Life in Ramzan has become unbearable with power cuts, even after government promises that there would be minimal load-shedding, and none during Sehri and Iftar hours. The outrage has caused Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif to admit failure and put his hands up; there is nothing the government can do. He said nine power plants were shutdown due to hot weather because of which 1300MW were not supplied to the grid stations. While one of the culprits surely is hot weather that hits Pakistan every year at this time and is hardly a new phenomenon, the other is circular debt. Asif said the circular debt had re-surged to around Rs.300 billion from Rs.280 billion just last week. Other sources suggest this figure is up to Rs.480 billion.

From the economy to agriculture, Pakistan’s policies are ad hoc. The country seems to be standing today because of its population and its sheer will to survive. While citizens can provide food and shelter for themselves and their families despite all odds and even with rising inflation, they cannot provide public goods like energy. This is a simple fact that leaves a majority of the country absolutely helpless. The country needs factories and offices to run so people have jobs. The country needs foreign investment than can create local jobs, not just trade routes for countries like China to extract resources and sell us cheap goods in return. Without solving the energy crisis, Pakistan is going nowhere.

Any power project that is started today will not be functional for the next three to five years. Energy projects are begun and abandoned behind the scenes, and Khwaja Asif invokes God’s help to get the country out of this mess, as though this is a page out of a novel on magical realism. It isn’t. It is an entirely self-created problem and the masses are paying in sweat and blood for it. If the power crisis is not addressed, the PML-N government will face protests from a disheartened, disillusioned and enraged public. On Sunday it was widely reported in the press that the Premier had “taken notice of and expressed annoyance at load shedding during sehri and iftar hours.” The Premier and his government might need to gear up for emotions a tad bit more powerful than “annoyance” from the millions of Pakistanis suffering through the days and nights, waiting still, to be rescued. It was on the force of this election promise that the PML(N) came into power, and it is on the same tide that we see it now receding. In the last few years, from Gilani to Raja Pervez Ashraf, to Sethi, to Sharif, the response of all governments has been of unfulfilled promises and blaming the system. Sirs, you are the system.