Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif’s reaffirmation of his resolve to go after the gas and electricity thieves with the big stick sound like a clarion call to end the menace. He was particularly perturbed about the ‘untouchables’ against whom he urged stringent action. It was comforting to hear him say that all those companies where theft is found to be going on the owners should be arrested. It is with determination of the sort that something as uncontrollable and endemic can be restrained but if words alone were needed, the theft would have ended a long time ago.

And surely it is hard to control it especially when our law enforcement agencies are themselves rotten and prone to such things as considering theft of electricity as a pardonable offence. But still it is in the realm of possibility. In this day and age it is quite a sad reflection on the state of technological expertise of all the departments concerned that they cannot figure out a mechanism or a software with which they can conveniently switch off the connections of all such users. And if it is done it would hence allow the authorities to feed that same amount of commodity to regular consumers. And so far as the sluggish and corrupt officials within the energy sector are concerned who lack the guts to go for the arrests or other tough measures what can be immediately and easily done is to arrange for a system of oversight that does not leave them free to shirk the orders of the Chief Minister. This is an effective way of discouraging the thieves and the like.

But a serious worry is again our system that pertains the way how the officialdom operates, which obviously includes the lower judiciary and the police. When a gas thief is caught red handed, he can always pay a bribe and get away with the crime; these loose ends within the system makes it easier for those with the brains and money to know how to twist it to their purpose. Hence, we see that the malady has become so endemic that all that one can do is to make calls and more calls each week while in reality the action that is needed is missing.