ISLAMABAD - Senators on Tuesday alleged that WAPDA, KESC and other gas utility companies were fleecing consumers through “fast metres”.
Senator Tahir Mashhadi, Prof Khurshid Ahmad, Begum Najma Hameed and others said during the question hour in the Upper House that WAPDA, Karachi Electric Supply Company, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Sui Southern Gas Company were overcharging consumers, as the newly-installed electricity and gas metres record more units than actually consumed. Senate Chairman Farooq Naik referred the matter to the concerned committee of the House to probe into the apprehensions of the parliamentarians.
Defending the recent increase in petroleum prices, Minister for Water and Power Syed Naveed Qamar said if the government withdrew taxes on petroleum products, the budgetary deficit would further increase to Rs 200 billion. To an adjournment motion on the increase in prices of gas, CNG and POL, as well as the shortage and load shedding of gas, he said the government fixed the prices of petroleum products per fluctuation in the international market but with appropriate taxation.
“We cannot change the equation… the government is charging just Rs 20 per litre on diesel and Rs 23 per liter on petrol as tax,” he said. He said if the government wanted to give subsidy on petroleum prices to provide relief to the public, it would have to compromise on the development budget. He said increase in petroleum prices internationally and change in the rupee-dollar parity were the main reasons for increase in petroleum prices.
Commenting on the gas shortage, the minister said mistakes made in the past led to energy crisis. He told the senators that over 200,000 applications for new connections were pending with the SNGPL and SSGC and in the next two years, the number of applications would swell up to two million. He justified the increase in gas prices, saying it was necessary to meet the demand-supply gap adding that otherwise, all vehicles would shift to CNG. Earlier, the senators rejected the increase in petroleum prices and asked the government to immediately withdraw the decision. They asked the government to devise a comprehensive strategy to pull the country out of the energy crisis instead of going for day-to-day policies. Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri said the government must withdraw increase in prices, as it was a burden on the poor people. Prof Khurshid Ahmad called nepotism the main reason for the energy crisis. He said friends of President Zardari were given charge of public sector entities who pushed them to the brink of collapse.