Petroleum Minister of State Mudsadik Malik has kicked the loadshedding can down the road and said on a television programme that there would be an end to loadshedding by July 15. That is not very reassuring for consumers sweltering in the heat, even if it was solid, Senator Malik has announced dates before, and those dates have seen only a fresh date. Not only do consumers face the heat, but also the prospect of losing their jobs, as the economy, already reeling under the impact of heightened fuel prices, faces power shortages of upto 20 hours a day cut off in rural areas.
The crisis was created by the misdeeds and miscalculations of the ousted PTI government. Whether they acted deliberately or not, the effect has been crippling for the economy. During the height of the covid-19 epidemic, when LNG prices were down to $3/mmBTU, the government made no long-term contracts like the one with Qatar. The Qatar deal was the subject of government persecution, with Shahid Khaqan Abbassi and Miftah Ismail both facing NAB prosecution over it.
Further mishandling was of CPEC power projects, which caused unfortunate delays. Thus the Karot Hydropower Project (720 MW) was pushed from this February to this month, and only recently came online, while theThar project (1214 MW), using indigenous coal, has gone from this May to next May. Apart from delays, there were also problems caused both by circular debt and rupee devaluation, not to mention failure to arrange timely stocks of RFO.
However, the iniquities of the PTI government will not allow the present government to escape more than part of the wrath of the consumer. While the loud PTI claims that the ‘imported government’ has brought increased loadshedding are clearly tendentious, and self-serving to boot, the consumer is unlikely to ignore them entirely, and the PML-N might find its greatest fear, that of some of the mud sticking, comin true at the hustings. With the first major test by-polls in 20 Punjab constituencies later this month, the PML-N cannot afford any slip-ups.