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Sunday July 14, 2024

Power struggle

PTI lawmakers in KP have forcefully restored electricity supply to several areas by storming grid stations

By Editorial Board
June 22, 2024
KP Chief Minister Sardar Ali Amin Gandapur chairs a cabinet meeting on April 24, 2024. — Facebook/Ali Amin Khan Gandapur
KP Chief Minister Sardar Ali Amin Gandapur chairs a cabinet meeting on April 24, 2024. — Facebook/Ali Amin Khan Gandapur

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur is insisting on ultimatums, this time warning the Shehbaz Sharif-led federal government that things could get out of hand if KP’s loadshedding is not reduced to a maximum of 12 hours. Power cuts have become frequent and longer in some areas, leading to protests in KP. Since power supply is a matter the federal government deals with, PTI lawmakers in KP have forcefully restored electricity supply to several areas by storming grid stations. Things have come to such a pass that the Peshawar Electricity Supply Company (PESCO) has registered a case against PTI MPA Fazal Elahi for barging into a grid station. On Friday, PTI workers had forcefully entered the Rehman Baba grid station under the leadership of PTI MPA Fazal Elahi, and turned the closed feeders back on. They might have had inspiration for this act; on Wednesday, CM Gandapur had stormed a grid station, restoring power in some areas in Dera Ismail Khan. PML-N leaders have been quick to call this just another version of PTI founding chairman Imran Khan’s ‘civil disobedience’ call from his 2014 dharna.

The KP-centre chasm only seems to be widening. Things are not helped by Gandapur alleging that the federal government is punishing the people of KP through loadshedding as some kind of "revenge". However, experts say that the federal government resorts to excessive loadshedding in areas where electricity bill recovery is low and/or there is power theft. KP has a very high number of power theft and line losses, leading to low recovery of bill payments. This is not something new and has been going on for over two decades now. Excessive loadshedding isn’t just a KP-specific issue in any case. Almost all through the country, cries of outrage are now becoming louder as people have to deal with an oppressive summer, disturbingly high power tariffs, and disappearing power. Last month, there was a resolution passed by the Sindh Assembly against three power supply companies with a demand to reduce power cuts and improve their performance. However, instead of taking law into their own hands, Sindh lawmakers protested on the floor of the house and passed a resolution against power supply companies. This is how civilized governments work.

It is unfortunate that Gandapur storming a grid station and threatening the federal government is fast becoming typical Brand PTI. From attacking parliament and PTV back in 2014 to the May 9 incident last year, these are not political tactics used in liberal democracies. Nor is attacking grid stations an act of revolution. Today it is PML-N in the centre, tomorrow it could be the PTI. If such actions are applauded today then any party that has a government in any province will feel free to storm federal holdings. An amicable solution would be to sit down with the representatives of the federal government again, like the KP CM did earlier, and resolve this issue. Electricity is a complex issue and power theft has to be dealt with. The provincial and federal government must sit together again and plan how to make these recoveries while ensuring that there is no excessive loadshedding. Nothing will move forward without some negotiations, and it is imperative that hooliganism is condemned by everyone in a government position – regardless of which party they belong to. A chief minister ignoring laws and indulging in such behaviour does not bode well for democracy and good governance. It is on the federal government to figure out its power plan. And it is on the chief minister of KP to ensure that the people in his province are not encouraged to give in to any kind of mob action. It is on all governments – centre and provincial – to finally sit down, talk to each other, come up with a plan to take Pakistan out of the very dark days it is in – both literally and metaphorically.