With a reported power production capacity of over 20,000 MW, average production ranges between 11,000 to 15,000 MW, a long way away from what the national grid actually ought to be producing. The shortfall seems to be duet to rampant corruption is taking place in oil and gas companies around the country. Documents from the Federal Investigation Agency’s inquiry into the matter reveal that both local and multinational oil and gas companies have embezzled unrecovered funds worth at least Rs86 billion; the actual figure of total funds embezzled is closer to Rs138 billion.

During the chilling season the government has been advising people to dress warmly, and has issued warnings against pneumonia. While this is all very well, the root cause of any sickness is the lack of provision of gas and the solution provided has to be better than bundling up in blankets and sweaters. To hear that corruption has eaten away into a much needed natural resource at the night of winter is painful news.

Pakistan’s energy problem is manifold – but Rs86 billion worth of missing funds are likely to leave more than just a dent in any sector, and the power sector is obviously not impervious to this either. The problem is clearly more serious than the interest currently being shown by the government – the energy policy of the government in 2013 at the onset of PML-N taking over the reins of government included important provisions such as preventing power theft and line losses due to corruption and other inefficiencies, but if billions are being siphoned off, there is not much the government has achieved.

The national grid is already in disrepair, there is a need to shift from costly geothermal plants to other, more sustainable means of producing energy, and to top it all off, this massive corruption scandal is clearly leading to another vast difference in what the government is paying for versus what the consumers actually manage to get. The only way to counter this is to ensure that these audits also lead to identifying the people responsible, and ensuring that the law is brought down hard to deter future offenders from this gross disservice to the country – stealing from the energy sector means causing irreparable damage to the economy, not to mention the people losing out as a direct result; either in terms of losing money paid in the form of taxes or power not being supplied where it is being paid for.