With general elections around the corner and the government’s failure in providing respite from long hours of load shedding even in the holy month of Ramadan, Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf on Wednesday lost his temper with the bureaucratic failure and gave a final warning to the “babus” holding the fort in three most important bureaucratic branches of the country, asking them to come up with homework done into the cabinet meeting after Eid to get the country out of power crisis or be ready to face the music, Pakistan Today has learnt on authority.
However, no accountability was made of any of the ministers involved with the matter since long, reflecting that the PPP leadership was holding its policy of not holding politicians accountable and accountability would always exist for ‘others’. The federal cabinet met here at PM’s Secretariat to discuss the energy crisis and other important issues with Prime Minister Ashraf in the chair.
A source in the federal cabinet said during a briefing by the secretaries for ministries of water and power, finance and petroleum on the power situation in the country, the prime minister, who was himself moderating the meeting, took up the matter and put specific questions to the bureaucrats in a strong-worded discourse.
“When a minister cut Water and Power Secretary Zafar Mahmood short and argued why the shortfall had not changed despite rains across the country during the last week, the secretary could not come up with a satisfying answer. The prime minister intervened and said he himself had experienced running the ministry and could judge the bad performance of the bureaucracy,” the source said.
He quoted the PM as saying that despite the fact that all schools, colleges and other offices of the government and private organizations had remained closed on Independence Day on Tuesday, the demand-supply gap had not been reduced. The source said when the finance and petroleum secretaries tried to clarify with lame excuses, the situation once again triggered an exchange of harsh words between ministers and bureaucrats.
“Minister for CADD Nazar Gondal asked why the state machinery had failed in collecting outstanding amounts from the consumers. He said that instead of making recoveries of billions of outstanding amounts, all ministries wanted was more and more funds to be stuffed into the system, making no change in the state of affairs,” the source added.
He said Ashraf also jumped into the debate and said the government had pumped Rs 200 billion as subsidy into the system with no improvement in recoveries. “Ashraf also said that the circular debt was still not improving despite pumping billions into the system as no recoveries were being made. He directed the concerned ministries to get assistance from law enforcers to get recoveries system effective,” the source added. The PM also constituted another committee comprising secretaries of ministries of water and power, petroleum and finance to hold daily meetings to look into the issues of power production, distribution and recovery, the source added.
Judges and generals: The source said the cabinet also unanimously agreed that the judges and generals should also be included in the list of the government employees to make their asset details public every year.
“When Establishment Secretary Taimur Azmat Osman submitted a notification asking all bureaucrats to make their asset details public, the prime minister directed him after a brief debate that all government employees who were drawing salaries from the national exchequer, including judges and generals, should submit their respective details of assets to the government, which would be made public every year,” the source added. Briefing reporters on the cabinet meeting later, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira said a special cabinet session would be held after Eidul Fitr to deliberate on the electricity crisis and measures to reduce line losses and improve power distribution system.
He said extra efforts were needed to improve the distribution, generation system of electricity and reduce line losses. “The government knows well that the people of the country are angry over scarcity of electricity. Extra efforts are underway to overcome power crisis in the country,” he said. On power outages during Sehr and Iftar, he said the demand of electricity increased by 1000MW during Sehr and Iftar. He admitted that the recovery of electricity bills was low in some areas, including Balochistan and FATA due to poor law and order.
To a question, he said the Balochistan committee needed more time and it would finalize its recommendations before the next cabinet meeting. Criticizing Sheikh Rashid, he said he had used unparliamentary language against the country’s top leadership. Kaira said a sane person could not respond to him in the same language.
“Sheikh Rashid is a confused person and people of Rawalpindi have rejected him since he left Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. To a question about Hindus migrating to India, he said a committee set up by the prime minister would soon present its report to the cabinet. He said after the finalization of report the cabinet would implement its recommendations. He categorically said there were no differences within the Pakistan People’s Party and difference of opinion could not be termed differences.
The information minister said to a question about making mandatory the declaration of assets by government employees that cabinet and establishment secretaries had been asked to present a report to the cabinet about making mandatory the declaration of assets by the persons taking salary from national exchequer. He categorically denied the extension of tenure of assemblies, saying the elections would be held on time. Kaira said the federal cabinet had so far regularized the services of over 30,000 contract and daily wage employees working in various departments. He said the meeting was informed that the process of regularization was still ongoing and the committee constituted by the government in this regard had already held 16 meetings under the chairmanship of Religious Affairs Minister Syed Khursheed Shah. The minister said the cabinet had also approved the July 24 decisions of Economic Coordination Committee.