Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Thursday said the lack of a proper power transmission and distribution system in Karachi was the reason behind increased load shedding in the metropolis and promised that the federal government will improve it in “record time”.
Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, Umar said the main reason behind a weak distribution and transmission system was the apathy of previous governments, including those led by the PPP and the PML-N.
The minister said “the work they [previous governments] did not do then is being done now”.
“The cabinet committee on energy called emergency meetings and summoned officials from KE, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra), and the National Transmission and Despatch Company (NTDC). Agreements were made and implementation will be done in record time.”
Umar said the opposition had termed the K-Electric chairperson as a “mafia”, adding that they were giving the impression that the power utility had been privatised during the PTI government.
“It was privatised during the PML-Q government. Then the PPP was in government for five years and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was prime minister. [The PPP] should tell us why they let such a corrupt outfit run the company. Then PML-N came into power. We will ask Khawaja Asif who was the then energy minister why they did not take action for five years.”
The planning minister said his government was being told that the PPP could end load shedding within six months if the power utility was handed over to them.
Referring to the PPP’s government in Zulfiqar Bhutto’s era, he recalled how there was no electricity in Karachi the entire night and they found out in the morning that there had been a coup and General Zia had taken over. “They have been involved in load-shedding for 35 years,” he said.
Explaining what he said was the reason behind excessive load shedding in Karachi, the minister said Karachi’s power needs kept increasing over time but previous governments did not take any step to either increase electricity production in Karachi or to create a system to import it from elsewhere in country.
“Power plants kept increasing throughout the country but Karachi could not take electricity from them because the transmission and distribution system to do that was not created.”
Umar claimed that the energy minister in the previous government (Khawaja Asif), when asked about load shedding in Karachi had said that the city was “not his problem”.
“The PTI government says Karachi is ours and Pakistan is not complete without it,” Umar said.
Umar was responding to a call attention notice by PPP members, who had drawn attention of the Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan to “unprecedented and unscheduled” load shedding in Karachi by KE and the failure of Nepra to take prompt action in this regard.
PPP’s Agha Rafiullah said that the federal government was supplying furnace oil, gas and even power from the national grid to KE but the people of Karachi were still suffering.
“The members of the ruling PTI have been staging protest sit-in outside the KE office. Whose government is it in the country?” he questioned, and added that “if any representative of a province in Nepra is not functioning properly, [the government should] sack him and take action against him.”
PPP member of the National Assembly (MNA) Shamim Ara Panhwar claimed that the PPP could resolve the issue in six months, if KE was handed over to the party.
Responding to the comments, the energy minister said that the federal government had “forced KE to build a proper power distribution system”.
“Karachi is our city. The people there voted for us. PPP can only see the darkness that PTI is overtaking them [in Karachi].”
Khan said that 30mm cubic feet per day (cfd) gas would be given from other cities to Karachi which would be used to produce 200 megawatt of energy. “We are giving 100MW from our national grid. It was the previous government’s responsibility to make a system so we could give electricity through the national grid but they did not give attention to it.”
Talking about Rafiullah’s comments about PTI’s protest outside the KE office, Khan said that they were “protesting for the people of their constituency who asked them about load shedding”.
‘PTI cannot continue blaming previous govts’
Former premier and PPP stalwart Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, speaking after Umar, said that the PTI government could not continue blaming previous governments for its own shortcomings.
“When you give speeches instead of giving a specific answer, you always lay blame on previous governments.”
He added that a newly formed government could blame its predecessor for a few months after coming into power but not forever.
“[…] Two years have passed. You are being asked when the solution to the problem will be seen and you say we will tell you in two years. The opposition’s primary work is to ask questions about your performance. But when we ask you these questions, you get so offended and angry and forget how to respect. This is very wrong.”
Ashraf criticised Umar for “giving the example from 30-year-old history”. He pointed out that the entire board of KE was under the federal government.
“Nepra and energy ministry is also under the federal government and have no members from Sindh. Should they [treasury benches] not answer then?”