Govt announces special courts to punish power thieves, bill defaulters

Power minister says govt to announce electricity theft control act as power theft losses swell to Rs589b n Info minister Solangi says caretaker govt won't introduce any law beyond its mandate.


ISLAMABAD   -   The caretaker gov­ernment Wednes­day announced mas­sive crackdown to stop on electricity theft and against the low recov­eries with an aim to improve energy sector and address the griev­ance of the affected consumers across the country.

In a bid to control the electricity theft in pow­er sector that leads to accumulating circular debt and inflated tar­iffs, the interim govern­ment has announced to introducing a new elec­tricity theft control act, aiming to establish en­forcement infrastruc­ture across the coun­try and create special courts for handling complaints and pen­alties. The draft ordi­nance is expected to be finalised in the next two to three weeks.

The announcement was made by the care­taker Minister for En­ergy Muhammad Ali, in a press conference, along with Minister for Information and Broad­casting, Murtaza Solan­gi and Secretary Power Division Rashid Mah­mood Langrial.

The energy minis­ter said that this crack­down is part of a com­prehensive effort to address mounting tech­nical and commercial losses experienced by the power distribution companies nationwide and its strategy to com­bat widespread power theft and the substan­tial non-recoveries in the power sector.

Muhammad Ali said that special courts would be set up to deal with the cases of electricity theft through ordinance. The min­ister also announced to set up a task force to overcome power theft. He said that that electricity theft is a ma­jor problem in Pakistan, that incurs losses of approximate­ly Rs589 billion per annum. 

Which simply means, that consumers who pay their bills are effectively subsi­dizing those who steal elec­tricity, Mohammad Ali said. “The background is that in our country, some domes­tic consumers steal electrici­ty and others don’t pay bills,” the power minister said in to­day’s news conference as So­langi looked on. He explained that there are currently 10 distribution companies (Dis­cos) in Pakistan, with K-Elec­tric serving Karachi through its independent distribution network. Ali disclosed that the annual loss due to elec­tricity theft and unpaid bills amounts to Rs589 billion, resulting in higher bills for law-abiding citizens and ac­cumulating circular debt.

Regarding reducing capaci­ty payments, the government acknowledged that it would take time to achieve mean­ingful results. There are also considerations for the pro­vincialization or privatiza­tion of Discos, with a decision expected to be made in col­laboration with the cabinet. This would allow the govern­ment to focus on policy and regulation, while the private sector or provincial govern­ments would be responsi­ble for managing the DISCOs, Mohammad Ali maintained.

While sharing the data on losses of various discos, it was disclosed that some Dis­cos, such as Lesco, Fesco, Ge­pco, Mepco, and Iesco, are facing relatively lower loss­es of 3 percent, while Pesco, Hesco, Sepco, Qesco and Le­sco losses are up to 60 per­cent. The minister said that the government plans to take various measures to address the issue. In areas with low­er theft rates (up to 30%), technological interventions will be implemented. For ar­eas with losses ranging from 30 to 60 percent, the govern­ment is considering involving the private sector in manage­ment. In regions with loss­es exceeding 60 percent, en­forcement measures will be initiated, he added.

Moreover, the government intends to improve the man­agement of Discos by mak­ing changes to their boards of governors and management teams, the energy minister re­vealed. The government has garnered support from pro­vincial chief secretaries and police chiefs for implementing the plan, and taskforces will be established at various admin­istrative levels to curb elec­tricity theft, he added. Similar­ly, he said that the government has also planned to reshuf­fle officers involved in elec­tricity theft. A control room and dashboard have been es­tablished at the Power Plan­ning and Monitoring Compa­ny (PPMC) to monitor Discos’ performance. He further said that a task force would be set up that would work with co­operation of the Secretary for Energy and Power Divi­sion, IGs, Commissioners, and Deputy Commissioners at the grassroots level to curb power theft. He also announced to in­troduce reforms in ten power distribution companies.

He added that five low per­forming distribution com­panies were facing losses of Rs 100 billion on account of low recoveries due to poor management. Mohammad Ali pointed out Discos in re­gion of Peshawar, Hyder­abad, Quetta, Sukkhar, Trib­al Areas, are incurring losses of Rs 489 billion. Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Sol­angi ruled out that any min­ister was receiving free elec­tricity. Solangi also ruled out introducing any law beyond the constitutional mandate of the caretaker government. He said power theft was a key factor that was contributing to rise in electricity rates in Pakistan. Power Division Sec­retary Rasheed Langrial em­phasized the government’s inclination toward privatiza­tion as the ultimate solution. He said that government was seriously considering for an initial public offering (IPO) for three companies.

Meanwhile, Caretaker Inte­rior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti in a post on X (former­ly Twitter), has said that a large-scale crackdown has been launched to tackle the back-breaking inflation to provide some relief to the masses. He said this opera­tion has been initiated on the directives of Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Ka­kar. He explained that the smuggling and hoarding of US dollars and commodities would be detected besides cracking down on organized criminal cartels to curb such illegal activities.

He further said that FC Ba­lochistan (North), a paramil­itary force, had foiled a bid last night to smuggle sugar to Afghanistan. Official sources in the Ministry of Interior in­formed that the government in coordination with provin­cial authorities and intelli­gence agencies had identi­fied some cartels involved in smuggling, their patrons and government officials facili­tating such activities and ac­tion was being taken against them. They further said that some major policy re­forms were being taken and the businesses of commod­ities and currency would be transformed. To implement the new measures effectively, the government will upgrade monitoring systems at land, sea and airports to curtail il­legal movement of goods and currency. The move comes af­ter sugar prices are rising at an alarming rate in the coun­try despite excessive produc­tion of commodity last year and the interbank rate of dol­lar against Pakistani rupees has crossed the threshold of Rs 300 for the first time in the country’s history.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt