Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday waived the recovery of a one-time Rs9.9 per unit electricity surcharge from consumers using up to 300 units and gave a go ahead for generating 10,000 megawatts of solar energy to reduce dependence on the costly imported fossil fuels for generating electricity.
The premier extended the exemption in fuel charges adjustment (FCA) for consumers who have used up to 300 electricity units, saying around 75 per cent electricity consumers will get relief in their August bill.
The decision to abolish the surcharge comes days after the government exempted consumers using up to 200 power units amid protests over the inflated electricity bills.
The premier announced the decision while addressing his party’s legislators in the capital.
In his speech, PM Shehbaz lambasted former premier Imran Khan over his government’s performance, saying that the previous government’s policies put the country on the path of destruction and the incumbent government’s “tough decisions” have saved it from default by securing the IMF bailout package.
Surprisingly, PM Shehbaz resorted to criticising Imran by calling him “liar”, “deceitful”, “cheater”, “anti-Pakistan”, saying there was no example in the history of Pakistan the way Imran was nourished. He said Imran first sold watches of Toshakhana and then submitted the amount in the national kitty, adding that no one took notice of it.
Shehbaz said there was no doubt left after the leaked audio of former finance minister Shaukat Tarin that Imran had “conspired” against the country by writing a letter to the IMF in a bid to “sabotage” Pakistan’s deal with the global lender.
During his speech, Shehbaz blamed the previous government for the prevailing crisis, saying the coalition government faced a number of challenges after coming to power.
“The oil prices have reached historic high, floods hit the country and the previous rulers [the PTI government] also dug a hole for us by decreasing the prices of fuel products.”
Shehbaz while addressing the members of the national and provincial assemblies said that the government was making every effort to provide maximum relief to the flood-hit people, adding that it will continue to do so and help people rebuild their lives.
Meanwhile, the people eagerly awaited a written order of the Lahore High Court (LHC) as it was reported that the LHC had verbally barred the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO) from collecting the FCA, aiming to provide relief to millions of consumers across northern Punjab.
The petitioner, Advocate Rizwan Elahi, told The Express Tribune that the written order from the LHC Rawalpindi bench was expected to be released on Friday, hoping that it would bring relief for all the electricity consumers instead of the users consuming only up to 300 units.
For the last several days, the people across Pakistan resorted to protests against the government’s decision to approve massive increase in power charges for bills in August for both domestic and industrial power consumers.
Amid protests over the inflated electricity bills, the premier admitted that relief on up to 200 units of electricity bills was not sufficient “as the middle class has been eroded due to inflation”. PM shehbaz admitted that even the drivers’ bills roughly amounted to Rs20,000, saying that the government was lucky to get face-saving as the people would have been justified had they taken to the streets.
On the decision to discourage importing fossil fuels and substituting it with solar energy, Shehbaz said that as part of a plan to generate 10,000MW solar power, the government decided to call pre-bid conference of all stakeholders next week.
“Govt buildings & tube wells running on diesel will be shifted to solar [power],” PM Shehbaz tweeted. “Power plants operating on diesel, coal & furnace oil will be partially replaced.”
The PM said that a major chunk of electricity is produced from imported fuel whose prices have gone up in recent months, adding that the country’s National Solar Energy Initiative was aimed at substituting costly energy with cheap solar power, which will provide massive relief to the people and save precious foreign exchange.
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