Chaos erupts during Nepra's public hearing as stakeholders demand end to KE's monopoly

21 Sep 2020

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According to the attorney general, KE had the "exclusive right" of generation and distribution of power in Karachi. — Reuters/File
According to the attorney general, KE had the "exclusive right" of generation and distribution of power in Karachi. — Reuters/File

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on Monday wrapped up a chaotic public hearing over Karachi Electric's (KE) performance, saying a decision will be announced later.

According to the regulator's spokesperson, stakeholders can submit further comments in writing within the next 10 days. Nepra did not announce the date on which the decision will be issued.

At the outset of the hearing, Nepra Chairperson Tauseef H. Farooqi said that today, the regulator had a "single point agenda", which was to "listen to the problems of Karachi's people".

"Karachiites will tell us about the ground realities," he said. Farooqi added that Nepra's job was not limited to issuing decisions but also understanding technical problems.

During the hearing, former president of Karachi Chambers of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) Siraj Qasim Teli demanded that K-Electric's "monopoly" as the city's sole power generator and distributor be brought to an end, which led to an argument between him and Farooqi.

Teli said that the business community was ready to establish a distribution company if the KE's monopoly came to an end.

"What [would happen] if KE's license is changed and no new player comes forward?" Farooqi asked, at which Teli said that the Nepra chief was asking the "wrong question".

"I am a very blunt person, I can say anything," the businessman said.

"I am very blunt as well. Answer the question that has been asked," Farooqi replied and added: "This is not a mushaira or a political rally, this is Nepra's court. The environment should not be disturbed."

Pakistan Hosiery Manufacturers Association chairperson Javed Balwani also expressed his dissatisfaction with the way the hearing was being held and said: "If you don't want to listen to stakeholders, then why did Nepra come here?"

Commotion and noise during the proceedings increased when Farooqi directed that "anyone who does not speak in a disciplined manner should be expelled from the hall". Slogans against the K-Electric were chanted by the stakeholders who had arrived for the public hearing.

MQM-P leader Khawaja Izhar, who was also present at the hearing, pointed out that Nepra was an independent institution that could introduce changes in the law. He seconded Teli's demand for other companies to be allowed to generate and distribute electricity in the city.

Izhar asked how the KE could fix faults when it did not have a drawing of underground cables in Karachi. He noted that load shedding took place even when the government had imposed a lockdown to prevent the coronavirus and businesses would close by 5pm.

"The usage of the product is increasing but its price is increasing instead of falling. What kind of consumer right is this?" he asked.

Izhar further said that KE had "fired scores of employees with the stroke of a pen".

Earlier this month, in a step towards ending KE's monopoly over Karachi's power infrastructure, the Supreme Court had allowed Nepra to proceed to implement Section 26 of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997, saying: "As the law has provided the provision, we do not see any impediment as to why the authority is not empowered to give effect to the said provision of law."

The top court, while hearing a suo motu case regarding excessive load-shedding in Sindh, had also criticised the federal government over its failure to properly regulate the affairs of KE, saying the power utility was neither able to supply adequate electricity to Karachi's residents nor did it give any returns to the government.

Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan had informed the court that the issue of electricity in Karachi was that KE has the "exclusive right" of generation and distribution of power in Karachi and therefore, to overcome the issue of exclusivity, the provision of Section 26 of the Regulation of Generation, Transmission and Distribution of Electric Power Act, 1997, had to be given effect and the determination had to be made by Nepra.