THE power situation has become grimmer in the last few weeks in parts of the country. Unfortunately, the worst is yet to come, particularly in Punjab, as temperatures rise and people switch on cooling devices. Not including Karachi, the countrywide electrici-ty shortfall has crossed 4,000MW because of insufficient fuel for production and a reduction in hydel generation. This shortfall averaged 7000MW at its peak last summer, leaving consumers to cope with daily power cuts of eight to 10 hours. As the gap widens, power distribution companies in Punjab have even started cutting supplies to industry on dedicated feeders to reduce shortages for urban domestic and commercial consumers. The industrial units on common feeders providing electricity to a mix of users are facing cuts of up to 12 hours. This could intensify feelings that Punjab’s industry is facing discrimination. The All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, the body representing the powerful textile fac-tory owners, has already cried foul, accusing the caretaker government of meting out shabby treatment to the province’s industry. Other business associations and chambers of commerce and industry in Punjab have also joined the chorus. They are demanding that all provinces should equally bear the burden of power cuts. Their concerns are valid. The power crunch is making them uncompetitive not only in the international markets but also in the domestic market vis-à-vis their competitors in Karachi and other parts of the country.
It would be wrong to blame the caretakers for the crisis. Growing demand, dwindling generation, huge untargeted power subsidies, distribution losses, electricity theft and years of mismanagement at the highest level have brought the country to such a pass. But the caretakers can improve the situation to some extent. They could ensure continuous gas supply for factories with in-house generation capacity and the uninterrupted availability of electricity to the rest of the industry to run at least two shifts a day, as well as take steps for the optimal utilisation of installed generation capacity so that the miseries of manufacturers and other consumers are minimised.