While the government has presented a very optimistic outlook of the energy sector, and asserted via the budget that load shedding will be a thing of the past in just one year’s time, protests have simultaneously erupted in Karachi and KP over drastic power outages. The promises and platitudes that the ruling part has been making since 2013 have been repeated to the point of becoming redundant. Now, even with Chinese investment buoying the energy sector, people are loth to believe in something that has always seemed to good to be true, especially after 18 hour blackouts in KP.
Thus on Saturday, people of Malakand Agency and Peshawar took to the streets and ransacked offices and grid stations of WAPDA. Peshawar Electricity Supply Company (PESCO) in Batkhela was torched and dozens of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) workers led by Peshawar MPA Fazal Elahi stormed the Rehman Baba grid station on Saturday. MPA Fazal Elahi alleged that PESCO authorities had been directed by the federal government to punish the people of KP for supporting PTI in the last general elections. While the claim sounds conspiratorial, there is no denying the fact that the long power outage was cruel, and authorities have a lot to answer for in these hot months of summer.
While it was announced by the spokesperson for Ministry of Water and Power on Saturday that no load shedding would occur during Sehar and Iftar timings in Ramzan, it took not even one day for the promise to be broken. Karachi faced power outages at sehri time in the early hours of Sunday, the very first day of Ramazan. The issue had still not been resolved by the afternoon.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar stated in his budget address that approximately 10,000 MW of electricity will be added to the national grid by summer 2018 and will eliminate load shedding. With just two days passing since this statement, Peshawar and Karachi are up in arms. With so many projects inaugurated in the past four years, it is hard to believe the Finance Minister now. Is this rhetoric just for the upcoming elections, or can the PML-N cure Pakistan of its energy woes?
When the PML-N came to power, there was just one thing it needed to do to ensure the trust and support of the Pakistani people. It was not tall buildings, trains and busses, but just the end of the power shortage. If it had been solved, there would be something very concrete to show to the people- except the party took the word ‘concrete’ in a very literal sense and did not keep its eye on what the people of Pakistan really needed.