Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has once again pointed a finger at the federal government for what he calls its stepmotherly treatment towards Punjab over the division of gas and electricity. He was speaking to a group of businessmen and lamented that industrial activity across the province had been paralysed leading to labour layoffs that have hit thousands of households. He even stated that he was with the traders and industrialists of Faisalabad to initiate a long march to Islamabad against the outages of gas and electricity.

We all know that not long ago, Faisalabad was a major contributor to Pakistan’s economy, especially in the export of textile to the world. Consequently, it provided employment to a large number of people associated with the textile industry. Today, the same commercial hub has been turned into an industrial graveyard, thanks to the government’s handling of the power crunch and particularly its discriminating attitude towards Punjab. However, the Chief Minister also gave the industrial community the assurance that Punjab would have its share of gas no matter what. Meanwhile, the increase in electricity tariff of three rupees per unit will only add fuel to the fire of the current situation. The point is that while with each day the duration of loadshedding is increasing, the government is jacking up tariffs, which is cruel to say the least. Consumers are resorting to UPSs, batteries and generators for their power needs, yet alongside they are being burdened by these frequent raises. And, of course, at the end of the day the increase in tariff also causes inflation, which immediately registers an increase in the price of the commodities of daily use, including food items.

In line with his promise, it is hoped that Chief Minister Mian Shabaz Sharif would assert his authority to get Punjab its due share. It is only criminal to cut the province’s share and divert it to other provinces merely because the federal government wants to settle scores with the Punjab government. In the days to come, a lot will depend on how industries are able to function and whether they do get their allocated supply of gas and electricity. Their shortages have created unrest in Punjab and as industrialists have warned, they will be leading a long march as well, which will further create problems for the besieged federal government.