K-Electric boasts of massive profits, but Karachi still does not have electricity

Published: June 23, 2015
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I fully support Operation Burq. Anyone who wrongs K-Electric deserves to face judgment, but what about the scores of people who have suffered financial losses due to K-Electric itself? PHOTO: KElectric Facebook page

Three years ago, I wrote a blog praising K-Electric’s improving standards, and in general, the blog was received well by Karachiites. Clearly, many of us were in agreement about the power company’s progress as a service provider.

Rolling blackouts in areas where customers were paying bills regularly were less frequent than before. At the same time, the company formerly known as KESC had adopted social media to allow more avenues of communication. There was also a marked improvement in customer service and a faster reaction time from the repair teams.

At the time, I expected this to only be the beginning of K-Electric’s upward trajectory. As it turns out, this was the beginning and the end. Over the last year or so, my experience has been frustratingly poor, mostly due to K-Electric’s bad work ethic. Now, in the midst of a crisis, K-Electric has been caught with its pants down.

Karachi is experiencing one of its worst heat waves in recent memory. It is so hot that I imagine Satan packed his bags and left our port city a few days ago to vacation in the cooler temperatures of hell. It is so hot that fashion mogul Mugatu from Zoolander is probably talking up our city right this moment.

Reportedly, hundreds have died in Karachi, and there seems to be no respite in sight.

In the face of rising temperatures, increased demands of electricity have certainly been a greater challenge for K-Electric. Unsurprisingly, the power company has proven to be completely unprepared.

On the Facebook page ‘Halaat Updates’, countless are bemoaning the loss of power in their homes. Some have suffered for days. Others like me have faced enormous losses due to fluctuating voltages. There are numerous reports of damaged appliances that the hardworking middle class people of Karachi will struggle to replace.

Is it unreasonable to expect K-Electric to compensate its customers in the face of such extraordinary circumstances? Perhaps so, but for a moment, consider K-Electric’s macho campaign against defaulters and those who are stealing electricity.

I fully support Operation Burq. Anyone who wrongs K-Electric deserves to face judgment, but what about the scores of people who have suffered financial losses due to K-Electric itself? Where is our Operation Burq? As far as I am concerned, K-Electric needs to replace my two air-conditioners and other electric appliances. In any other country, the company would have faced an expensive class action lawsuit. Here, it is just another day of the week.

K-Electric has been boasting massive profits year after year. Recently, The Express Tribune reported of K-Electric’s record profit of Rs3 billion at an increase of 83%. This was also due to falling energy prices, but why aren’t we seeing any improvements? Since my blog three years ago, infrastructure continues to be fragile.

A friend of mine, a talented former journalist named Hani Yousuf posted about her personal experience where she and her elderly grandparents faced frustration after being without power for three and a half days. Yes, in this heat. Ultimately, she wrote an email to the suits at K-Electric who immediately responded by addressing her issue swiftly. Stressing the positives of the experience, Hani says she was impressed by the courteous response to her email.

Read Hani Yousuf’s full blog here

While I am glad her difficulties were addressed, it is unacceptable that she exhausted every mode of communication for three and a half days without resolution. Are we resigned to find the K-Electric executives on social media to resolve our concerns?

It would be easier to forgive K-Electric had the issues been isolated to the heat wave. The company has been notoriously slow to respond to complaints over the last few years. My own residence suffers from voltage fluctuations due to weak wiring in the neighbourhood which is yet to be replaced.

Six months ago, I was lucky to suffer from only the loss of a microwave, but others weren’t so lucky. One elderly pensioner a few houses away told me of how his items valued in the hundreds of thousands were destroyed. Items he had purchased over the course of years. Luckily, I have a digital meter installed to check voltages. At the time of the incident, our voltage had risen to over 400V (normal voltage should be no higher than 240V). Realising the gravity of the situation, I ran around the block to inform as many neighbours as I could.

On another occasion, the wires outside my house leading up to the electricity meter took up in flames. Alarmed, I called K-Electric, and registered complaints on their social media pages. Despite assurances, not one employee came to resolve the issue over the course of a week. Finally, I found an electrician willing to repair K-Electric’s own wires.

Every time I wrote to the company I received hollow reassurances, and am quite sure that the man behind the K-Electric computer screens looked like this: ¯\(°_°)/¯

So once again, K-Electric, I ask you. Where is our Operation Burq? Where is our justice?

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

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

  • Parvez

    Noman the fish rots from the head downwards ………. we have had a political government now for over 7 years and they have failed miserably. The question is who will kick them out ? ……..and more importantly who will hold them accountable and punish them ? …….at present the answer seems to be no one.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    I think K-Electric is doing a very good job. Voltage fluctuation is often caused by substandard wiring, you can’t blame KE for it. If your neighbours are power thieves and use illegal “kunda” connections, fluctuation will increase. Where I live, there are practically no power outages because there is no power theft. Those people who burn down KE’s offices and grid stations are the ones who steal power. They have been caught stealing and they have to do without electricity anyway, so they want to ensure that others don’t get it. This only aggravates the problem for honest people who are not power thieves.Recommend

  • Fed Up

    Is this a joke? Our voltage was fluctuatingood due to a faulty PMT. Are you a KESC employee? Recommend

  • Hamza

    Are you kidding? There is no power theft in my area either (DHA Phase II) but that hasn’t given us any peace.
    At least once every month, the PMT in my area blows up and then for the next whole week, the power keeps going out randomly. Call KE and they “don’t have any updates on my area”. Happens every month. Every time it’s the same story.
    So don’t go saying K-Electric is doing a good job just because you elites don’t suffer like the rest of us.Recommend

  • Humza

    More electricity has been generated in the last two years than was created under the past elected government and in 10 years of dictatorship. How can anyone hope to create power plants in two years? At least this government has plans and has encouraged investment in the energy sector which has been languishing for over three decades. Read what investment baks in the West are saying about improving economy in Pakistan before you comment. I have more hope in the current government fulfilling its promises than anyone else; especially since they have brought in so much Chinese investment.Recommend

  • Human

    Atleast you guys got a reply . yesterday 10 hours straight no electricity. we kept calling KE but not one single response .
    cell battery was drained we came home from work to this issue . had no choice but to get out for iftar & came home to darkness . tried calling again no response .
    just makes us wonder what exactly are they doing ?
    finally after exactly 10 HOURS it came . wow on time i must say !!!!!! went at 2 pm came back at 12 am .Recommend

  • Khan

    KESC, now K-Electric was in losses for decades, only after privatization, better management allowed for some operational recovery. The reasons you suggest KEL should be accounted for are due to poor structure that is due to decades of negligence, the new management has inherited these issues and the blame game that it carries. Many capacity additions and transmission upgrades are in the works and will take time to pay off.Recommend

  • IBN E ASHFAQ

    The gift of privatization to karachites.Recommend

  • Ali S

    I still think K-Electric is the least worst option. They’re a private company putting up with an overburdened infrastructure, crippling govt debts and an entitlement mentality from the powerful. Their customer service is always courteous and helpful, and even though I suffered from power outages for the past couple of days their teams were working in our middle-class neighborhood through sehri to fix it.

    The heatwave is an extraordinary occurrence that K-Electric was unprepared for but Karachiites still get the better end of the deal, bill paying customers in Punjab suffer 8 hours of loadshedding daily.Recommend

  • Javed

    I completely agree with you. But there are lots of thieves and lazy people in k electric, they need to get rid of them. They asked me to give them bribe for new meter. I said no. Few months later I was billed for over rupees 70 thousand and I had to pay on my other meter at the same place where I applied for second meter. I didn’t get second meter but I did get big bill.Recommend

  • Rana Adil

    Electrical Inspector Pakistan
    deals in

    * K-Electric Over/Unlawful Billing Dispute & Rebate
    * Out of Court Settlement by Arbitration
    * Hook, Theft & Assessed Billing Issues
    * Consultancy of All Electrical Issues

    Get up to 50 % Rebate on Disputed Bills

    Recommend

  • sol666 .

    K-electric follows the age old Pakistani government tradition of waiting out all the public outrage till their spirit is broken and they no longer believe they will ever get justice and go about their miserable life with their head slumped. It worked for our two (most powerful) “democratically elected” political parties for the past 4 decades after all. Right now K-electric practically owns the people of karachi. The government makes it possible because all major stake holders in the company are sitting in some high government post making sure their investment is always lucrative even if they have to extort the people of karachi (through multiple “legal” means) with crap like utility tax even if u don’t have electricity, digital meters that run faster then the speed of sound, or threats of confiscation of properties (the more expensive the better). The people of karachi are already broken. You ask anyone about injustices of poor government planning and their answer is (and this is no joke) always “this is the way it is, what can we do?”. If by some miracle the justice system of karachi finally authorizes class action law suites. every politician and every semi government organization in pakistan will face the judge for their incompetence and maybe (just maybe) they will start showing respect to the people who keep them fed concept of democracy (rule of the people not corporations or politicians)…..sigh another fantasy for a pakistani.Recommend

  • sol666 .

    You can’t kill the snake if u can’t reach it’s head :) As long as our two major parties feel like they are entitled to rule over pakistan and have their army of “loyal votes for hire” no one can really change this country. PPP (recently making headlines) gets it’s votes outside karachi from rural regions so they literally let karachi rot in mismanagement and deficiency of administrative funds while they pump all the international loans (with pakistani citizens as collateral) and taxes from karachiites into charity programs for rural Sindh areas under their party name reality is no one has even seen visible benefits of this action and most people have their suspicion that it is a PPP front for funneling those funds into their own businesses. this means there is no influencial political representation for the educated urban population of karachi (MQM is a local body and has no influence beyond the city so they are really not a representative of the educated karachiites). PML-N well their votes are locked in Punjab (a party made in punjab for punjab). when they come to power pakistani’s literally drown in government enforced taxation. tax is not bad u say? well I agree, except this tax only victimizes the educated middle class (white collar and blue collar workers) while giving massive tax breaks to the wealthy land owners in the agricultural sector and the wealthy elite businessmen and women of the industrial sector. this disparity is even more visible in comparing provincial statistics. There are literally more upper class old and new money families living in punjab then any of the three other provinces combined and so the largest tax break is given to punjab while all the other provinces get poorer while suffering from more government tax burdens. but when it comes to urbanization we tend to hear more development being done in Punjab then any other province when PML-N is in power. In the end the only question the people of pakistan (not including punjab) are left asking is “WHO VOTED FOR THIS IDIOT?” XDRecommend

  • Hamza Irfan

    Realli is it Karachi who is loosing its energy?Recommend

  • master

    “K Electric” Let me explain a little sexy story about this crap!!!!. because of average billing around 3000 to 5000.i know its low but some people which hav only 2 rooms with one fan in their house with a monthly salary of 2 to 3k can pay it.so alot of people in our area stoped paying their bills and gone for illegal billing after 3 months in 2013 in between aug to september They adjusted a meter to their transformer and now our average bill is around 14 to 17k which was used to be around 4 to 7k. before KESC privatization our bill never go to 1k. after 2 months father thought about rent and we shifted to our old home in balochistan. karachi is <3 but it was too much Even those people who were living in rent also left because of high billing and we forget to tell them about closing our meter so after 7 months our bill was 143,543rs a bill of 7 months.and our home is still closed because we dnt have enough range to deal with this bill In balochistan the bill is around 300 to 500 rs while we use more accessories then we used in our karachi home..In simple wording I can say we left karachi only because of K electric not because of terrorists these people are worse then terrorists.Recommend