PPP members, ministers clash in NA over KE affairs, JIT report

Updated 10 Jul 2020

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MQM to hold sit-in outside Parliament House against outages in Karachi; opposition blasts govt for blaming past administrations. — Reuters/File
MQM to hold sit-in outside Parliament House against outages in Karachi; opposition blasts govt for blaming past administrations. — Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday witne­ssed political skirmishes bet­ween the members of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and federal ministers throughout the nearly three-hour-long proceedings during a discussion on the performance of K-Electric (KE) and National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) in the wake of massive load-shedding and excessive billing in Karachi and over a controversy on the report of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) on notorious Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch.

The PPP leaders had verbal clash with Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan and Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umer during a discussion on a calling attention notice regarding the unprecedented and unscheduled load-shedding in Karachi by the KE and failure of Nepra to take prompt action in this regard.

The opposition members reacted strongly when the two ministers started blaming the past two governments of the PPP and the PML-N for the miseries being faced by the people of Karachi due to lengthy hours of load-shedding during the hot and humid weather and amid coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Mov­e­ment (MQM), including fede­ral Minister for Information Technology Aminul Haq, from Karachi also joined their voices with the protesting PPP members over the performance of the KE.

MQM to hold sit-in outside Parliament House against outages in Karachi

“The KE is a mafia and has become a state within the state,” Mr Haq said while calling for holding an investigation as to where the KE was making re-investments from billions of rupees it was collecting from the people of Karachi.

The minister said that the KE sometimes blamed the Pakistan State Oil, sometimes the gas company and often blamed rains for its poor performance. He said when they raised the issue with Prime Minister Imran Khan, they came to know that the KE was already being provided additional electricity from the national grid and gas from the Sui Southern Gas Company Limited.

The minister said that people of Karachi were suffering due to lengthy hours of load-shedding despite the fact that most of the shops and shopping centres were closed at 7pm.

Mr Haq said the PTI members from Karachi had been staging protest outside the KE office for five days and now the MQM had decided to hold a protest sit-in outside the Parliament House in Islamabad on July 14.

A PTI MNA from Karachi, Fahim Siddiqui, regretted that the KE had not yet paid compensation to those 19 people who died in the city due to electric shocks in various incidents.

“The KE is called ‘Killing Electric’ by the people of Karachi,” he said.

Mr Siddiqui alleged that the KE had sold copper wires and replaced them with aluminium wires. He called for auditing of the KE accounts.

Responding to the criticism on KE, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umer said the lack of a proper power transmission and distribution system was the reason behind increased load-shedding in the metropolis and promised that the federal government would improve it in “record time”.

“The work they [previous PPP and PML-N governments] did not do then is being done now,” he said amid slogans by opposition members.

He said the opposition members had termed the KE a “criminal outfit”, but took no action against it when they were in power. Power Minister Omar Ayub Khan said the 30mmcfd gas would be given from other cities to Karachi which would be used to produce 200 megawatts (mw) of electricity.

“We are giving 100mw from our national grid. It was the previous government’s responsibility to make the system so we could give electricity through the national grid but they did not pay attention to it,” Mr Khan said.

He said that KE had limited capacity to get electricity from the national grid and two new grid stations would be built in east and west of Karachi. He said that the Sindh member in Nepra was protecting the KE’s interests.

PPP’s Agha Rafiullah, Shagufta Jumani and Shazia Marri blasted the federal government for not taking any action against the KE, stating that the entire set-up including Nepra was under its control.

PPP’s Raja Pervaiz Ashraf said the PTI government could not continue blaming previous governments for its own shortcomings. He was of the view that a newly-formed government could blame its predecessors for a few months after coming to power but not forever.

The session abruptly ended due to lack of quorum which was pointed out by the opposition after staging a walkout in protest over Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri’s act of giving floor to Communications Minister Murad Saeed and allowing him to read out the alleged confessional statement of Lyari gangster Uzair Baloch in which he had admitted that he had been operating under the patronage of top PPP leadership, including former president Asif Ali Zardari.

As soon as the deputy speaker gave floor to Mr Saeed to respond to the earlier speech of PPP leader and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who had alleged that Ports and Shipping Minister Ali Zaidi had read out a fake JIT report on the floor of the assembly during the previous session, the opposition members stood up and started raising anti-government slogans.

An angry PPP woman MNA Nasiba Channa threw her headphone at the minister during his speech but missed the target.

The opposition members succeeded in preventing the minister from speaking by staging a walkout leaving behind PPP’s Shahida Rehmani only to point out lack of quorum.

The deputy speaker first suspended the proceedings for 45 minutes and later adjourned the sitting till Friday morning.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020