Power droppages are always painful, but they are more painful in the hot weather. With temperatures on the Indus Plain going well past 40°C, power breakdowns are particularly painful. There have been none of the street protests of the past, but if the expressions of anger by ruling-party MNAs, and that too of KP, where the PTI has now been in office since 2013 are anything to go by; the consumers’ cup is close to overflowing. The government is already beset by a number of problems, and power breakdown protests are something it should dread even more. More ominous is the fact that the disgruntled members were not buying Energy Minister Hamad Azahar’s explanation that it was all the previous government’s fault.
That explanation is based on the assumption that the previous government did not invest in enough power generation, or that it signed contracts for expensive generation. Actually, the country is no longer facing a generation shortage. The problem now is that the distribution network is not able to provide existing consumers with power, and breakdowns are taking place because distribution equipment is too old. While previous governments made no investment on distribution, being too busy enhancing generation, the present government has also not made any investment in this sector, even though summer rolls around every year, bringing with it a surge in demand, which puts the distribution network under tremendous strain.
It may be too late for this year, but the government can turn the breakdowns of this year to advantage by ensuring that they pinpoint the areas of greatest concern, and make sure that the winter and spring are spent ensuring that they do not happen again. The consumer is not concerned who is responsible for not allocating funds for generation, or whether a power outage is because of a generation or distribution problem, he just survives without any cooling device except perhaps a handheld fan, and he spews venom against WAPDA,, the provincial government, and the federal government. This might not be fair, but if he remembers his agony at the hustings, the government will pay the price.