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KARACHI: As the opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly on Monday demanded that the Sindh government raise the issue of prolonged unannounced power outages at the Council of Common Interests (CCI), the government complained it had attempted it several times in the past but the Centre refused to lend an ear to its grievances.

A debate on the issue of loadshedding across Sindh was initiated in the house with Speaker Siraj Durrani in the chair after approval of an adjournment motion tabled by Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Rashid Khilji.

Certain opposition members discussed if power supply was solely a federal subject or the provincial governments had any say in it. As a member affiliated with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf said his party in the provincial legislature was there to safeguard the interests of Sindh first, another opposition member from the Grand Democratic Alliance accused the Sindh government of doing nothing to rescue its people from long hours of power outages.

Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh said there were thousands of villages which remained without power for days and weeks and there was no one to rescue them. He rejected the opposition’s claim that the provincial government could help improve the situation, saying that the Centre enjoyed all powers. However, he said it was Sindh which had a solution to electricity problems of the country.

Health minister says the number of HIV/AIDS cases has increased because more people are reporting them

Mr Shaikh said the previous federal government had ignored the Sindh government’s request for improving the energy situation in the province and the present PTI government perpetuated the same policy.

He said Sindh had the country’s richest wind corridor.

He said the Sindh government had planned 35 wind power projects of 2,500MW and 25 solar energy projects of 1,500MW. However, all those projects that could have contributed 4,000MW electricity to the national grid had been blocked by the cabinet committee on energy.

He said Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah would attend every CCI meeting, but “he is not being listened to”.

The energy minister said not a single member from Sindh was a member of entities such as the National Transmission and Despatch Company, Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and Oil and Gas Development Company.

“They (Islamabad) alone can resolve these issues, including the menace of overbilling.”

Mover of the adjournment motion Rashid Khilji said the people of Sindh were still waiting for the “good news” they continuously heard about Thar coal.

Pakistan Peoples Party’s Munawwar Siyal said Sindh’s rural swathes were consigned to loadshedding as long as 20 hours.

MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain said Sindh got much lesser electricity than it needed and its people suffered prolonged outages on various pretexts.

He said it was not clear who had control over the Water and Power Development Authority and K-Electric. He said the federal government was fully responsible for supplying power to Sindh in which it had failed.

PPP’s Sharjeel Memon said 18-hour-long power outages persisted in the rural districts. He said the power companies had rendered people distressed across the country.

GDA’s Nusrat Sehar Abbasi deplored that the parliamentarians belonging to Sindh had not raised such issues in Islamabad. She said the PPP did nothing when it ruled the country. She claimed the Sindh government’s small dams and solar lights schemes had failed.

MQM-P’s parliamentary leader Kanwar Naveed insisted that the Sindh government could chip in to improve the situation. He said it was the provincial government’s responsibility to take up the issues in which children lost their limbs from electrocution. He said the provincial government should form committees at district level to resolve the power-related issues.

Minorities Affairs Minister Hari Ram said loadshedding had plagued entire Sindh while gas shortages had also begun. He said retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s regime did not add even a single watt to the national grid.

PTI’s Arsalan Taj said the PTI members did not represent the federal government in the Sindh Assembly; instead, they represented the people of Sindh who had elected them. He said why the issue was not being raised in the CCI. However, he said the Sindh government could not absolve itself from the issue. “We stand with you for the rights of Sindh. And we believe the federal government will support you”.

Monopoly in Karachi

MQM-P’s Khwaja Izharul Hasan said a single power company was responsible for supplying electricity to Karachi and enjoying monopoly in the sector. He said a second power supplying company should be introduced to end the monopoly. He also asked the PTI members to raise the issue with their government in Islamabad through the Sindh governor.

Women Development Minister Shehla Raza said the federal government had raised the electricity tariffs to the highest ever, yet power was not available. She said the federal government agreed to provide gas to the Faisalabad industry at domestic rates, but Sindh was offered the same at commercial rates though Sindh produced 70pc of gas.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukesh Chawla said the proposals of the debate would be taken up at the cabinet meeting.

Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani, on a point of order, said he condemned the recent ‘raid’ on the Karachi Press Club. He said KPC’s sanctity was supreme and the provincial government could never support such actions.

Imdad Pitafi expressed concern that sugar mills had not started rolling despite the fact that crushing season had long arrived.

Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu said the government had formed a sugar cane board and decisions were due soon.

HIV/AIDS cases

Earlier, Health Minister Azra Pechuho, while replying to a calling-attention notice by MQM-P’s Mohammad Hussain, said the number of reported cases of HIV/AIDS was increasing because of awareness as people who would not report earlier came forward for treatment.

She said instead of hiding the disease it was better to report it. Besides, she added, the same principle applied to society at large that should discuss it instead of treating it as a taboo.

Answering a question, Dr Pechuho said 38,376 cases of dog bite were reported last year for which more than 191,000 doses were given. Some 14,802 such cases had been reported till June this year for which 70,000 doses were given.

She said the population of dogs was alarmingly increasing and municipalities concerned should plan strategies to contain it.

She said vaccine for rabies was available with the director for health services, Karachi, denying the member’s claim that just 10 vials of vaccine were left at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre.

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2018