The threat of a looming power crisis that the country would face in the coming years was raised by us way back in 1994, when a group of concerned citizens had filed a Public Interest Litigation petition against KESC in the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Since then, Helpline Trust and other citizens have repeatedly raised this issue at various platforms through seminars, debates and TV Talk shows. In one program on the power crisis, with TV Anchor Jasmine, a former KESC, MD, had bluntly stated that the KESC management was ‘lying’ and that the present power crises was administrative and financial and not technical:

‘The management is not spending any money for the purchase of furnace oil, even when it has reduced from Rs.60,000 to Rs.20,000 / Ton. The generating Units are not running at full capacity and power is not being purchased from IPPs as per their full capacity. As such, the gap between supply and demand has widened, leading to the worst load shedding the city has ever faced’.

While a former Chief Engineer, KESC, had stated: ‘There are many ‘No Go’ areas of the city that are hooked to 'kundas' or illegal connections, including many commercial and industrial users, who do not pay for what they actually consume, by ‘adjusting their bills’ with the help of the KESC staff’.

At that time, line losses due to theft, out dated distribution system, etc., were 30% and instead of reducing these loses, KESC has failed to take appropriate action and the line loses remain the same.  To compensate for these losses, which are due to its own mismanagement, inefficiency, theft, etc., KESC passes this short fall in revenue on to the consumers through tariff increases and other charges in its billing, including a ‘late payment and fuel adjustment charge’, WH tax, GST, TV license fee, etc.

Jasmine had also questioned the role of NEPRA and the Board of Directors of KESC and had bluntly asked as to why they had failed to check KESC’s performance and protect the interests of the consumers and allowed this important utility service to be on the verge of collapse? ‘Will anybody be held accountable for KESC’s mess or will more ‘Advisors’ be appointed and will it be business as usual’?

For the record, I wish to add that I had also met the top management officers of the Abraaj group in October 08 and had asked the CEO as to why had they risked their lucrative careers, by jumping on board a sinking ship, which had been mismanaged for two decades, was riddled with corruption and had cost the life of the late Shahid Hamid, former MD, KESC?

Their reply was that they were fully aware of the problems, but they had all done well for themselves and felt it was time to pay back something in return to the nation. Noble thoughts no doubt, but now it seems that they had not been so ‘honest and straightforward’.

Despite the ringing of the alarm bells over the years, no government, civilian or military, had taken this looming crisis seriously. Instead of investing in power generation units and line distribution and improving the output and efficiency of the existing units, there were reports that the government had been indulging in the worst kind of corruption and rip-offs in the power sector and there had been reports of mega corruption scandals almost every day.

First we had the questionable KESC Privatization deal, which is still shrouded in secrecy, followed by the scandals of the massive rip-offs in the importation of IPP plants and the agreements connected with these shady deals.  (http://www.helplinetrust.org/EDC%201/youtube%20ht/kesc.htm).

This was then followed by the news of the rip-off in the importation of the Turkish Karkey power rental ship. The power ship, with the capacity of generating 220 megawatts, had arrived in Karachi on November 2010, while the second power ship Karkey Karadeniz of 110MW had also reached Karachi after a couple of days.

At that time, our clueless Federal Minister for Water and Power, Raja Pervez Ashraf, now our Honorable PM, had stated: ‘The Karkey Karadeniz  power ship of Turkey will contribute to electricity generation in Karachi and help reduce its shortage and there will be no load shedding by December.’ However, according to reports at that time, the power ship had been standing idle off the shores of Karachi, because the government had failed to ensure fuel supply to make the unit fully operational.

The Hon. PM of the land of the Pak and the Pure has now announced that there will be no load shedding by September. Fact or fiction, only time will tell, but then if as PM, if he doesn’t know the facts, then who does?  

The current status of the power ship is not clear, but what is clear is, that the entire country is facing the worst load shedding in its history. And sadly, no one has been held accountable.

General Musharraf, in his eight years of governance, had the opportunity to tackle the power crisis and take positive steps to set up power generation plants and revamp the dilapidated and outdated distribution system.

But instead, his government had also ignored the problem, and had taken the easy way out by privatizing the utility service, without examining the ground realities and had allowed this city of lights to plunge into darkness.

The citizens had voted for the PPP in the last elections, with the hope that this time it would fulfill its promise by establishing good governance and improve the quality of their lives. But unfortunately, the present government has also failed to rectify the mess that the previous govts had left and has even failed to provide the basic facilities like electricity, gas, clean water and a decent health and education system.

Violent protests, burning of tires and attacks on KESC complaint centers are being witnessed all over the country. Chest thumping, fiery speeches, ultimatums and threats are being made if the power crisis is not resolved.

But all this huffing and puffing is too little and too late. After 9/11, Pakistan had declared a war against terror, but perhaps, if the government had also declared a war against corruption, target killings and the power crisis, which is crippling and killing our industries, making the lives of the citizens miserable and unbearable, things might have been different.

If the situation is not put right soon, then it will be the end of not only this city, which also happens to be the economic backbone of Pakistan, but also other major cities of Pakistan.

Hamid Maker. (email: trust@helplinetrust.org).