Karachi’s power woes

Blame can and should be apportioned to both sides.

Editorial May 25, 2011

Even after spending nearly a month enveloped in darkness there is no light at the end of the tunnel for Karachi’s suffering citizens. There will likely be no clear winner in the ongoing dispute between the management of the KESC and its workers but, as temperatures soar to about 40 degrees, the city’s residents have lost. Blame can and should be apportioned to both sides but the workers’ union has erred in taking its activism too far. Without electricity, Karachi cannot function and by refusing to fix faulty cables and other technical problems, KESC workers have only added to the loadshedding. Even more troubling are allegations that the union has now formed mobs targeting KESC’s ability to fix problems.

The root of the problem lies in the sacking of 4,000 KESC employees. In this economy, every job lost is a tragedy but for years the electricity company has been overstaffed, leading to record losses. As long as KESC was a public entity, the losses were eaten up by the government. However, they soon mounted to the point where privatisation was the only viable option. Even then, it was understood that streamlining the workforce was an essential part of necessary reforms. Bitter a pill it may be, but it has to be swallowed. In the interests of the public, the union must end its strike and allow Karachi to function again.

The government’s role as an honest mediator also leaves much to be desired. At a hearing earlier this month, the Senate laid all the blame at the feet of the management. Many senators openly called for KESC to be renationalised, a move that, based on past experiences, will do nothing to improve the power situation. The involvement of the government in talks between the management and the union has not led to any breakthroughs. At the very least, the government needs to provide protection to KESC installations and arrest those attacking them, even if they turn out to be union members. Karachi’s record-breaking heat is bad enough; we don’t need to also set records for power breakdowns.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2011.


Roger Kravonsky | 10 years ago | Reply After witnessing first hand Karachi -its my opinion that the city is in dire need for elevated services! I've spent 2 years in Pakistan - and can say without a doubt that the city seems to be plunging into a nightmarish situation - as an outsider - the city's continual decline is very apparent. Islamabad seems to be in a much better shape And the citizens are paying the prices. Its incredible just across the borders in India - their cities are undergoing a sea change - Mumbai is beginning to seem more and more like Dubai with its insane SuperTall construction! Lots of slums - but its heartening to see the Indian government's resolve in cleaning them up - Ive never witnessed so many slum development programs. Its a pity the Pakistanis are not learning civic development as their neighbors. Even Dhaka seems to be growing by leaps and bounds - odd since they seem to be suffering from the same problems as Pakistanis
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