Monday, June 22, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 22, 2015

Poor governance The government's claims of no load shedding at Sehr, Iftaar and Taraveeh prayers on the eve of Ramzan have fallen spectacularly flat on their face. Despite the government's announcement that industry would have to forego electricity at these times, the citizens are being tormented by 18 hours of load shedding all over the country. Violent protests against this torture in the middle of the heatwave that is sweeping the country are spreading. Such manifestations have broken out in Peshawar, Karachi, Hyderabad, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Sahiwal, Multan and other cities. The geographical spread of these protests belies the conspiracy theory being peddled by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is being singled out to make the PTI provincial government look bad. If this theory is correct, then all the provincial governments, including the PML-N's own in Punjab, are suffering the same fate! The government stands indicted not only for the failure to fulfil the promise of no load shedding during critical timings for Ramzan, but also for the duration of power cuts, far from decreasing, have actually increased. No power also affects water supply, the absence of which in this sweltering heat is beyond the capacity of citizens to bear. The citizens' anger at the authorities has found expression in attacks on electricity distribution companies' offices, with in some instances such offices being ransacked and then burnt to a cinder. The power distribution workers in such offices have escaped the wrath of the protestors by a whisker, but some serious fallout in the shape of injuries and casualties amongst such staff could occur unless the problem is dealt with post haste. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, showing his concern over the situation and citizens' suffering, summoned the Water and Power Secretary Younas Dagha to the Prime Minister's House on Saturday to be briefed on the crisis. Dagha, in true 'Yes Prime Minister' mode, laid the blame for the situation on increased demand because of the heat and Ramzan. If so, we're these two factors not known before hand? Dagha told the prime minister that demand currently had risen to 21,000 MW, against supply of 15,500 MW, leaving a shortfall of 5,500 MW. Despite this, Dagha claimed, 75-80 percent of the country was provided uninterrupted electricity on the first day of Ramzan. This is a patently absurd statement, given that no part of the country was receiving 'uninterrupted' electricity even before Ramzan and the heatwave. Not for nothing then did the prime minister reprimand the secretary for this obviously untrue report" expressing his displeasure at the situation, the prime minister instructed the secretary to address citizens' complaints at the earliest. Dagha's absurdity was only bettered by Minister for Water and Power Khwaja Asif's tall tale that 93 percent urban and 86 percent rural areas are being supplied uninterrupted electricity. When by his ministry's own admission there is a shortfall of 5,500 MW, how can this even claimed, let alone believed? The best litmus test of these attempts to throw dust in the eyes of a suffering public is the empirical evidence on the ground itself. People, having lost patience with the authorities' dissembling are expressing themselves with unprecedented anger at their perceived tormentors. Not only are electricity distribution companies' offices being trashed and burnt, there are reports of desperate people breaking water mains in Karachi to get some relief from the heat and even drinking water, an escalation of the ongoing water crisis in the city. Khwaja Asif has also resurrected the bogey of the 650 MW being supplied to Karachi despite the agreement to do so having expired. On the one hand the minister wants to claim the credit for this act of humanitarian kindness towards the denizens of Karachi, and on the other shift the blame for load shedding in the metropolis onto the shoulders of K-Electric, which by the way has broken all records of exaggeration by claiming there is no load shedding in Karachi! Either these top officials take the people of Pakistan as dumb driven cattle who can be fed any potpourri of fabrications if not outright lies, or they are seriously delusional. One can only sympathise with the prime minister for being so poorly served by such ministers, bureaucrats and officials.

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