remove his tent office which he had set up at Minar-i-Pakistan in protest against loadshedding.
The premier argued that participation in demonstrations by the chief executive of a province would affect the federation. The chief minister’s defence was that the outrage in Punjab over power cuts had left him with no option but to side with the protesters.
The better part of the CCI meeting was consumed by discussions on electricity, the sources told Dawn.
The new committee that will address provinces’ complaints on distribution of electricity will be headed by the minister for water and power.
Chief secretaries and a technical member will represent the provinces.
The terms of the reference of the committee included recommendation of a mechanism to ensure an equitable distribution of available electricity and measures for recovery of power dues.
The prime minister directed the committee to put up its recommendations within one week.
Earlier in his opening remarks, Prime Minister Pervez Ashraf contended that the present crisis was due to failure of the previous government to add a single megawatt of generation capacity to the system. Mr Ashraf claimed the present government had added 3300MW to the national grid.
The meeting approved the petroleum policy (exploration and production) drafted by the ministry of petroleum and natural resources.
The Council of Common Interests also took up the matter of payment of salaries to employees of the Population Welfare department after its devolution to provinces in accordance with the 18th Amendment. It was decided that federal secretary for planning and finance, along with representatives of provincial governments, will thrash out measures to solve the problem.
The meeting ended on a positive note when it unanimously passed a resolution proposed by Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif. The resolution read: “The meeting of Council of Common Interest expresses concern over the situation arising out of the shortage of electricity and consequent loadshedding in the country and believes that efforts be made to resolve this crisis in an effective and result-oriented manner.
“The CCI therefore decides that in order to strengthen the federation and promote solidarity among people of the country, a system for equitable distribution of electricity be devised in light of the decisions taken during the energy conferences held in Islamabad and Lahore.”
Besides the four chief ministers, the CCI meeting was attended by Communications Minister Dr Arbab Alamgir Khan, Mir Changez Khan Jamali, Minister for Science and Technology; Mir Hazar Bijarani, Minister for inter-provincial coordination; Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar and Dr Asim Hussain, adviser to the prime minister on petroleum.