The solution is simple. But…
The resumption of contacts between Lahore and Islamabad and Pakistan and India, both are breaking news of this year. In a respect, the news of contacts between Lahore and Islamabad is even bigger than that of those between Pakistan and India. There wasn’t enough estrangement and mutual discord in the backdrop of the Delhi meeting as is the baggage and backdrop for the Lahore-Islamabad liaison.
The leaders of Lahore and Islamabad did not let the golden opportunity for snark to let slip. Such was the environment that PM Gilani, who normally knows his poetry, recited some verses incorrectly. The out-of-meter verses are below:
Humain daraatay hain taareekyon say
Jinn kay dil main roshni ki tamanna nahin
(Those who scare us of darkness
Have themselves no hope of light in their hearts)
Whatever this string of words is that came out of the PM’s mouth, this couplet is not a shaer. I will not accept that even if an executive ordinance says so.
The intricacies of poetic diction and prosody aside, let’s get back to the discussion at hand. The contact that was resumed after a long item was done so to deal with the monstrous problem known as electricity loadshedding. The four chief ministers, Governor KP and the prime minister along with their team of experts had long deliberations and finally found the ‘solution’ they were looking for: to overcome the shortfall of about thousands of MW, let’s save hundreds of MW. And to save these few hundred, let’s play havoc with the day-to-day civilian life. Obviously, office timings will change. Weekly holidays will increase. Also, school timings will have to change too. Factories will have to make adjustments to their timetables too. And despite doing all this, there would be little to no respite to loadshedding or any alleviation of any consequent day-to-day difficulties. So if resources cannot be distributed equitably, then let deprivation be distributed so.
But this conference had a solution which could entail distribution of light and not darkness. According to this simple formula, the resources given to the provinces by the federation were well excess of their needs. So much so, that some of the provinces couldn’t spend them even if they wanted to. If the provinces were to return Rs 50 billion from this money for three months to the federation to deal with the circular debt, the problem of loadshedding could end. The plan was elegant in its simplicity. It entailed no extra burden on the provinces. All that they had to do was not take 50 billion in payables that the federation gives to them in lieu of paying off the circular debt. Just a simple write-off to get rid of this gargantuan circular debt within one, two, three months.
According to my knowledge, Pakistan’s powerhouse can generate 25,000 MW of electricity, given that they have the requisite fuel. Whereas our electricity needs are 16,000 MW. Our experts talk of importing electricity from India. What they forget is that if we sort out this problem, we ourselves are in a position to produce almost 9,000 MW in surplus which we can sell to anyone. But we ourselves are insistent on becoming buyers rather than sellers. And this is not just buying; it is politicking on the public’s difficulties. God knows when we’ll stop this kind of politics which thrives on gaining mileage out of the public’s difficulties.
Anyways, the question remains why the energy summit accomplished this feat of saving mere hundreds of megawatts after playing mayhem with the daily lives of citizens? Even if the programmes agreed upon in the summit is followed to a tee, it will save very little electricity. Loadshedding will go down from eight hours to six or seven hours. What, I ask, is the point? This is like offering somebody 50 loaves of bread and they return one saying that they aren’t a glutton. This is what our government has done. They have made themselves out to be magnanimity personified in curtailing loadshedding by a whopping one hour or so. They have given this one hour to ‘live it up’. But they have also concomitantly ordained such measures as closure of all markets at 8 pm, closure of all offices for two days etc etc.
And what to speak of darkness. It shall be the lot of the entire country. Equitably; but by what measure of equity, no one knows. If we look at Pakistan’s experts, then they might come up with some genius plan to distribute electricity equally. They might even decide to divert watts from the industrial units of Sindh and Punjab to KP and Balochistan so that the provinces can have equal amounts of electricity. And Shahbaz Sharif who was clamouring for equal distribution will throw his hands up in despair as in efforts to curtail loadshedding, the province will have lost even more electricity. You never know of these bureaucrats; they might come up with a magical ‘solution’ that might worsen the problem.
The solutions that were devised at the energy conference are in some ways worse than the problem itself. They’ll just address one aspect of the entire problem while creating a host of other issues. The best solution to ending loadshedding is the aforementioned one. The money being asked of the provinces will be no strain on their kitties and the federation will pay off this money in good time. This little cooperation for the time being will give massive relief to the entire nation. It will solve the issue of loadshedding – within a week. Because as soon as this solution is implemented, and all power generators are paid their first instalments and ensured that the problem of the circular debt is on its way out, they will start functioning at full capacity immediately as we have the required fuel for that. According to my understanding, there is more than enough for three months.
Then why do the rulers not want to end loadshedding? Maybe it’s because they don’t want the public to be spoilt? Or maybe it’s because this formula came from Ch Shujaat…
The writer is one of Pakistan’s most widely read columnists.