LAHORE - The government raised the power tariff for various categories of users, the Supreme Court took a suo motu notice, the government withdrew the increase notification acknowledging that the matter falls in the jurisdiction of the NEPRA and the same will take a decision about the raise during the next few weeks. These are the main points of the proceedings that took place in the apex court during the past few days, and the dejected common man is trying to assess abortively what relief he got as a result of the top court’s intervention.
When the court took up the matter, there were hopes that the government’s order – passed in transgression of its jurisdiction – would be reversed and the government would face a serious embarrassment. Some thought that at a time when the opposition parties had failed to play any effective role to keep the government within its limits, the Supreme Court would safeguard people’s rights. The remarks passed by various judges during the proceedings raised their hopes further and they started believing that the court would teach the ‘transgressors’ a lesson which they would remember for long.
But at the end of the day the court has disappointed the people. They fail to understand what and whose purpose has been served as a result of the court’s proceedings. “For us it makes no difference whether the ‘executioner’ is government or the NEPRA”, commented a power user who was immensely frustrated by the outcome of the court proceedings.
Just to give you an idea of what happened in the courtroom during these days, a few paragraphs from the daily proceedings are reproduced below:
On the first day, in addition to other things the court asked the Pepco MD to provide the list of the persons and organisations against whom Rs441 billion are outstanding. The chief justice said: Don’t supply electricity to those who are not paying their dues. If you need judicial orders for the purpose, the court would issue them.
The spirit of the remarks was that instead of adding to the miseries of the already overburdened people, the government should take steps to recover the huge outstanding dues. And if such people are not willing to clear their dues, they should not be supplied power any more.
This was a very good approach from the common man’s point of view. This is how the court should rescue the aggrieved.
Then, the Chief Justice said in the international market the fuel prices have gone down, but the Pakistan government has raised them. This is also true. There’s no reason not to believe that the court will not let the government take such unilateral decisions.
Speaking people’s language, the CJP further said the government was burdening the people who were already paying the bills honestly.
On the second day of the proceedings, the CJP asked the government about its policy to recover outstanding Rs441 billion. He said if the government had controlled power theft the circular debt could have been controlled. He also sought action against defaulters when Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif said in Pesco region there were 97 per cent defaulters.
After all this, the controversial notification has been withdrawn and now the NEPRA would issue one of its own, which coming from the competent authority will be lawful from the legal point of view, no matter how painful for the consumers.
The court could not have served the government’s interest better.
The court’s silence about the raise in petroleum prices will be taken to mean that it was justifiable. In other words, the court is telling the people to swallow the bitter pill – no matter whether they have the capacity or not.
With due respect, the courts should not pass remarks which are not in conformity with their final orders as they disappoint the people. Secondly, they should bring themselves down to the level of the people to be able to understand their point of view. Since all utility bills of the judges are paid by the government, they don’t know how burdensome they are.
And now something about the plutocrats at the helm of affairs: They had come to power with the pledge to make the lives of people easier. For this, they were required to reverse the wrong decisions of the previous government. But, unfortunately, instead of rolling back any such decisions they are taking wrong decisions of their own, adding to the miseries of the people. They are doing what the previous government failed to do.
The rulers think that even the common man has as much wealth as they have and can afford to eat cake if bread is not available. This only shows disconnect between them and the people.