Misleading by the government is never a good idea; it builds distrust and a lack of faith in governments. When falshoods are told to courts it makes matters still worse. The federal government, it seems, has been guilty of both these offences in the case of the power tariff rise agreed as part of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Whereas the Supreme Court was told while hearing the case regarding power tariff rises, that consumers using under 200 units a month, who fall under the lowest income brackets, would be spared the raise, an increase of some 40 per cent has quietly been passed on to them by power companies. This has essentially been done by hitting all consumers who have Time of Use meters, imposed on them by companies, with a new off-peak rate of Rs12.50 per unit, up from Rs8.90. Similarly, the peak hours electricity rate has been increased to Rs18 per unit from Rs13.99 for domestic consumers.
Consumers who use smart metres but consume less than 200 units a month are charged Rs18 per unit during peak hours, same as consumers who use more than 700 units a month. Consumers falling under the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company have already been hit with bills under the new tariff, while claims made by officials that this was an error that would soon be rectified have so far not materialised.
This amounts to deceit and deception of the worst possible kind. The prime minister himself had given his word that consumers falling in the low consumption categories would be spared. He and his government now need to explain to all of us, and to the apex Court, why this has not happened. Promises made by governments need to be kept. This, of course, holds even truer when they affect so many lives. The Supreme Court had tried to protect the people. The government, it seems, is far less willing to do so, demonstrating greater loyalty to the IMF than to citizens and the Court. This will not go down well at all. Indeed, it marks a blatant violation of all that is moral and ethical.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2013.