DOES the government feel no remorse in burdening honest citizens with the cost of its own ineptitude? With the prices of almost all necessities at backbreaking levels, even those who considered themselves well-to-do just a couple of years ago now worry about making ends meet. Inflation has wreaked such havoc over the past two years that those merely surviving from paycheque to paycheque are now considered lucky. Meanwhile, most of the citizenry is slowly but surely being condemned to take on debt to keep surviving — all because the country’s leadership has proven incapable and unable to manage the historic economic crisis Pakistan has waded into. According to a recent news report, the government is seeking an additional burden on bill-paying customers for its inability to recover dues from defaulters, with a summary seeking to extract an additional Rs52bn from bill-paying citizens presented to the national power regulator. Of course, this is nothing new — the state has made a habit of squeezing those who are dutiful about paying their dues, be it through its taxation policies or utility bills. However, in the present economic conditions, these policies have become too much to bear.

The government must spare a thought for the struggling masses. Two regions — Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir — have already seen mass agitation movements triggered by the surging cost of living. Both saw considerable violence before the government finally caved in to protesters’ demands. Does Islamabad have a plan to cope in case the people of Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also start organising in protest? It must bear in mind that it will have a very difficult time defending increasing the cost of electricity when the people can point out that it is its own ineptitude that is the reason for the added financial burden being shoved onto them. Our authorities frequently run colourful campaigns about the government’s ‘zero-tolerance policy’ towards power theft. Why should the people suffer if they have been unable to translate their words into action? The public cannot afford the government’s incompetence anymore. It should make the defaulters pay. There is no way around this.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2024

Opinion

Editorial

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