ISLAMABAD- The Federal Government has deferred the implementation of the current raise in power tariff and formed a parliamentary committee headed by Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervez Ashraf to challenge the calculations of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). The parliamentary committee would hold its first meeting today (Friday) on the issue of current raise in power tariff. Addressing a Press conference, Federal Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervez Ashraf said that NEPRA was an independent body to determine the power tariff for the power distribution companies and there were some doubts regarding the issue so the parliamentary committee was formed to challenge the calculations of the NEPRA. He said he apologises to the nation over power crisis. The minister asked the masses across the country not to pay the recent electricity bills till the parliamentary committee reached any decision in this regard. No surcharge would be charged from the masses on late payments, he announced. The minister also denied that the government had notified the 31 per cent tariff hike to recover the losses of the power distribution companies. In fact the government was to spend Rs 65 billion to subsidize electricity for the consumers during 2008-09, he added. Raja Pervez Ashraf further said that the NEPRA had recommended to the federal government to notify 64 per cent tariff hike and withdraw the subsidies for the electricity consumers but the government had not yet made any decision to the effect. Talking about the power shortage in the country the minister claimed that the government would make the country self-sufficient in power production within a very short time adding that the work on Basha Dam would be started next year. He said that coal reserves would also be exploited and an Independent Power Board had been formed to work on these reserves. He said that the reduction in global oil prices had not benefited the power sector as the current prices of furnace oil still stood at Rs 52000 per metric ton against the benchmark of Rs 30,000 per metric ton for Independent Power Producers (IPPs). The minister said that due to reduction in water releases from water reservoirs including Mangla and Tarbela, the country was facing 7000 MW to 7500 MW power deficits in the peak hours. He also said that thermal power plants of 1500 MW had been closed for the scheduled maintenance purpose. He said that Punjab and Sindh provinces have refused to take the water indent at present and Indus River System Authority (IRSA) was storing the water for the Rabbi crops. The minister said that IRSA would release additional water from the water reservoirs to meet the demands of Sindh and Punjab provinces for the crops from November 1 to help increase the hydle power generation, and to reduce load shedding. He said that global weather changes were also creating water shortage in Pakistan. He said that electricity growth was increasing by 8 per cent every year and no single unit had been added to the current power system for the last eight year. He said that gas power plants were also facing gas shortage as they were being provided only 30 MMCFD gas against the requirement of 330 MMCFD gas. He said that gas shortage was also resulting in 1000 MW power shortfall. He said that government had opened bidding for 1500 MW power and work had also been expedited on construction of 2250 MW power plants. He also pledged to end the load shedding by end of next calendar year. Online adds: Raja Pervez Ashraf said the recent rise in power tariff has been suspended. He apologised to the nation over power crisis. He said this while addressing a press conference here Thursday. He declared that old time would be restored from November 1.