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Tuesday July 16, 2024

Amid Gandapur’s protests: Sindh, Balochistan face more outages than KP

September last year, countrywide crackdown started against power theft after the public came out on the roads due to the inflated electricity bills

By Umar Cheema
June 21, 2024
Representational image of a bulb can be seen in this image. — AFP/File
Representational image of a bulb can be seen in this image. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: If noise created by Ali Amin Gandapur is taken as a guide, it appears and many tend to believe as if Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has been singled out for loadshedding spanning over protracted hours. The reality on the contrary is quite opposite to it.

Sindh comes first and KP is a distant third. Balochistan falls in between the two. The above-mentioned ranking is in terms of loadshedding which exceeds over 12 hours. And the cause is mass-scale power theft. As many as 198 feeders in KP, 605 feeders in Sindh and 540 in Balochistan are experiencing outages exceeding 12 hours. In Punjab, there is loadshedding but not at the above-mentioned scale given the fact that power theft is comparatively low.

Again, the areas affected by loadshedding in Punjab also include the constituency of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Kasur. There, it has been learnt, the duration of power outage is up to six hours. An official said the power theft has gradually increased again as the measures taken by the interim government to arrest this trend were virtually put aside after the installation of the elected government. Loadshedding of the longer duration came under the spotlight after KP CM Gandapur went to a grid station in Dera Ismail Khan and threatened to take over the control if outages lasted longer than 12 hours. His native district, DI Khan, is among those where power theft is more than 80 percent. In certain areas, for example in Bannu district, theft is up to 95 percent, according to an official of the Ministry of Power. While there is no effort to urge people to pay their bills, pressure is being applied to restore electricity for defaulters.

The outage is not district-wise, said an official. It is feeder-wise. In KP, for example, there are as many as 198 feeders where loadshedding duration is longer than 12 hours. In contrast, there is less to no loadshedding in Hazara Division, he said. Outage is done in the areas where theft exceeds 20 percent. Incidentally, Mardan city, which was made part of a pilot project to declare it free of power theft, has witnessed a reversal in this trend.

In October last year, Federal Secretary of Power Division, Rashid Langrial, visited the city to declare it free of loadshedding after power theft was brought to zero. Mardan together with Mirpur Khas were two districts chosen for the pilot project. Now, Mardan is back to its previous status as power theft has increased and with it loadshedding. Asked why the measures taken turned out so short-lived, an official said that the newly elected government has stopped following the policy adopted by the interim government.

In September last year, a countrywide crackdown started against power theft after the public came out on the roads due to the inflated electricity bills. The operation was started with full interagency cooperation. Right from the district administration to the police, FIA and revenue officials are at the beck and call of the power distribution companies in taking action against the culprits. Proceedings were initiated against the corrupt officials. However, the policy was reversed as the elected governments were put in place.