(CTN NEWS) – Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has instructed relevant authorities to develop “tangible measures” aimed at reducing the surge in electricity bills and to present this plan within the next 48 hours.
These instructions were issued during an urgent session held at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) in Islamabad, which he called for a day prior in response to nationwide protests against the inflated electricity bills.
The previous day saw widespread demonstrations in various cities across the nation, continuing to the present day. These protests were sparked by the remarkably higher electricity bills attributed to a significant upswing in the national average tariff.
These circumstances led Kakar to convene an immediate meeting to address the situation.
Prime Minister Sets Cautionary Approach for Electricity Bill Solutions
A subsequent round of the meeting is scheduled for (Monday), as conveyed by a statement released by the PMO.
The statement also indicated that during today’s session, the interim prime minister was provided with a comprehensive briefing regarding the elevated electricity bills for the month of July.
بجلی کے بھاری بِلوں کے معاملے پر میں نے کل وزیر اعظم ہاؤس میں ہنگامی اجلاس طلب کر لیا ہے۔ اجلاس میں وزارت بجلی اور تقسیم کار کمپنیوں سے بریفنگ لی جائے گی اور صارفین کو بجلی کے بِلوں کے حوالے سے زیادہ سے زیادہ ریلیف دینے کے حوالے سے مشاورت کی جائے گی۔
— Anwaar ul Haq Kakar (@anwaar_kakar) August 26, 2023
In his address to the assembly, Prime Minister Kakar stated, “We will approach this matter cautiously to avoid any actions that could adversely affect the nation. Our efforts will be aimed at alleviating the burden on the national treasury and facilitating the consumers.”
He emphasized that it is unacceptable for high-ranking officials, including the prime minister, to continue benefiting from free electricity funded by the taxes paid by the public, while the citizens face challenges.
He subsequently instructed the relevant ministries and departments to furnish details of those officers who are currently enjoying complimentary electricity.
Asserting his identification with the ordinary citizens, he committed to implementing measures to curtail electricity consumption at both the PM House and the Pakistan Secretariat. He even mentioned, “If it becomes necessary to switch off the air conditioner in my room, so be it.”
Regarding the upcoming session, the prime minister conveyed his intention to engage in extensive consultations with the chief ministers of the provinces to discuss the exorbitant bills for July and deliberate on energy conservation measures.
Prime Minister Calls for Anti-Theft Strategy and Reforms in Power Sector
The PMO statement revealed that he also urged electricity distribution companies to present a comprehensive strategy to combat electricity theft.
Furthermore, the prime minister directed the relevant authorities to formulate short-, medium-, and long-term plans for reforms within the power sector and urged their expedited submission.
Subsequently, he conveyed through a separate statement on platform X that the interim government would strive to offer maximal relief to the populace while adhering to its designated responsibilities.
The meeting was attended by Interim Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar, Caretaker Commerce Minister Gohar Ijaz, Interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi, Adviser to PM Kakar Dr. Waqar Masood, along with the Power Secretary.
Chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority, Chairman of the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority, and other pertinent officials, as stated by the PMO press release.
On Saturday, the interim government formulated a strategy to discontinue subsidized electricity benefits for Distribution Companies (Discos) and government officials in grade 17 and above.
Interim Information Minister Solangi verified to Dawn that the provision of complimentary electricity units to Discos officers would also be terminated, and the “proposal to revoke the provision of free electricity for officers in grade 17 and above will be presented in the upcoming cabinet session.”
Nationwide Protests in Pakistan Demand Relief from Soaring Electricity Bills
According to a report by ARY News on Monday, individuals all across Pakistan are engaging in protests against the escalated electricity bills, exerting pressure on the government to provide relief.
The demonstrators are insisting that the government discontinue the practice of providing free electricity to prominent figures and instead alleviate their financial burden, as the bills they have received surpass their salaries.
Protest rallies were organized in various areas of Karachi, where people, accompanied by their children, expressed their dissatisfaction with the government’s actions through banners and placards. They voiced their grievances over the deteriorating quality of their lives.
In locations such as Ayesha Manzil, Korangi, Five Star Chowrangi, Yaseenabad, and Labour Square, citizens took part in protest gatherings. Some individuals, visibly angered, resorted to setting their electricity bills on fire as a symbol of protest.
The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) have both declared their intentions to hold protest demonstrations against the inflated electricity bills.
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