The caretaker government might have thought otherwise but it too has taken the bitter pill of agreeing to an increase in electricity tariff sent to it by NEPRA. Yet on the other hand, it has delivered the much needed breather. Price of petroleum products has been revised downward; petrol has dropped by Rs 4.71. The LPG sector now nearing its demise has also some crumb of hope, the price was also reduced by Rs 6.

These measures speak about the caretakers’ concern in looking at other pestering issues troubling the nation as it goes about holding the elections. A few days back, Punjab Chief Minister Najam Sethi announced easing off the loadshedding spells in planned phases. The power shortages have grown so intense that the crisis figures almost as a preamble to speeches of virtually all the leading candidates who promise a quick end to it once they are in power. Any dispensation forming the government would hence, sooner or later, come to the point of how it would live up to such promises. High tariffs could mean demonstrations and loss of face. To a large extent, the power deficit is about shortage of electricity; things such as fuel – largely furnace oil – which is used by the power houses, are part of the same circle as well. It needs a strategy that is all-encompassing. For instance any approach towards increasing the number of IPPs might fulfil the need for the time being, but after a few years the shortfall would again shoot up. And obviously large dams, where we should have built at least one in every ten years on an average are badly needed. Issues of governance partly explain the failure. Whoever comes to power, would also have to keep a close watch on precisely how various oil and gas companies set the prices, particularly in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s annoyance over their role. These companies are afflicted with too many officials in bureaucratic positions rather than engineers and technical staff. One of the MPs last year cried out over the tremendous gas reserves lying untapped in Balochistan. Despite lofty claims, the Thar coal reserves, - which the initial estimates rate as one of the world’s biggest - have also not been channelled into the power system.

A timely succour has been in the form of the IP gas pipeline which would provide gas to the starving industry and the domestic sector and hopefully would turn out to be the much needed strength. Yet it is going to take at least two years, an that too if Pakistan finds the will and funds to finish their side of it. With the elections hardly nine days away, the country looks on for leadership that can make the right calls for a prosperous future.