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Saturday April 13, 2024

Country can’t afford power theft amid bleeding economy: PM

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked the chief secretaries of all the provinces and their IGs to help Discos

By our correspondents
March 29, 2024
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. — APP/File
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif here on Thursday said the country cannot afford electricity theft at a large scale amid the precarious and appalling economic situation, stressing to immediately make the strategy for upgradation of transmission lines and reduction in line losses on a sustainable basis.

He stated this when he was briefed about the massive electricity theft across the country that made the whole power sector unviable and unsustainable. The premier was briefed that the Power Division has saved a net amount of Rs57 billion through an anti-electricity theft drive that began in September 2023. The authorities have also recovered Rs40 billion in the current billing.

According to a top official of the Energy Ministry who was a part of the briefing to the premier, the authorities have arrested 45,777 unscrupulous elements in Punjab involved in electricity theft, 1,250 people in Sindh, 5,121 in KP and 181 in Balochistan. During the anti-power theft campaign, 350 officials of various electricity distribution companies (Discos) have been suspended.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked the chief secretaries of all the provinces and their IGs to help Discos in the anti-electricity theft drive so that the power sector could be made viable on a sustainable basis. During the briefing, it was suggested that at the division and district levels, the anti-theft task force should be given monetary incentives from the amount to be recovered from those involved in the electricity theft.

During the briefing, the prime minister stressed a sustainable and permanent system that would not only help recover the amount from those who steal electricity but also keep an eye on them. More importantly, technology should be introduced into the system to help erase electricity theft.

Those officials of Discos who are involved in helping people in electricity theft should be punished and to this effect, required proceedings should be undertaken against them with an immediate effect.

The prime minister also asked the authorities to start the proceedings for the privatisation of public sector electricity generation companies (Gencos). He also asked for a complete plan for the solarisation of tube wells in Balochistan along with directions to initiate the projects for installing smart meters on transformers under the public sector development programme (PSDP).

The premier also directed to appoint monitors on the loss-making feeders along with the direction of less loadshedding in areas where losses are well contained.

During the briefing, it was informed that electricity theft has already been declared a cognizable offense through amendment in the Pakistan Penal Code (0) 462 through an ordinance.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif along with federal ministers visited the Naval Headquarters here on Thursday and appreciated the services of Pakistan Navy to safeguard the maritime interest of the country despite limited resources.

During the meeting, matters pertaining to the Regional Maritime Security milieu and operational readiness of the Pakistan Navy were discussed. Naval Chief Admiral Naveed Ashraf apprised the prime minister on roles, capabilities and future modernization plans of Pakistan Navy.

The prime minister especially appreciated the professional response of Pakistan Navy to foil the recent terrorist attack on Naval Airbase, Turbat. The premier stressed that a strong economy holds the key to meet all the challenges faced by the country. Towards the end, the prime minister also visited the Command Operations Centre of Pakistan Navy.

Earlier, a detailed briefing was presented by Deputy Chief of Naval Staff (Operations) on the maritime environment, challenges being faced by Pakistan Navy and response to meet the challenges.

The naval chief thanked the prime minister for his visit and reposing his confidence in the navy. The prime minister also laid a floral wreath at the Shuhada monument and afterwards was introduced to the Principal Staff Officers of Naval Headquarters.