The prime minister was questioned incessantly about his reply to the Supreme Court on writing a letter to Swiss authorities, due on July 12, but the premier downplayed the queries and chose to focus on what he stressed was his ‘top priority’: the energy crisis.
Speaking to the media outside the National Power Control Centre after a high-level meeting with ministers, Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf on Thursday said that his government would remain focused on the power sector as it is a major challenge faced by the nation.
Immediate mitigation of this crisis, he stressed, was his government’s top priority for the time being. Playing down the importance of the order to write a letter to Swiss authorities seeking the reopening of graft cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, he said: “The prevailing energy crisis is my prime focus instead of ‘anything else’… it’s high time to address the biggest problem we are facing.”
The effort to remain silent on the query of the Supreme Court, which he has two weeks to reply to, was clearly considered.
The ministers who attended the meeting included the ministers for water and power, petroleum, information, Kashmir affairs and defence.
Citing his past experience as the minister for water and power, the prime minister said he understood the challenges in the energy sector. While he insisted that there had already been an improvement in load-shedding, he was quick to add that he did not want to make any tall claims. He also didn’t bite on a query on a timeframe for the resolution of the power crisis – pointing out himself that he had already been criticised for making claims in the past, and didn’t want to repeat that mistake.
Regarding Punjab’s share in power distribution, the premier said he had seen some advertisements in the national press regarding complaints against unequal power distribution. “There should be no discrimination on power outages of which Punjab complains. We are striving to cope with the crisis and want to provide relief to the masses,” the premier assured. The prime minister said that he had directed the water and power ministry to ensure uniform load-shedding throughout the country. However, he clarified that load-shedding was being done on the basis of “allocated quota” and “proportionately.”
After the prime minister’s departure from the venue, Minister for Water and Power Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, once in the running for premiership, was ignited by the media queries regarding his non-selection. He said that, if Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid chief Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain had played any role against his selection as prime minister, it was a move against the people of Gujrat – because if he had become the premier, he would have done a lot for his people.
Some respite for Lahore
Meanwhile, PM Ashraf’s words may have some truth to them after all as Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) chief, Sharafat Ali Sial announced eight hours of load-shedding for the provincial capital two days ago. Sial also announced on Tuesday that Lahore will now face an hour of load-shedding after every two hours. His claim remained a claim, however, as one hour power shutdowns after every hour are still being observed, except during the nights.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM OUR CORRESPONDENT)
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.