ISLAMABAD: Annoyed over excessive loadshedding in Karachi, Chief Jus­tice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed regretted that neither the federal nor the provincial governments were fulfilling their responsibilities.

“The people have become hostage to the whims of the organisations that are exploiting the weaknesses of the government institutions but no one is there to check them,” regretted the chief justice while heading a three-judge bench.

Everybody was taking advantage and “exploiting the government left, right and centre”, he added.

The bench that had taken up a suo motu case relating to the excessive and unannounced loadshedding in Sindh termed unsatisfactory the reports furnished by the federal government and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).

The court, however, postponed further hearing when Attorney General for Pakistan Khalid Jawed Khan suggested an in-chamber presentation on the supply of electricity within two weeks in which Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan, on behalf of the federal government, could brief the court about the future plan to ease the situation in Karachi.

The city of Karachi had expanded greatly but electricity production had not been enhanced, observed Justice Faisal Arab, a member of the bench. He said that agreements should be made to benefit the government and the people of the country by ensuring a competitive environment.

The chief justice was of the view that the employees working in institutions like Nepra and the power division should be fired because “they were useless”, warning that the court could impose a heavy fine because electricity was one of the basic rights of the people.

The K-Electric — the power utility — is not giving any relief to the residents of Karachi, the chief justice observed, adding that organisations like the National Transmission and Dispatch Company and the power division were providing zero service to the people of Pakistan but they take billions from the government kitty.

Chief Justice Ahmed was also not happy with the increase in tariff for K-Electric and while pointing towards the managing director of K-Electric, Monis Alvi, he wondered who owned the utility and how many shareholders the company had.

“If we go behind (the scenes) we will know who actually controls the utility,” he observed, adding that K-Electric might be controlled by Mumbai, India.

“We have learnt from newspapers that people like Sharma, Verma were the shareholders of the company,” the chief justice said, adding that “we have reservations over the investment in K-Electric”.

The chief justice was also sceptical about nine shareholders who want to become party in the case and asked about the credentials of Chairman Shan Ashari and whether he was a Pakistani national.

At this the chairman of K-Electric came forward to tell the court that his complete name was Shan Abbas Ashari and that he was a Pakistani and his patriotism should not be doubted.

“The people of Karachi as well as the power utility would not be in such a mess had you been loyal to this country,” the chief justice said.

Meanwhile, senior counsel representing K-Electric Ali Zafar told the court that the company had nine directors and it was a joint venture between Saudi Arabia and Kuwaiti business groups, with over $400 million invested.

But the chief justice expressed the fear that there must be someone behind this investment and alleged that the decision about who will get how much electricity in Karachi may be controlled by Mumbai and the situation in Balochistan might be the same.

“I receive calls about loadshedding in Karachi city twice or thrice a day or that half of the city is dark in the night,” the chief justice bemoaned saying corporate affairs were quite problematic when someone different was at the front while at the back there was another.

The court, however, was told that the power supply situation during last June or July was worse because of the erratic oil supply.

While pointing towards the attorney general, the court wondered why the people working in these departments were getting salaries when they were not working, adding that there used to be one power division but now it had been divided into ten.

If the situation persists, the entire country will be engulfed in loadshedding, the chief justice feared.

Advocate Faisal Siddiqui informed the court that the federal government had appointed former CEO of K-Electric Tabish Gohar as a special assistant at a time when K-Electric’s case was pending in court.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2020