Nationwide protests have erupted in Pakistan following the recent increase in electricity rates by Rs.3.55 per unit once again on August 22. The government’s request to recover an additional Rs.5.40 per unit through power tariffs has further fueled public dissatisfaction. Videos and pictures circulating online depict individuals burning their bills, traders threatening strikes, and industries pledging to shut down.
The recent protests by traders’ associations, the general public, and Jamaat-e-Islami reflect the people’s concerns and demand lower electricity prices and reduced additional taxes. The public’s sentiments must not be ignored, and their interests should be at the forefront of decision-making. However, to ensure long-term stability and progress, Pakistan must strive for a sustainable power sector. The escalating situation has also placed the safety of power company employees at risk, resulting in the deployment of over 500 police personnel in Rawalpindi to address potential unrest.
The plight of the masses is undeniably real, with many struggling to afford basic needs. However, it is crucial to understand that these challenges stem from decades of unsustainable subsidies, necessitating the current actions. While it is unfortunate that we face the consequences now, reversing these policies is necessary. The government must acknowledge the public’s struggles but there is limited room for maneuvering. Pakistan, bound by the conditions of its IMF deal, faces immense pressure to avoid a default. Balancing the interests of the masses and meeting the terms of the IMF deal is undoubtedly a daunting task.
The government recognises that taking tough measures does not align with its preferences, as it fosters immense resentment among the public that may be reflected in future elections. Nonetheless, it has chosen to confront these challenges head-on. This approach necessitates improving the transmission and distribution system, addressing theft and late-payment losses, and implementing policies aimed at fixing a broken system. These steps are vital to remedy the problems created by successive governments. Tough choices must be made to rectify these issues, ensuring a sustainable future for the nation.