The national assembly was to start its proceedings at 4 pm Tuesday. It was a day reserved for private initiatives in legislation and a heavy agenda, comprising 101 items, was set for the sitting. But we have to wait for more than an hour for the required number to assemble.

Right in front of the majestic building of our paralysed-looking parliament, however, legislators representing the Mutehidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), an ally of the Imran government, were staging a protesting picket. Many of this party’s prominent activists, led by the mayor of Karachi, Wasim Akhter, had also come to Islamabad from Karachi to furnish the feeling of a ‘respectable crowd’ for the protest.

K-Electric, a privately run company enjoying complete monopoly for supplying of electricity to the most populous city of Pakistan, was the target. Since the start of the ongoing session of the national assembly on last Wednesday, almost every member of the national assembly from Karachi had ceaselessly been whining over the lack of electricity in their city. Furiously, they kept recalling that in spite of massively increasing the rate of a unit of electricity K-Electric had not been supplying it to consumers, for unbearably long hours.

With the advent of   monsoon

rains, its transformers had begun to trip as well. Many deaths also occurred due to electrocution. Omar Ayub Khan, the minister of energy, never looked really sympathetic. Like a broken record, he rather kept holding the previous governments of “looters and plunderers” for the ongoing misery of Karachi. With a very thick skin, he also refused to set any alleviating timetable.

Asad Umer, a know-all pretending minister, instinctively discovered that the arrogant conduct of his junior colleague was annoying and alienating most MNAs from Karachi. He took the floor to proudly own his deep connection with Karachi and promised to personally intervene to find SOS solutions.

During the past weekend, he also rushed to Karachi and persuaded many activists of his party to end their picket outside the headquarters of K-Electric, with the firm commitment that federal government’s emergency assistance to this company had at least managed that there would be no “unannounced load shedding from Sunday” and “soon” the remaining problems would also be resolved. K-Electric has yet to deliver.

Meanwhile, NEPRA, the regulating authority, also held a lengthy ‘public hearing” to pacify the helpless consumers last week. Really tough and bullying questions were put to the Chief Executive of K-Electric there. Heavy hints were also dropped to convey the message that in larger public interest the federal government couldeventually takeover the said company and hefty fines would be imposed, if it failed to improve its delivery.

The Chief Executive did not sound apologetic during that hearing for a moment. His data based presentation rather attempted to build a forceful case for promoting the story that the federal government delayed to move on its demand for furnace oil and gas. That crippled the generation capacity of K-Electric. From the national grid, additional supplies were furnished for sure, but the system installed to carry the electricity to consumers could not manage the added load.

During the federal cabinet meeting of Tuesday, the electricity-connected chaos in Karachi was also discussed. Instead of announcing any firm measures for resolving the crisis, Asad Umer was again assigned to find solutions. Another meeting on the same issue is now scheduled for Thursday. But I don’t expect substantive relief.

Since 1988, the MQM had been behaving like the “sole spokesperson of Karachi.” During the election of July 2018, its bluff was eventually called and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrek-e-Insaf (the PTI) surprised many by surfacing as the formidable alternative to the MQM from that city. Yet, the politically hardened managers of the ‘defeated’ outfit cunningly preferred to wait for ‘better times’ and to prepare them for future-battles rather sought the PTI patronage while joining its government.

The same managers have now realized that the PTI MNAs were finding it extremely difficult to face their recently cultivated ‘vote bank’ due to long hours of mass-scale load shedding in Karachi. The time was ripe to start working for retrieving the lost territory. The protesting picket, staged outside the parliament building Tuesday, was a solid expression of the said attempt.

Political parties hardly feel any shame when behaving blatantly hypocritical. Yet, the MQM must think twice before audaciously exhibiting its ‘bleeding heart’ for the pains of Karachi these days. The government-run Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC) had been privatized during the days of General Musharraf. As the minister of privatization, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh had negotiated its terms; since 2019 the same wizard has now been ‘reviving the economy’ for the Imran government.

The MQM had remained the most pampered political outfit during the days of General Musharraf. Even after his vanishing from the power scene in 2008, the same party managed to keep Karachi under its tight command and control after striking a deal with the PPP government, until 2013.

While re-discovering its love for Karachi, the MQM must explain to simpleton like me that when the terms for the privatization of KESC were being negotiated, what kind of ‘input’ came from its representatives in the government to protect the long- term interests of the Karachi-based consumers of electricity. In the same context, the same party never appeared actively moving during its five-year-long arrangement with the PPP government, which worked from 2008 to 2013.

The fact remains that “our representatives” hardly care when the governments rush to ‘privatize’ any government-run business in the name of efficiency. They recklessly abandon their responsibility to ensure protection of the long-term interests of average consumers, when the terms for privations are being finalized.

The same ‘representatives’ also have no role to oversee the conduct of ‘regulators.’ The so-called ‘technocrats’ run the show there. Thanks to deliberate looking dereliction of duty, the regulators rather facilitate companies like the K-Electric to gradually consolidate their hold as invincible monopolists.

Instead of staging the laughable protests, the MQM legislators should rather utilizetheir influence and clout to introduce and enforce laws that empower ‘public representatives’ to check the ruthless gluttony for profit and rent seeking.

Both the houses of parliament also have standing committees to oversee all things connected to governance. Often, I seriously wonder as to why we need “autonomous regulators” in the presence of these committees. Even if some justification is there, the same committees should also be vigilantly watching the conduct of ‘regulators’ as well.

But our politicians have lost the capacity to even recognize the fundamental issues, related to all facets of governance. Point scoring is the name of the game these days. And at the outset of Tuesday sitting, Faisal Vowda, a vocal minister from Karachi, stood to drum the message that the PPP was primarily responsible for the ongoing electricity crisis in Karachi. The current owners of K-Electric took control during the days of Zardari-Gillani government. Instead of being vigilantly watched, these owners were rather pampered by the said government, with long-term commitment of apparently undue favors.

Vowda was obviously trying to get even with Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the PPP Chairman. Addressing a press conference in Karachi Monday, the PPP leader had aggressively described Arif Naqvi, the owner of K-Electric, as “the ATM of the PTI.” The said gentleman is now facing a serious trial for allegedly committing massive ‘financial crimes’ in the UK and the USA. The main objective of Vowda was to convince the world that the said gentleman was rather a favorite ‘friend’ of the PPP and the PTI had nothing to do with him.

I simply fail to fathom that even if we bought the story told by Vowda, almost blindly, how would it help the millions in Karachi to get sufficient and uninterrupted supply of electricity to their homes and businesses.