Prolonged power outages during summer months in Sindh, including capital Karachi, Hyderabad and other urban areas, have become an important characteristic of life. This situation has been persisting since the early 1980s and change does not appear to be on the horizon. This summer too, it is the same old story. For around a fortnight, K-Electric has been subjecting Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh to hours-long unannounced power cuts making life miserable for the people. This is happening when temperature has soared to 40 degrees Celsius and above. Prolonged power cuts have been occurring even at night in different localities of Karachi and Hyderabad.
Annoyed by the persistent deterioration in electricity supply in various localities of Karachi and Hyderabad, consumers have started to hold protest demos urging KE and Hyderabad Electric Supply Company to improve power supply. For want of electricity, whole life gets upset. The power suppliers are, as usual, advancing unconvincing arguments for their failure to ensure proper supply of power. Protesters say the government has asked people to stay indoors to protect themselves from the coronavirus, but how can they stay inside home in this hot weather when several spells of prolonged power outage are occurring during 24 hours. In a way, power cuts are aiding in the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority has taken notice of the situation and asked K-Electric and other power utilities of Sindh to alleviate the sufferings of the people. This year power supply was expected to improve as most shops, offices, and educational institutions are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. This should have resulted in reduced consumption. Things, however, remain unchanged. Moreover, K-Electric has replaced old wires with cables to eliminate power theft. The power utility formerly blamed power outages on pilferage. Unfortunately, the new cables have not benefited consumers.
Yes, Prime Minister Imran Khan does insist that all is well — be it the government’s response to Covid-19, the state of the national economy, or his foreign policy. The PM spoke to the National Assembly — making only his 13th appearance in the house in nearly two years — on Thursday during the ongoing budget session and defended the overall performance of his team. He looked well in control as he deliberated upon, with the help of statistics, the various challenges his government is trying to come to terms with.
To start off with, the PM claimed success on his strategy to counter the coronavirus in the country. He reiterated the logic behind his aversion to a full-fledged countrywide lockdown, saying that since the day one there had been no confusion in his mind about the need to balance measures to fight the virus and protecting the economy, thereby preventing the people from going hungry. Even though, four months on, Pakistan is still struggling to plateau the infection curve, the PM is absolutely correct that our country is no Europe, New Zealand or China which could have opted for a complete lockdown with gay abandon.
When speaking on the prevailing financial situation, the PM mentioned the “sinking” economy that his government had inherited featuring a high current account deficit, a controlled exchange rate regime “detrimental” to exports, and huge public debts — something that, according to him, had dragged the country to the verge of default. While he cherry-picked to manage face-saving in front of his rivals, the various SBP reports paint an even gloomier picture of the economy during his two years in power. With his UN General Assembly address on Kashmir being the only highlight of his foreign policy so far, the PM mostly repeated the popular rhetoric that he was so very fond of while in the opposition.
In a pleasant break from his customary bashing of the opposition, the PM’s speech in parliament carried a hint of his desire for a new beginning with the opposition. His 86-minute speech in the lower house, however, kicked up quite a controversy when he called Osama bin Laden a martyr — something that contradicts our official policy on the matter and that risks a global reaction.