Hundreds of employees of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) set off for Islamabad to stage a protest outside parliament against the expected privatisation of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco). Employees and members of the hydro-electric labour union oppose the sale of power distribution companies.
Led by the union’s president, Abdul Latif Nizamani, the workers started their journey on the Rawalpindi-bound Pakistan Express. Wapda employees from other districts will join them in Rawalpindi on April 6. “The government has prepared a plan to sell the power distribution companies via a phased privatisation mechanism,” said Nizamani, “with even the profitable Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) on the list.” He warned that workers reserved the right to deepen their protests if their march towards parliament was impeded.
The union president accused the ministry of water and power of rampant corruption, pointing to the purchase of electricity at exorbitant rates as well as expensive electricity production. “The privatisation of any power distribution company is uncalled for,” he maintained. “What is needed is the reorganisation of Wapda,” he said, referring to the pre-1993 administrative structure of the company.
The existing financial crunch in the power sector could be easily overcome if the companies cut unnecessary spending and got public sector organizations to pay their bills. Privatisation of power distribution companies would lead to losses in the long-term.
Nizamani said that the employees were ready to take drastic steps in order to fight for their demands. “Countrywide strikes and an overall cut in the supply to the national grid is an option if our demands fall on deaf ears,” he cautioned. The union has also made plans to continue their protest outside parliament indefinitely until their conditions are met.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 5th, 2011.
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