PML-N’s claim of ending load-shedding is as true as Nawaz Sharif being “sadiq” and “ameen”

Published: December 10, 2017
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An aerial view of buildings and homes during a nationwide power blackout in Karachi. Pakistan was hit by a nationwide blackout for more than two hours after the breakdown of a major plant caused power stations to stop working across the country on February 25. PHOTO: AFP

It all started with the inauguration of the 660 megawatt, coal-fired power plant in Port Qasim, by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. He startled everyone by claiming that this is the most environment-friendly power plant of the country. Being an engineer, he should have known that nothing can be worse for the environment than producing electricity by burning coal.

This is the reason why most coal-fired power plants are being shut down all over the world. The prime minister also knows, but failed to mention, that such coal-fired plants in Port Qasim, and other areas near Karachi, will result in the city being covered in smog which will be worse than the one experienced in Lahore.

I thought this government would have by now realised that people have stopped believing what it says, but apparently, Nawaz Sharif’s cronies wanted to give further proof of their incompetence.

This was evident in the statement given by Federal Minister for Power Division, Awais Leghari, who said that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had fulfilled the promise it had made to the public four-and-a-half years ago, of producing surplus electricity in the country. He claimed that the overall electricity generation had increased to 16,477 megawatts, which is around 2,700 megawatts more than its demand.

It is clear that this is another attempt to fool the public. The demand for electricity is always less during the winter – the real test will be during March and beyond, when the demand escalates and inevitably leads to more load-shedding. This is due to the fact that our main problem is not less power production, but an aging infrastructure. Our transmission lines were laid decades ago, when our electricity requirement was about a third of what it is today.

The government, instead of increasing generation capacity, should have concentrated on improving the infrastructure instead. There is no sense in making more electricity as long as the transmission and distribution network lines cannot support it. Furthermore, the bigger challenges being faced by the country are electricity theft and circular debt (but more on that later).

What followed his statement was undoubtedly the biggest shocker yet – Leghari tweeted that 65% of Pakistan has been made free of load-shedding.

I have been in close contact with people across the country, asking them if they think the situation has improved, but every single one of them has told me there has been no change in the situation; they continue to suffer as they did before. There has been no reduction in load-shedding.

Leghari further claimed that load-shedding would continue in areas where power theft was over 80%.

Great. So, wherever there is load-shedding – which means majority of the areas of the country – we must assume that it is due to power theft. Is the underlying message here that most of the people in the country are thieves, just like most of those in the parliament?

Not to be outdone, the Chief Minister of Punjab, Shehbaz Sharif, also jumped in, suggesting that his party’s government has overturned darkness in Pakistan. With a straight face, he claimed that the “credit” of wiping out load-shedding goes to the PML-N government, as load-shedding has become “history” now.

Load-shedding cannot become history as long as those who voted for PML-N keep indulging in electricity theft, and the chief minister does not do anything to stop them.

Nawaz, our deposed prime minister, wasn’t far behind either. He astounded everyone by saying that by ending load-shedding a year earlier than promised, he was guilty of not being “sadiq” and “ameen” (honest and truthful). He has, of course, proven that he is neither honest nor truthful by making claims like the ones aforementioned, which has already been proven false, as load-shedding is still rampant across the country.

As mentioned earlier, in addition to the aging infrastructure, circular debt is also a major problem, one which the government simply does not have the will to resolve. The debt is equivalent to the amount that power consumers (mainly government departments) have to pay the power producers. Due to insufficiency of funds, power producers are unable to generate enough electricity, as a result of which there is rampant load-shedding across the country.

The circular debt is over Rs800 billion, with over Rs400 billion flows till June 2017. The government reduced it somewhat in the beginning of its tenure, but it has gone up once again. In fact, there was no need to make new power plants at all, as even though the installed generating capacity of the country was increased to 25,100 megawatts, actual power generation nonetheless went down compared to previous years. Retiring the circular debt, improving the infrastructure and controlling electricity theft are all measures that should have sufficed.

However, since new power plants mean more commission and kickbacks, our ministers went with this option, despite the fact that the solution was staring at them right in the face.

Nawaz may be able to fool his voters today, especially since it is winter, but he cannot fool the rest of us with his outlandish claims about eliminating load-shedding. Come summer, and the people will know just how “sadiq” and “amen” he really is.

Shakir Lakhani

Shakir Lakhani

Engineer, former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, industrialist, associated with petroleum/chemical industries for many years. Loves writing, and (in the opinion of most of those who know him), mentally unbalanced. He tweets @shakirlakhani (twitter.com/shakirlakhani)

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

  • Bosin

    One doesn’t get the truth by just talking to random people all over the country but by looking at facts and the facts are that 62 percent of the country’s feeders are on 0 loadshedding. The cicrular debt that u mentioned is the reason the govt is not supplying electricity in full to all the population because if they do, then circular debt will increase. And yes the truth is that many people of this nation are theives who steal electricity because of which others are suffering. Also, coal power plants in the world are decreasing because advanced countries have the money to invest in renewable energy which we do not. Plz check facts before calling anyone a liar. Also one other thing is that hydel generation also increases in the summer and more units of electricity will be produced by the thermal power plants especially Port Qasim so the supply of electricity will increase with the demand. Recommend

  • Ghulam Nabi

    So-called PM,Abassi has, time @ again emphasised that real P M is Nawaz Sharif.So he is saying what he has been directed to say. And Nawaz in his whole life has never been honest and truthful. Imagine the darling of Zia uh Haq blaming army for the woes of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Shafiq Ahmad

    the announcement that load shedding has ended is one of the major lies of noon league goverment loadshedding is continuous.Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    Even if more electricity is generated, the decades-old transmission and distribution network will not support it. Moreover, most of the additional electricity will be stolen, and the government will not be able to do anything about it, because it does not want to lose votes.Recommend

  • Khan

    The transmission network has capability to support 25000 MW of electricity. In stead of being so pessimistic, u shud appreciate efforts of govt. The only reason why the govt is not supplying energy in full to the feeders which are giving line losses to prevent further theft. Its a win win situation. Maybe instead of criticizing while sitting in your drawing rooms, people like u shud raise awareness against theft and other problems of society. Support the govt in its good policies.Recommend

  • Patwari

    ‘…govt. not supplying energy to prevent further theft…’
    Cut off your nose to spite your face?? What logic is this?
    Huh? Is this for real? Not a joke, is it? Hard to say.
    Should not the govt. be preventing theft? Hunting for thieves.
    Cutting off their theft wire connections?
    It would be cheaper to hire linesmen to cut theft wires compared to not supplying power at all,…..
    And the biggest thieves are the factories, the landlords, the waderas, the various govt. departments who do not pay their bills….Recommend

  • stevenson

    I don’t know about your sources but my experience in Pakistan tell me that the energy situation has improved considerably. If people don’t want to pay for electricity, they should not get and deserve load shedding ! The fact is that load shedding is down. There is something called “clean burning coal power plants” which are still touted in Western nations but the author is unaware of this apparently. Bangladesh has only started its first nuclear power plant but Pakistan has been working with nuclear energy for decades. The current government there appears to have solved much of the energy crisis in hardly 4 years which is unheard of anywhere in the world , especially in a developing country which is now being reclassified as a middle income country. I can’t understand the nature of Pakistanis who complain about things without doing their proper research into facts. By all means hold the government to account but at least give credit where credit is due!Recommend

  • Shakir Lakhani

    “The current government there appears to have solved much of the energy crisis in hardly 4 years which is unheard of anywhere in the world”. Despite having been “independent” for 46 years, Bangladesh has only half the installed generation capacity of Pakistan, with half the number of units consumed as Pakistan. It is not phenomenal progress at all.Recommend

  • stevenson

    Ask this simple question: Is the energy crisis better or not? Are there completed projects on line in the last 4 years that have effectively solved the shortage of energy that Musharraf could not address in 10 years or PPP could not tackle in 5 years? Yes the energy crisis has been largely settled but it’s up to folks to pay for electricity and stop thieving. Larger dams and nuclear projects will come on line later but transmission lines and infrastructure uplift for the grid is a pressing concern that can be handled by whoever forms the next government. The nation needs to move beyond partisan politics and whether PPP or Imran or PML N, there should be an ongoing long term plan to ensure that the energy issue does not come back to haunt the nation.Recommend