The song remains the same: PTI faces familiar predicament on addressing power cuts

Party lawmakers announce impending protests directed at federal govt.

Our Correspondent July 14, 2013
Jamaat-e-Islami, among other political parties, had launched protests against the Awami National Party-led provincial government for excessive power cuts. As the JI is now part of the provincial coalition government it faces the same criticism. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmakers announced on Sunday they would launch protests against prolonged power cuts affecting the province.

Much of the criticism directed at the Awami National Party (ANP) throughout its tenure was for its supposed failure to take control of a so-called switch, controlled by Islamabad, which would put an end to power outages in the province. Now, about two months into power, the PTI government seems to be succumbing to the same predicament as the ANP.

During the 2008 elections, the ANP promised to “strive to make power a provincial subject as it had been before”. However, when the party was unable to deliver, this promise only served to marshal public anger against the ANP-led government.

As the power cuts increased in the country each passing year, K-P also continued to face prolonged power outages. The ANP’s rivals lambasted the party, and even went as far as claiming it was an ushering in era of no electricity by metaphorically linking the lack of power with the party’s lantern symbol.

In June last year, the ANP in a last ditch effort tried to organise an all-parties conference to discuss the issue. Unfortunately, however, a majority of the mainstream political parties preferred to stay away from any such arrangement. Clearly, they could not risk buoying the ANP so close to elections.

The centrality of power outages remains an issue in provincial politics as K-P generates a major chunk of the country’s hydel power and takes a share of 58% from the total production.

Going the PML-N way?

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak has time and again told the provincial assembly the province had a shortfall of 1,000 megawatts. Khattak contended if the province received its full share of electricity, power cuts could be brought down by around two to three hours a day. Khattak also informed lawmakers he talked to the Ministry of Water and Power to ensure K-P was given its due. Finally, he had claimed if the issue was not resolved the matter would be taken to Islamabad in the form of a protest.

An expectant public did not give much trouble to the party during May and June in spite of a substantial absence of power. With the number and frequency of the cuts increasing, however, protests seem almost inevitable.

What seems interesting about the PTI’s announcement is that the party has probably taken its cue from Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, who on several occasions used similar tactics against the Pakistan Peoples Party-led federal government. Now it seems the PTI is giving the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz a taste of its own medicine. One can argue the PTI-led provincial government has to deliver on solving the public’s problems instead of protesting on the roads and inciting public unrest. Such cosmetic measures may divert public attention for a short time, but will ultimately yield nothing concrete in the long run.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 15th, 2013.