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Controversy Surrounding Loadshedding Policy and Power Sector in Pakistan

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The power sector in Pakistan has become a subject of heated debate as conflicting views emerge regarding the government’s policy on carrying out load-shedding. Power Minister Awais Leghari recently defended the government’s decision to implement load-shedding on feeders that have not paid their bills. However, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) Chairman Waseem Mukhtar has labelled this policy as illegal, urging the government to make amendments to the relevant Act.

NEPRA has taken a firm stance against revenue-based load-shedding, deeming it illegal and imposing fines on power Distribution Companies (DISCOs) that engage in this practice. In April, five DISCOs were fined Rs 50 million each. However, Minister Leghari has argued that revenue-based load shedding is necessary to tackle the escalating circular debt, which amounts to a staggering Rs 1.2 trillion annually and contributes to potential electricity tariff increases.

Two critical issues require careful consideration amidst this controversy. Firstly, the importance of combating electricity theft, and secondly, the government’s stance on the matter. DISCOs’ implementation of revenue-based loadshedding during peak hot weather has subjected consumers to discomfort, regardless of their bill payment status. However, the DISCOs have not taken substantial measures to reduce line losses or address theft. Minister Leghari’s vigorous defense of these policies has drawn criticism, with some likening the approach to collective punishment, reminiscent of the British Raj era.

The resurgence of punitive measures at the insistence of international organizations such as the IMF has raised concerns about the government’s negotiating stance for a new financial package. This has led to speculation about the underlying motives behind the government’s aggressive approach in the power sector.

Moreover, the government’s reluctance to promote renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, has raised eyebrows. While consumers are increasingly embracing environmentally friendly energy options for economic reasons, the government’s failure to compel DISCOs to adapt to cleaner energy sources reflects a concerning lack of commitment to environmental sustainability.

In conclusion, the controversy surrounding the power sector in Pakistan underscores the need for a comprehensive and sustainable approach that prioritizes consumer welfare, addresses systemic inefficiencies, and embraces environmentally friendly energy solutions. The government must navigate these complexities with a balanced and forward-thinking strategy to ensure a reliable and sustainable power supply for the nation.

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