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EDITORIAL: Hopefully Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s promise to end power load-shedding across the country by May Day banks on more than just administrative orders that, in such cases, can at best be carried out for a few days before ending right back at square one.

It would also be very unwise to divert power from industry to households to soothe angry nerves from unprecedented power cuts during Ramazan. Such an arrangement can also last for only so long, because you can’t have businesses up in arms either. It’s another thing if the government is secretly working on ways to get more oil and gas to produce more electricity, of course, but in the absence of such welcome news a good idea might be to begin rationing whatever electricity we do have in the grid.

Encouraging the bulk of daily commercial activity to be carried out during hours with maximum daylight, for example, and getting big functions like marriage ceremonies to be held in the afternoon instead of late night, is a good plan to save whatever power we can under the circumstances.

But even if something like this can be worked out in the next couple of days, would it really be possible to end all power cuts all across the country so quickly? Leaders should be extra careful when making such claims because the public has a very strong and long collective memory when it comes to being deprived of its rights in this manner.

Pakistanis are no strangers to announced as well as unannounced power cuts, no doubt, and presidents and prime ministers have been breaking promises of ending them since forever, but some lines haven’t usually been crossed. People have generally been spared this additional burden during Ramazan, for example, but that has changed now. Because this year the holy month came just as spring was making way for summer and that’s precisely when load shedding makes its annual comeback as well. And all of a sudden we were faced with many hours of blackouts every day; something that has continued right through Ramazan.

It’s also very unfortunate, though not entirely unexpected, that it’s led to a fierce war of accusations between PML-N (Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz) and the previous ruling party PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) with each holding the other responsible for the suffering of the people. Yet it’s the sitting government, at the end of the day that must answer for such things.

And even if the previous setup was really responsible for much of this mess, it is still up to the incumbent to work out a timely and affordable solution that will let people turn their lights back on. Surely, nobody needs to be reminded just what sort of harm the power situation must be causing to industry and therefore the economy.

PM Shehbaz Sharif is known to be a man of action. Yet solving this problem will take more than shuttling energetically between ministries and issuing strict orders and making tall promises. One can only hope that he and his team of experts worked the whole thing out before making the May 1 claim. He’s already ordered natural gas from fertiliser and captive power plants to be routed to the power sector for timely payment of funds, etc., so he is definitely dotting all the Is and crossing all the Ts that he can.

To be fair, it wouldn’t be right to lay the blame for power failures at the new government’s door just yet. It’s only been around a few days and the previous administration is doing everything in its power to disrupt and disturb its work, especially when it comes to the economy, as much as possible.

The counter argument is that they’ve been in power off and on for the good part of the last three decades, and shouldn’t need the usual adjustment period that a change of guard requires.

Regardless, though, they call the shots and they are expected to find answers. May will come in a few days and it will be clear whether the new PM has really done some homework in this short time or if he was just shooting in the air.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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