The countrywide protests continued against the inflated electricity bills on Saturday and Sunday. The people came out to the streets in Lahore, Rawalpindi, Peshawar, Talagang and other major cities in the country to register their protest against the levy of additional taxes that had made impossible for the poor to pay that amount from their pockets which are already emptied by the skyrocketed inflation in the country. Thousands blocked the roads, burnt tyres, torched electricity bills and chanted anti-government slogans in most parts of the nation.
There had been unprecedented price hikes in the prices of common use commodities and over billing in the head of domestic and commercial utilities including electricity, sui gas, and water supply. Meanwhile massive telephone bills had been received by the telephone users during the past few months by the government owned service providers. Unfortunately, bulk amounts had been levelled to common customers other than government taxes and institutional Surcharges under the garb of adjustment, and capacity payments which caused great outrage in the public. This type of governance and unlawful money collection had never been seen in any nation in the region nor could it be tolerated in any civilized nation in the world. According to the reports, the government raised the basic price of electricity by 15% along with massive tax increases over the past one year that pushed the electricity out of the reach for the poor, whose electricity bills exceeded their monthly income. Meanwhile, hefty payments, hundreds of units free of cost electricity, and gas bills incentives for the Ministers, advisors and employees of WAPDA, OGDCL, PIA and other departments have become a real impediment in revenue generation of government entities. At the same time, heavy line losses, and theft of electricity and sui gas intensified the problem at this moment of national economic emergency.
Realistically, domestic service delivery and unceasing circular debt has become an unresolveable puzzle in Pakistan. The governments are compelled to burn precious foreign reserves and hard earned national resources in resolving that quandary instead of introducing pavitol regulatory reforms in concerned departments to treat this chronic ailment on a permanent basis. The most suitable solution of this persistent dereliction is privatization of government entities which no political government could ever implement due to political reasons and pressure from employees union, cartels and corrupts. Ironically, the government institutions always slapped their fiscal loss on the public instead of addressing their institutional lapses, so the bureaucrats could enjoy luxurious government service without any check till the end.
The state of Pakistan resembles a huge overloaded boat, with diminishing reservoirs of fuel, food and drink, facing serious risk of survival from violent sea and ruthless pirates sitting inside the system. What the public is going through because of electricity bills, the PM’s publicity stunts make no sense and further hurt the robbed masses. The power producing companies demanded another Rs. 122 billion from the government in the form of capacity charges, who will and from where would arrange that amount. Everybody knows the government can not change electricity and gas tariffs as fixed with the global lender. However, the regulator can provide some relief to the public by putting a check on unlimited incentives of the ministers and government employees, curbing institutional corruption and controlling theft/line losses of the concerned department if desired. The caretaker setup has a limited mandate of holding elections. The interim rulers must stick to their one point agenda by arranging free, fair and timely elections, that would be a great service to the nation on their part.