LAHORE: In association with the Punjab government, the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) on Monday decided to auction the property of Azizur Rehman Chan, a senior leader of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to recover over Rs601 million pending electricity dues.

The decision was taken after a joint team of Lesco and the Lahore City District Administration paid a visit to the sites where the industries, including Iqra Cold Storage, Rehman Steal Mills and Siddique Iron Industry, owned by Mr Chan, were located.

During the tour of the sites, the team told the media accompanying it, that since the consumer (Mr Chan) was not ready to clear the outstanding bills of over Rs601 million, the company has disconnected power supply to Iqra Cold Storage. It also accused Chan of narrating a false and baseless story in the court, which, instead of penalising the defaulter, reprimanded the Lesco by issuing arrest warrants of its senior officials for disconnecting supply to the unit.

However, Mr Chan rejected the Lesco’s stance, stating that the power bills of his factories, except Iqra Cold Storage, which according to him is not defaulter of even a single penny, total up to nearly Rs300 million and not Rs601 million.

PPP leader sees political motive behind the move

“I am ready to pay this bill in installments. And I visited Lesco offices concerned many times in this regard, but to no avail,” he deplored.

A Lesco official said Mr Chan’s units — Rehman Steel Mills and Siddique Iron Industry – are defaulters of Rs259.04m and Rs353.01m, respectively. The consumer, finally closed his units on the pretext of default without paying the pending bills to Lesco, he said. Later, Mr Chan started a new business in the name of Iqra Cold Storage and got a new connection in his name. Later, Lesco also disconnected electricity supply to this business premises too in a bid to recover the pending bills of over Rs601 million, the official added.

“Keeping in view this, we have decided to auction property of the consumer,” said Lesco Superintending Engineer Sarwar Mughal, who was flanked by the Lahore’s Shalimar Tehsil assistant commissioner and other officers.

He termed the ongoing operations against power theft a national cause, saying the Lesco officers will fight this case on all forums, besides ensuring bills recovery from Mr Chan and other defaulters by all means.

On the other hand, a senior Lesco official on the condition of anonymity said, “It is a matter of grave concerns that our courts are giving such vague orders. Instead of supporting the state, which is fighting the power thieves and defaulters, the courts are supporting the defaulters, thieves etc. But, we will make all out efforts to recover such a huge amount.”

When contacted, Mr Chan rejected the Lesco stance, stating that he owns two factories — Siddique Iron Industry and Rehman Steel Mills – located near the Ring Road (Bhogiwal Road). He said 3-4 years back when Imran Khan government announced industrial package for the steel industry in Fata, KP etc by abolishing all kinds of taxes and power bills, the similar industry in Punjab started collapsing, resulting in gradual closure of industrial units.

“Due to the relief provided to Fata, KP industry, we were pushed out of the competition and forced to close our businesses,” he regretted.

He said that after closure of these two factories, his son started a new business by establishing Iqra Cold Storage, away from these mills. Though there is no bill pending on this connection, Lesco disconnected supply to it, he claimed.

He questioned the Lesco officials that why they didn’t disconnect supply to his mills earlier.

“Why they are doing this now? I think they are just defaming us and nothing more,” he said, alleging political motive behind the move.

Published in Dawn, September 26th, 2023

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