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Not federal, but provincial governments hold the key to solve power crisis

In addition to the transmission and distribution losses allowed by National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) (up to 13-14 per cent), around Rs 90 Billion worth electricity is stolen in Pakistan every year. This increases the menace of circular debt, bogs down the whole power supply chain and hence results in an increase in load-shedding.

Successive governments have tried various methods to bring down electricity theft and while the policies seemed perfect on paper, failed miserably on ground. We have all seen advertisements telling us to report if someone is stealing electricity in our vicinity and we have all heard rumours about government’s plans to install prepaid meters to reduce electricity theft.

Infact, electricity theft has been a popular topic on television and print media for more than a decade now, but not many people are aware of the fact that the electricity theft issue has remained unsolved due to incapacity of federal government and not the incapacity of the whole state machinery.

When State Minister for Water and Power, Abid Sher Ali recently pointed out huge power theft in some part of KP, KP provincial ministers not only protested but news came out about some ministers asking people not to pay bills at all. This was provincial politics. How dare someone from Punjab come to KP and tell us that we are defaulters. After all we make electricity cheaply in our province and federal government still owes us billions of rupees in royalty.

The fact that some people were stealing right under the nose of government authorities was completely ignored and provincial politics prevailed. Currently, the line losses of PESCO are around 35%.

This provincial politics about electricity is not limited to KP but can be seen in every province and by every provincial government.

Electricity leakages are around 35% in HESCO and even more in some parts of interior Sindh.

Recently, news came out about Amin Fahim, current senior vice chairman of PPP to be an electricity defaulter. He had not paid for months but the local Wapda staff wouldn’t dare cut his electricity.

Wapda comes under federal government and PPP forms provincial government, then what's stopping Wapda officials? Wapda officials don’t have their own police or any sort of malicia that would act against such waderas with hundreds of guards, they have to rely on police for help and police comes under provincial government. The federal government machinery therefore cannot catch these defaulters but provincial machinery can.

Its not just about asking the Sindhi waderas to pay, some whole streets in cities or even whole villages have 100% electricity theft but when Wapda officials go to cut electricity in these areas, they are manhandled, beaten and forced to run away. Police doesn't help them because it is answerable to provincial government, and the provincial government doesn't want to be unpopular by arresting its potential voters.

Punjab, which is the largest of Pakistan’s provinces had similar issues during PPP federal government tenure. At that time it was ruled by PML N, and police was specifically instructed to not to help wapda officials recover their dues from defaulters.

Just as what the KP government is doing now, then Punjab government also made excuses such as load shedding in Punjab is more than other provinces and why pay the bills if we don’t get any electricity. Infact, the power crisis worked in favour of provincial government as people voted out PPP, solely blaming them for the failure to solve power crisis.

Now that Punjab has same federal and provincial government, its police is continuously filing cases against people involved in theft and against those who protest or create unrest when Wapda officials go to cut off their supplies. Although sometimes the police does go a bit too far. An example is the recent case where a 9 month old baby was charged with an attempted murder for throwing rocks at people from utility companies when they came to cut off the utilities due to non payment of dues.

I therefore believe that power distribution should immediately be handled to provinces since only they have the muscle (police) to deal with it. Of Course, the provincial governments wouldn’t want to jump into boiling water and accept it.

After all, it’s much more convenient to blame the federal government for everything rather than practically doing something to solve the issue. But all 3 parties that rule 3 biggest provinces of Pakistan, want to make federal government after next elections and shall face similar problems when in power.

Then why not just put politics aside for once, accept the responsibility and do something to solve this issue disrupting lives of 180 million Pakistanis?

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