A few months into the PML-N’s tenure it became apparent that their bold claims of ending power cuts in a short span of time were only fantastic election promises. Now the killer heat wave in Karachi has exposed this failure in the worst possible manner. The outrage is in part precipitated by the lethargy and helplessness of the Sindh government and its utterly useless “dharna” outside K-Electric, following a protracted blame game.

On Thursday morning, during a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy, a visibly incensed Nawaz Sharif suggested that an ‘energy emergency’ be imposed, whereby Public Procurement Regulatory Authority’s (PPRA) rules on government purchases and transparency be suspended so that the government can speed up construction of power plants. The idea seemed to stick to the Sharif brothers despite opposition from within the committee, which argued that doing so would invite legal challenge and allegations of corruption. Right now the fate of the ‘energy emergency’ hangs in the balance, yet it has thrown up interesting questions.

Suspension of PPRA rules would considerably speed up the process – the government won’t have to wait 6 months to buy components – but is this enough of an advantage to compromise on transparency? Despite the shortening of the time span, construction, operation and distribution from these power plants will still take years – the earliest plants are expected to be operational by 2017; providing no immediate relief to the public, nor relief in the summer of 2016, which is expected to be similarly hot. Even if shortening the procurement process helps, doing it by using the executive powers of the Prime Minister to suspend transparency rules will be the wrong way to go about it; especially since the PML-N government is implicated in allegations involving favourably awarded contracts to companies owned by the Ittefaq Group – owned by the Sharif family. Instead using parliamentary powers to streamline the procurement process would not only provide accountability, but also legitimacy. Furthermore, this step should be the last in the line of changes made to institute better power management. The government could start by taking smaller, less glamorous steps; stop energy theft, insure a uniform fee collection regime, perform maintenance on existing power plants and supply chains, resolve legal conflicts between different components the power sector and perhaps divert funds from infrastructure projects – such as the metro rail – toward the more exigent problem of power. The power crisis requires drastic steps, but that does not mean due process should be sacrificed.