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ISLAMABAD: A parliamentary panel has asked the power division to garner the support of religious scholars in a bid to counter the menace of electricity theft.

A meeting of the sub-committee of the Senate standing committee on power was informed on Thursday that the country’s power distribution companies were — on average — facing losses of about 18 per cent, and a substantial part of the losses was also accruing because of widespread theft and kunda system.

The meeting was convened by Senator Nauman Wazir, who advised power companies to engage with religious scholars and seek their help in controlling power theft. “We need to get fatwas issued by prominent religious leaders and sensitize the public about the menace of theft — its negative fallouts in this world and the hereafter”, he said, adding that people needed to be informed that stealing electricity for daily use, including making meals was haram (forbidden in Islam).

Officials of the power division, while briefing the committee regarding the magnitude of technical losses and theft in distribution companies (Discos), said that the losses had now reached an average of 18pc. The Peshawar Electric Supply Company recorded the highest losses at 37.4pc, followed by the Sukkur Electric Supply Company at 36.5pc, and the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company at 30.1pc.

The committee was told that in the last 11 months (July 2017 to May 2018), more than Rs56 billion were lost to technical issues and theft.

The managing director of the Pakistan Electric Power Company told the committee that power companies did not have the capacity to assess the power losses and had engaged third-party experts to make the calculations. The committee asked that their findings be shared in a subsequent session.

The committee was also informed that power companies could not materialise the recovery of electricity they sold to consumers, and almost 10pc of the units sold remain unpaid for.

The committee however, termed these statistics unsatisfactory and rejected them. The members asked the officials of the ministry for complete details of the losses and theft in the next meeting. Additionally, they were also instructed to provide details of the electricity units provided to Discos as well as the details of the efficiencies of the electricity grids in the next session.

The committee also summoned chief executive officers of all Discos to the next meeting, and asked the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to send its representatives to attend the session as well.

The power division officials informed the committee that Nepra had allowed Discos different thresholds for technical losses; meaning that a Disco in one city might be allowed a greater percentage of losses compared to another one in a different part of the country. These thresholds range anywhere between 11 and 31pc.

Regarding the privatised Karachi Electric, the committee was informed that at the time of its denat­ionalisation, the technical and distribution losses were 35pc, which had now been reduced to 25pc.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2018