Electricity woes: Is this KESC versus SSGC or Karachi versus Lahore?

Published: May 28, 2013
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As Saddar faces power cuts, some shopkeepers have to use small generators to light their shops at night. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

We all expected it. We all knew that with the election of the Punjab government, Karachi would have to pay the price – like it always has.

I don’t plan on venting my frustration out on Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), because honestly speaking, they have done a marvelous job, from not only reducing the electricity crisis tremendously if not eradicating it, to removing illegal hooks and providing free electricity to several hospitals and school in the city.

KESC actually convinced everyone to follow an energy conservation program by running their air conditioners at 26 degrees and switching off appliances and not keeping them on standby. As I sweated throughout the weekend, not knowing when the power would go out again, a few thoughts floated to my mind.

Firstly, I want to convey that the problem does not lie with KESC.

As the summer heat rages, protests against KESC – violent protests in which their buildings and people are targeted – are inevitable. Although I don’t blame people for their very valid anger and frustration, all I want is for them to be objective or rather realistic.

Karachiites, you must understand where the problem lies; the loadshedding you are facing at the moment is due to the Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC), not KESC.

So, the situation is something like this. KESC has given SSGC Rs42billion and purchased gas worth Rs41 billion. According to the court’s ruling, KESC should be getting 276mm CFD of gas. However, it only receives 120mm CFD of gas – less than half of what it is due. The largest city of Pakistan, sustaining an already crumbling economy, gets less than 50% of what it’s supposed to get!

You can easily guess where the rest is going!

KESC is filing a contempt of court case against SSGC, but then that’s all they can do. A private organisation cannot fight against the courts, gas companies as well as those in power. The drastic reduction in gas supply has forced KESC to create an artificial system of increased loadshedding. The fight between KESC and SSGC may be long but at the end it’s the people of Karachi who lose, like they have on many other fronts.

It has been said that KESC and SSGC officials exchanged hot words over the issue of payment, but the governor intervened.

Now, “KESC officials have assured that industrial areas would be exempted from load-shedding. This means power supply will be back to normal.”

Government issues aside, the reaction of people on the social media left me stunned. I understand the painful loadshedding in Lahore, especially in this heat, and I can empathise with the people because I’ve gone through it myself.

However, I never celebrate or revel in the misery of those suffering in Lahore.

 

Before KESC was privatised, life was hell and even a few years after its privatisation it wasn’t any better. Only since the past two years has the situation come under control – well somewhat under control. If people in other places want to compete their crisis to that of Karachi’s, they must remember that Karachi was dark when the entire country shone bright.

One of the directors at SSGC along with many civilians now feel that Karachi and Lahore are equal.

Seriously, those advocating equality by sharing loadshedding as a measure of comparison forget the tumultous life people of Karachi are living here. Nearly a dozen people are killed everyday for absolutely no reason at all, the growing influence of
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the ever increasing no-go areas in Karachi, the political and sectarian violence have reached record level. Life is already hell for those living in Karachi.

Such problems are only heard of and not experienced by those happy about the loadshedding in Karachi; they do not realise that such living circumstances are much darker than darkness left by power outages.

Just because one area is suffering from a particular crisis that doesn’t mean another city should be burdened with a problem it was trying to solve. I was really disappointed by people’s comments. Let alone struggling to compete with other countries, we are now unnecessarily competing within ourselves, and celebrating a loss which will inadvertently affect the entire country?

Power and energy crisis should take precedence over all other prevalent issues in the country. Surely, this crisis cannot be solved by diverting gas unfairly, illegally and maliciously from other cities. The government must take required action.

That said, KESC has improved tremendously. When we saw the railway go to the dogs, the airlines losing its marbles and security becoming a joke, the only relief we had was power for most of the day, if not throughout.

All we can do as citizens is to upgrade our backup systems and not burn our own streets and attack KESC workers, because that’s just going to make our situation worse.

Let’s pray for a united Pakistan; let’s pray for a brighter Pakistan.

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Maheen Sheikh

Maheen Sheikh

Currently studying law at SOAS, University of London and aspiring to become an advocate. Maheen loves reading, writing and yoga. She participates in charity work on the weekends and tweets @MaheenIshaikh (twitter.com/MaheenIshaikh).

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.