Federal, provincial govts owe DISCOs Rs24b in dues

Female lawmaker Krishna Kohli chairs Senate session on women's day

Our Correspondent March 08, 2019
Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan. PHOTO: TWITTER/ Omar Ayub Khan

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Power Omar Ayub Khan on Friday informed the Senate that electric power distribution companies (Discos) have been directed to recover the outstanding dues of Rs42.453 billion, owed by the federal and provincial governments, by the end of the current calendar year.

The minister, in his written reply, told the upper house that the total outstanding amount owed by the provinces to the power companies amounted to Rs31.3 billion. Punjab still had to pay Rs6 billion, while Rs8 billion were owed by Sindh, Rs1 billion by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Rs14 billion by Balochistan, he added.

The minister said the power generation companies (GENCO) had sustained total losses of 0.079 billion units of electricity during the last two years. The reasons for loss of electricity were that units of GENCOs are old and have low design efficiency due to which these were mostly kept in standby mode during the last two years. He said the losses were technical, as auxiliary consumption mainly remained intact when in standby mode, resulting in loss of electricity.

The minister said that Genco power plants, which are operated on furnace oil and gas, have been forced to shut down during the last two due to limited availability of the said fuel, resulting in loss of units of electricity. He added that certain Genco power stations such as Northern Power Generation Company Multan, Steam Power Station Faisalabad and Fluidized Bed Combustion Lakhra had been declared defunct or had been permanently shut down but necessary auxiliary was kept operative as per requirement of the units that had been shut down, he explained.

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He added that no individual was responsible for loss of units of electricity, and therefore no action had been taken by the Gencos.

Regarding renewable energy projects, Omar said that the government was active on that front while the Saudi crown prince announced to invest $4 billion in energy power projects including those of renewable energy during his recent visit to Pakistan. He said 1800 megawatts (MW) were being acquired from nuclear power plants in the country, while lauding the country's nuclear safety standards.

Furthermore, he said that Rs2.5 billion would be invested to acquire aerial bundled cable to upgrade the electricity distribution system while the Asian Development Bank (ADB) would spend $500 million on the development and upgradation of Peshawar Electric Supply Company.

The Senate was also informed that Rs20 billion were spent on the maintenance of nuclear power plants in the country in a year.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Ali Muhammad Khan informed the house that Chashma Nuclear Power Project Unit 5 (C-5), having capacity of 1100 megawatts, would be built at a cost of Rs492 billion in Kundian district, Mianwali, and expected to be operational in August 2026.

Female Hindu lawmaker chairs session

Krishna Kumari Kohli, the first-ever Thari Hindu woman to be elected to Pakistan's Senate, chaired the session of the upper house on occasion of International Women's Day.

Before starting the session, Kolhi expressed her gratitude for being given the chance:  "I consider myself very fortunate today to be sitting on this seat. I salute Pakistan and I salute Pakistan's people and I am proud to be a Pakistani and only Pakistani."

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader from a village in Tharparkar is the first-ever senator from a scheduled caste. The 39-year-old hails from Nagarparkar, a village in Tharparkar where women are to date deprived of basic facilities.

Women's day resolution

The Senate unanimously passed a resolution to pay tributes to women on occasion of International Women's Day and to take concrete steps for women empowerment. Senator Nuzhat Sadiq from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz moved the resolution adopted by the House.

"The house commends the role of Pakistani women in building up the nation. The importance of women's day should be realised and the house recommends that concrete steps should be taken for women empowerment," it stated.

Later, the female senators spoke on the resolution and paid tribute to women for their contribution towards democracy, human rights and other services to Pakistan. They also spoke about violation to women rights and demanded to change mindset for equal rights and end of discriminatory attitude towards women.

Protest walkout

PPP Senator Sherry Rehman led an Opposition walkout from the session over exclusion of the image of Benazir Bhutto from the government advertisement published on account of women's day. She demanded an explanation for the government for the exclusion and then led the walkout.

Leader of the House Shibli Faraz acknowledged the contribution of the late Benazir Bhutto after which the chair instructed him to get a clarification from the information minister regarding the issue.

NAB progress

Minister of Law and Justice Farogh Naseem informed Senate on Friday that 1,298 cases were under progress in the regional bureaus of National Accountability Bureau (NAB). The house was informed that 967 of the cases of NAB were at the stage of inquiries, while 331 cases were at stage of investigation.

During the period from 2014 to 2018, out of 1,413 cases, NAB had concluded 61 investigations through plea bargain under section 25(b) of National Accountability Ordinance 1999 after the approval of concerned accountability courts.

The law minister said that more than 95 per cent of cases had been completed without using plea bargain, which was contrary to the impression raised in the question of Senator Sirajul Haq. Only 4.23 per cent cases were completed through plea bargain during the last five years from 2014 to 2018.