The revelation that government institutions owe a staggering Rs.71.519 billion in unpaid electricity bills is a disheartening reflection of the state of affairs in Pakistan. The citizenry is grappling with soaring fuel prices, record-breaking inflation and inflated electricity bills that they have no choice but to pay for, unless they are willing to risk the suspension of the utility altogether. Meanwhile, the federal, provincial and Azad Kashmir governments, along with their institutions, have been defaulting on their bills without having to suffer any consequences. One can only imagine the kind of damage this will do to public trust.
We have embarked upon a stringent fiscal scheme that is aimed at recovering losses and maximising revenue so that the economy can remain afloat. The general expectation is for the public to comply with these measures, whether they agree with them or not. And despite immense backlash and opposition, they are. How is it fair for those very institutions which impose policies and demand adherence to be defaulting on their bills. More outrageously, how have total dues surpassed a shocking Rs.71 billion?
Governments are supposed to be representatives of law and order and by the looks of it, it seems as though ours is struggling to live up to the bare minimum standards of what is acceptable. It is reassuring to see the Islamabad Electric Supply Co. (IESCO) take charge and demand not only accountability but also transparency when it comes to showing how the situation digressed so drastically. This measure alone revives some credibility of the nation-wide clampdown on defaulters and electricity thieves but at the same time, the government must brace itself for the questions the public will undoubtedly ask.
The biggest defaulter is the Azad Kashmir government, followed by government institutions in the Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Attock and Jhelum circle. In fact, even the Chief Justice of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court have been found to be defaulting according to news reports. Such a hefty default has not been incurred over a month, but several months. It further prompts the question of how this was able to fly under the radar for so long, and why was there no action taken earlier? The average Pakistani would have lost their electricity supply, on top of being burdened with fines for late payments but it seems as though the same standards do not apply to state institutions.
It is absolutely essential to retain the public’s trust and confidence in these trying times, and incidents like these only threaten to alienate the citizenry further. We need accountability, transparency and adherence to laws.