KARACHI: Recently a K-Electric delegation met Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Shaukat Tarin in Islamabad. The minister assured the team, including the KE chairman and the chief executive officer, that the government would extend all possible support to the power utility to overcome its “constraints’ and make it dynamic and sustainable in the long run”. The KE did not offer any relief to its consumers in return. Nor did the minister seem interested in talking about public good.

The KE has been wresting concessions from the government on one pretext or another — seeking cheap fuel and tariff hikes off and on. It does not hide the huge profits it reaps annually at the cost of consumers’ woes.

The power utility is so powerful that nobody can question its anomalies. Some politicians and political parties do try to discipline it, issue statements to criticise its waywardness, but those verbal attacks are like water off a duck’s back. If they could have any impact on the utility’s working, the KE would have become a consumer-friendly organisation a long time ago.

If we go by media headlines, which party has not condemned the KE for its announced and unannounced electricity loadshedding. From the mighty Muttahida Qaumi Movement to the Pakistan Peoples Party, which rules Sindh single-handedly, to the Jamaat-i-Islami and the nascent Pak Sarzameen Party, all have aired their vociferous condemnations, warning the KE to mend its ways or face retribution. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, which is at the helm in Islamabad, has also lent its voice to its agitating opponents. The Jamaat-i-Islami, once a powerful proponent of Karachi’s rights and now a toothless party struggling to stay relevant, had launched campaigns off and on against the KE. The JI agitated on various roads, near Governor House and at the KE head office, during the last two years or more. It also demanded re-nationalisation of the utility, but could not achieve anything except grabbing its share of media spotlight before abandoning the drive.

The MQM-P has not only held demonstrations in Karachi but also in front of the Parliament House in Islamabad to demand uninterrupted power supply to Karachi.

Sindh chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had called its top officials to the Sindh Assembly for an explanation to the lawmakers. The PPP’s own newly acquired constituency of NA-249 not only suffers from water scarcity, as was highlighted in the media during the election campaign, it also endures hours-long loadshedding daily.

Over the years people in some areas also took to the streets, burnt tyres, caused excruciating traffic jams and damaged properties to vent their anger against prolonged power outages.

All this attracted the prime minister’s attention to the issue and he told his party legislators to hold a meeting with the KE management to sort out the matter.

The KE, however, did not pay much attention to the clamour and continued to tread its chosen path — power cuts, alleged overbilling and tariff hike.

It is commonly held that the utility’s meters run faster than they are supposed to, but who can check and confirm it? At least individuals do not have the means to do so. It is not a hidden fact that the KE punishes honest consumers if a few people in that area do not pay their bills on time, and subjects the honest ones to harsher power cuts. The utility officials do not catch and punish the actual wrongdoers. At least they can disconnect the supply to these defaulters. If an unscrupulous consumer manages to steal electricity and the KE cannot detect it, the whole block is made to pay for his misdeed as the extra amount is recovered from them to make up for its perceived losses.

All this has emboldened the wilful KE to deal with its consumers at will.

If you think they have shortened the loadshedding duration in your area, do not assume that it is the result of any public agitation or political pressure. They do so when it suits their own interests.

Hope interests of the consumers, including those living in low-income areas, and the electricity suppliers’ merge during this summer.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2021

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