Inflated electricity bills spark nationwide protests

PM Anwaarul Haq Kakar calls emergency meeting today n Says he will consult ministry to provide relief to people n MQM-P demands govt to reduce rates

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI/PESHAWAR  -  Caretaker Prime Minister An­waarul Haq Kakar Saturday summoned an emergency meet­ing on Sunday (today) over the price of electricity and consum­ers’ bills. The prime minister also directed the ministry of energy and the power distributions companies to present detailed briefing over the issue, PM Of­fice Media Wing said in a press release on Saturday. The meet­ing would mull over provision of maximum relief to the mass­es over electricity bills. Separate­ly, on his X handle, the prime min­ister posted that he summoned an emergency meeting over these is­sues in the PM House and would hold consultations to provide max­imum relief to power consumers.

The inflated power bills trig­gered nationwide protests, in­cluding Lahore, Karachi, Rawal­pindi, Multan, Gujranwala, and Peshawar. In Karachi, the Ja­maat-e-Islami held demonstra­tions at multiple places against the skyrocketing increase in power bills and what it said overcharging on part of the K-Electric (KE). In Rawalpin­di, protesters gathered at Com­mittee Chowk and burned bills while demanding that the gov­ernment abolish imposed taxes on electricity. Also in Peshawar, power consumers called the in­crease in electricity bills unbear­able and demanded immediate relief from the government.

In Gujranwala, Protesters sur­rounded the Gujranwala Elec­tric Power Company office in protest against expensive elec­tricity. Protests were also held in other cities, including Narow­al, Attock, Sargodha, and Har­ipur, against high power bills. The protests in Multan were emotionally charged. They tied their electricity bills to donkeys as they marched towards the Gujranwala Electric Power Com­pany (Gepco) while chanting slogans against the government.

Traders and citizens also in different cities held pro­test demonstrations on Friday against the rising cost of elec­tricity amid growing inflation­ary pressure, warning the gov­ernment to be prepared to face the “consequences” if did not address the issue that was con­sistently adding to the cost of living in the country.

The protests began after Pa­kistan’s National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) increased the tariffs by Rs4.96 per unit last month, a condition set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for approving a short-term $3 billion bailout package for the South Asian state.

NEPRA periodically adjusts consumer-end tariffs after get­ting input from distribution companies which suggest differ­ent rates calculated on the basis of their revenue requirements. “We warn the government that if the decision to increase elec­tricity prices is not withdrawn immediately, the consequences will be borne by the incompe­tent rulers,” Muhammad Kashif Chaudhry, President of Marka­zi Tanzeem-e-Tajran Pakistan, a central association of traders in the country, said in a statement. He added the business commu­nity had launched a string of protests against the electricity price hike and were planning to gradually spread the movement nationwide. “We had already warned the rulers of this country not to become a tool of the inter­national financial institutions by implementing anti-people pol­icies,” Chaudhry said. He main­tained people residing in differ­ent cities, towns and villages had started pouring into the streets and were burning their electric­ity bills, adding it was their way of expressing “rebellion.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the participants of the demonstra­tion in Karachi, Atiq Mir, Chair­man of All Karachi Tajir Ithehad (AKTI), highlighted that when traders and businessmen were compelled to protest on the streets, it signaled a “genuine economic crisis in the country.”

Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, the JI chief, said criticised the gov­ernment for initially increas­ing petrol prices before raising the cost of electricity costs. He pointed out it had become chal­lenging for the common citizen to meet basic requirements.

In the last 30 days, the govern­ment twice raised the fuel prices under a fortnightly cost adjust­ment mechanism, leading to an all-time high with over 15 per­cent hike. Traders underscored the recent increase in fuel and power prices, coupled with spi­raling inflation, had severely hampered their business activi­ties. Inflation in country reached a historic peak of 38 percent in May before easing to 28.3 per­cent in July, though it continues to remain significantly elevated.

Meanwhile, the former law­makers of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Saturday expressed concern over the hike in electricity bills,the prevalent problem of delayed bills and urged the gov­ernment to withdraw the recent hike in units.

In a statement issued here on Saturday the former MNAs Sabir Hussain Qaimkhani and Salahuddin said besides making electricity very expensive, up to 10 to 12 hours of load shedding was also being carried out, af­fecting domestic, commercial and industrial consumers.

They deplored that instead of ensuring that the meter read­ing of exactly, the meter readers of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) take read­ings of extra days.

They reiterated that the com­plaints about the burnt or de­fective transformers were not timely addressed and the con­sumers had to pay from their pockets to get the tranformers repaired even though HESCO’s stated policy was that the com­pany was reposonsible for the repair and replacement.

The legislators said the ex­pensive electricity at the time when the country and its peo­ple were reeling from inflation only multiplied woes of the people.They requested the gov­ernment to withdraw the re­cent hike in the price of units and to address the services re­lated issues of the power distri­bution companies like HESCO.

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