Despite endless promises to the contrary - promises that the entire nation knows to be nothing more than blatant lies from the very second they are made - this winter has seen far more loadshedding than ever before and to the point where it is increasingly questionable whether, this summer, there will be any electricity at all!

Crippling loadshedding, combined with, if upgradation and regular maintenance were carried out, avoidable breakdowns, adversely affect not just the economy, but the quality of life for every single person, who is forced, through lack of alternatives, to pay through the nose for a completely undependable connection to the national grid - a grid that, as a result of criminal negligence, is rapidly falling apart at all levels of its mainly outdated distribution system.

The fact that, thanks to the recent downpour and record breaking snowfall in the northern areas of the country, hydropower producing dams have been topped up means absolutely nothing at all, as in the blink of an eye levels will be, for a variety of reasons but mainly that of incompetence, back to ‘critical’. And power generation from what should be, if their number had been increased as it should have been years ago, a lifesaver, will dwindle away to zilch - especially when forecast droughts materialise, as, according to climate change specialist, they undoubtedly will.

With elections in the offing, and unless the voting population gets its act together and votes not for the same gangs of clearly criminal scavengers whose only interest is personal profit but for honest change, the provision of power to the general populace is most certainly not going to be high on anyone’s agenda.

Although, quite obviously, during rabid bouts of electioneering, all candidates, without exception, will promise the absolute earth with enough power to light the way to prosperity for all come hell or high water - promises that, surely by now, no one is stupid enough to take at face value, let alone believe.

The outgoing, it is most sincerely hoped, gang of profiteering thugs, promised salvation via rental power provisions that, other than further expanding the bank accounts of self-aggrandising looters, did absolutely nothing to ease the plight of industries, commercial ventures, essential agriculture and the nation as a whole, which saw a reduction rather than an increase in the available power.

Yet, despite a few, surprisingly few, localised outbursts of wrath, everyone, without exception, simply groaned and moaned as per usual, taking what is an untenable situation in the victimised, downtrodden stride. That has, in the recent years, become the Pakistani way of dealing with all and any form of governmental exploitation.

The fact of the matter is though, that, if only someone in supposed ‘authority’ used their brain for more than figuring out how much more they can siphon off from whichever available avenue before making a run to enjoy a decadent life in pastures far away from the country they have, quite literally, screwed to within the last ounce of its increasingly fragile lifespan, that there is an obvious solution to the ever expanding power deficit.

A solution that stares everyone - rich, poor or in between - right between their eyes at some point - even if this is only during the few seconds it takes them to step from generator powered, air conditioned mansion to air conditioned luxury vehicle - each and every single day: the sun.

Solar power is not, despite some people’s ill informed opinion to the contrary, a purely ‘Hippie’ dream. But is, as has been proven all over the world in recent years, the best, cleanest, and most reliable - especially in climates such as Pakistan - form of energy available and, unless the human race completely manages to destroy the known universe, not going to simply fade away.

The reason that solar power has been pooh-poohed and dismissed as the ridiculous dreams of pie-in-the-sky dropouts, is, quite simply, that ‘big oil’ and other ‘interests’ cannot control, read ‘reap astronomical profits’, by manipulating, as they do, oil prices on which entire economies are based and from which fortunes are amassed.

Solar power is, once installation and upkeep are factored in, both low-cost and sustainable as long as the sun continues to shine and, this is of extreme importance, does not require to be distributed through an expensive, open to corruption, national grid. But can, and mostly is, be simply a one solar panel to one house affair. Or, this can be more cost-effective, one arrangement of solar panels to serve, for example, a community of 15 to 20 houses with each household paying for its own share of the initial installation and follow on upkeep.

Imagine if, for instance, banks stopped promoting car loans, replacing them with solar power loans, thus allowing people to go off-grid and be responsible for their own power production and maintenance. Or, although this may very well be ‘unimaginable’, if the government set up some kind of system to help people go their own way as far as power production is concerned.

Encouraging as many people as possible to go ‘off-grid’ would, over a relatively short period of time, reduce pressure on the disintegrating national grid to the extent where those, hospitals, commercial establishments and industries perhaps, could enjoy a reasonably uninterrupted power supply which would, in turn, have economic benefits all round.

The basic problem with this idea, however, is that no one, least of all the farcical apology for a government Pakistan is liable to inflict on itself in a few weeks time, is ever going to take it seriously for the one simple reason: not enough profit to be skimmed off the top!

­The writer is author of The Gun Tree:

One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.

Email: zahrahnasir@hotmail.com