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Asad Umar, Shahzad Qasim due in Karachi today to resolve electricity crisis

As a protest by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf outside the K-Electric head offices in Gizri against unannounced loadshedding and alleged overbilling entered its fifth day on Friday, party leaders said Prime Minister Imran Khan had directed that Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and PM’s Special Assistant on Power Sector Shahzad Qasim visit Karachi to resolve the electricity problems in the metropolis.

A large number of PTI lawmakers elected from Karachi and workers took part in the protest on its fifth day. According to the party leaders sitting at the protest camp, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail telephoned the sit-in’s participants on Friday and said that on the directives of the prime minister, committee members Asad Umar and Shahzad Qasim would be visiting Karachi to resolve its electricity problems.

Later in the evening, PTI leaders, including Karachi president and MPA Khurrum Sher Zaman, MNA Aftab Siddiqui and MPA Raja Azahar, spoke to media and announced that the party leaders would not allow the KE officials to enter the power utility’s head offices.

“We have adopted a peaceful way of protest to show anger against the atrocities of the KE. The party will also go to the Supreme Court against power utility,” Zaman said. “The KE has turned the city of lights into darkness. This company has become a permanent nuisance for Karachiites.”

Zaman thanked Prime Minister Khan for taking notice of the suffering of Karachi’s residents and said a committee comprising federal ministers would be visiting Karachi today (Saturday) to resolve the electricity problem in the city. “We are hopeful that the committee will find a solution to the electricity crisis.”

The protesters expressed their anger against the power utility for “turning the city of lights into a city of darkness”. They criticised the power company’s management for becoming a source of misery for Karachiites.

According to the PTI lawmakers, they have vowed to continue the protest sit-in against “the K-E’s cruelty”. They demanded of the federal government of their own party to allow other electric companies to operate as well to provide electricity to Karachi.

Accusing the KE of not fulfilling its prime responsibility, they demanded of the power utility to provide an uninterrupted electric supply to the citizens. They also called for an end to the KE’s monopoly on electricity generation, transmission and distribution.

Leaders and legislators of the ruling party in the Centre shouted slogans against “the exploitation of the power consumers of Karachi by the KE” and showed their displeasure against “the cruel monopoly of the company over the power sector of Karachi”.

PSP’s solution

Pak Sarzameen Party chief Syed Mustafa Kamal said on Friday the incompetent management of the K-Electric had been passing the buck of its poor performance onto the people of Karachi for the last several years, and instead of providing them electricity, the utility had been tormenting them.

He was addressing a central-level meeting at the party’s secretariat, Pakistan House. President Anis Kaimkhani co-chaired the meeting with him. Participants of the meeting discussed several issues, particularly prolonged and unannounced loadshedding and excessive bills by the KE, and the spread of the coronavirus.

“The only solution to prolonged loadshedding and overbilling is to end the K-Electric’s monopoly on the purchase and transmission of electricity and to issue licences to various companies in Karachi to purchase and supply electricity in the style of cellular companies,” Kamal said. Not only would there be competition in the power sector, and every company would try to improve service delivery, but also the consumers would be safe from the burden of extra bills and loadshedding, he said.

Kamal said hours-long loadshedding was being carried out in the scorching summer despite the supply of 800 megawatts to the KE from the national grid.

KE’s version

The K-Electric reiterated in a statement on Friday that current load-management, had been the result of fuel shortfall, which had compromised generation capacity at its 1250 MW Bin Qasim Power Plant (BQPS-I) as well as at its independent power producers (IPPs), including Tapal.

The current situation had been further aggravated as the demand surged on account of high temperatures and humidity as well as erratic power supplies from the wind corridor and suspension of supplies from KANUPP. “This current situation is unprecedented and in an effort to provide relief to its residential customers during the late-night hours, KE has been managing load through industrial load-shedding despite this impacting negatively on the company’s financial health and profitability.

“KE operates in a regulated environment where timely approvals from government and regulatory bodies are necessary to materialise both operational and long-term business plans necessary to meet the city’s growing power demand.”

The statement said: “Anticipating the growing supply-demand shortfall as far back as FY 2016, the Company had developed a robust USD 4bn investment plan which included several Generation initiatives including a 700 MW Coal-fired power plant as well as downstream transmission and distribution upgrades. While KE received approvals for its 900 MW RLNG power plant in FY 2019, of which Phase I is expected to come onstream by May 2021, with a resultant improvement in Karachi’s power supply situation, approvals for 700 MW coal project is still awaited. The company has been highlighting to all concerned authorities that approval delays will negatively impact KE’s ability to meet the city’s long-term power demand growth and widen the supply demand gap.

“Considering that many governmental and regulatory entities have a role to play in providing a climate that encourages and expedites investments, KE should be accountable only to the extent of its role as a power supplier and other players must also share responsibility for delayed decision-making.”

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