KARACHI: Just hours before midnight, markets, eateries, wedding halls and other business concerns across the country’s financial hub were closed on Friday after the Sindh government in line with the Centre’s plan for effective measures to reduce loadshedding by conserving energy through a national strategy reduced the timings of all commercial activities except those of fuel stations, milk shops, bakeries, pharmacies and hospitals.
The downtown of the business capital plunged into darkness and bustling streets of the south district, dotted with commercial plazas, malls and shopping centres, turned deserted shortly after 9pm, as police patrol asked traders to pull down shutters. Similar scenes were witnessed in other parts of the metropolis.
The fresh development to meet the challenge that “otherwise could have long-term and multi-sectoral impacts on lives” emerged after the provincial government placed new curbs on the operations of all commercial ventures including shops, markets, malls, wedding halls, banquets and eateries to minimise the impacts of anticipated energy shortfall in the country.
The new restrictions will be in place with immediate effect for at least a month. The Sindh home department earlier issued a notification with separate timings for commercial operations in three categories of businesses.
Markets to close by 9pm, 11pm deadline set for eateries
“Shops, markets, bazaars, and shopping malls” have been asked to close their businesses by 9pm. Medical stores, pharmacies, hospitals, petrol pumps, CNG stations, bakeries and milk shops, however, have been exempted.
Second category includes wedding halls, banquets and venues hosting marriage-related ceremonies. All such concerns will have to close by 10:30pm. However, for the third category that includes hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and cafes, the closure time has been fixed at 11pm.
Before making the announcement, the Sindh government notification mentioned reasons for the curbs imposed under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and Section 16 of the National Disaster Management Authority Act 2010, which allowed the provincial administration for such measures within its “territorial limits with immediate effect”.
Amid a drastic shortfall, the federal government had announced several “austerity measures” and approved a plan last week to work with provincial municipal authorities to illuminate streetlights on an “alternate lighting system” to save energy. Under the system, every alternate streetlight will be illuminated instead of all in a row among other decisions.
It had also formed a committee to ascertain the merits and demerits of work-from-home policy for offices on Fridays to reduce demand for fuel and energy. While the outcomes of other proposals and moves from other provinces on the Centre’s recommendations are still awaited, the Sindh government came up with the plan to contain the crisis.
“.. in view of the decision taken by the federal cabinet on June 7, 2022 to take effective measures to reduce load-shedding hours through conservation of energy; and to prevent and minimise the impacts of the anticipated energy shortfall in Pakistan through implementation of a national strategy for tackling the energy crisis, it is necessary and expedient to enforce certain restrictions in order to control increasing shortfall between the energy generation and its utilisation, so that this prevalent emergency of the energy shortfall may be controlled, which otherwise could have long-term and multi-sectoral impacts on the lives of the general public of the Sindh province,” the notification stated.
Police sprang into action after the Sindh government decision and asked business operators to cooperate, with the warning that otherwise “the law would take its course”. Heavy penalty can be imposed on violators of the restrictions in line with the defined law.
“All Zonal DIGs, SSPs, SPs and DSPs have been asked to personally monitor the situation and make sure implementation of the new rules. Anyone found violating the fresh curbs should be dealt with set rules without any exception,” said Sindh Inspector General of Police Ghulam Nabi Memon.
Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2022