Election season is upon us, heralding a charade of political scrambling to curry favour in the right corners. Another case of patronage politics at play that has come under scrutiny is the staggering volume of gas allocations made during the last few days of the PML-N government in alleged violation of the gas allocation policy.

Previously, in an attempt to woo maximum voters in the coming elections, the PML-N government had ordered additional gas connections for domestic consumers, all under the façade of ‘sustainable development’. The schemes were neither sustainable nor affordable for distributers or consumers. It also called into question the role of Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority and the SNGPL obliging politically-motivated schemes despite being cognizant of their limited capacity and resources.

Now, with gas supplied dedicatedly to choice fertilizer industries on almost round-the-year basis, it is a regrettable instance of discrimination in gas distribution, sidelining domestic consumers which have top priority in the gas allocation policy. Gas allocations by the Economic Coordination Committee and Council of Common Interests had been a disputed subject for quite some time under which industries refute the gas allocation policy, vying for larger shares in distribution, illegally dismantling gas purchase agreements all through bureaucratic maladministration, resulting in losses in revenue.

Such flagrant politics of favours and patronage extend throughout the bureaucratic nexus and have been undertaken by successive governments where conflict of interests in transactions are inherent due to the overlapping vocations of key inter-linked industrial magnates in related companies and organizations. Where similar populist schemes were launched by the PPP government in 2012-13 they were ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court, a measure that might come to pass in the current political climate. Such schemes and discrepancies are unaffordable for the consumers and play havoc with sustainability of the entire energy sector. The misallocation to industrial and residential consumers, to curry political patronage and woo voters comes at a huge cost to the exchequer with Pakistan already facing a gas deficit.