As the country stumbles through a smothering heatwave—leaving over a thousand dead in Sindh – officials make the most of their air-conditioning offices, after hours.
The comfort of cool offices is also sought at a time when the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa faces a severe power crisis. Last week, thousands took to the streets in various districts against prolonged outages. Some of those protests came down to violence, while others were placated with promises of relief.
Read: Blistering heat: City sells Rs1b worth of ACs during heatwave
One step inside the Civil Secretariat after office hours, and the power crisis fades into obscurity. Insiders familiar with the matter said air-conditioners are running at these offices well beyond closing time.
“Employees are expected to leave their offices at 2pm during Ramazan,” said an official at the Civil Secretariat. “However, it has come to our attention many of them stay inside their offices. Dozens of ACs installed in each government department run until the late evening.” The actions of some government employees have negated the symbolism enacted at the assembly earlier. The chief minister’s request to the K-P Assembly speaker to switch off air-conditioners during the budget session this week had created a stir, a positive one.
Beat the heat
The practice has become fairly common in almost all departments at the secretariat following the heatwave.
Read: Power Outages: PTI calls for province-wide strike
“Employees are seen sitting in their air-conditioned offices,” said another official at one of the government departments.
Nonetheless, the parking lot at the Civil Secretariat remains jam-packed till well after 3pm as very few officials leave the office at closing time.
According to the official, his department has at least 45 ACs which are running until 6pm when the employees leave.
He added, “The department pays between Rs20,000 to Rs30,000 every month to meet the fuel requirement of power generators.”
The Express Tribune learnt the government issued a notification on office timings during Ramazan to every department.
“Employees are expected to work from 8am to 2pm,” said an insider. “However, over 80% of the staff sits in their offices to pass time until iftar.”
Read: Body to investigate causes of blistering heatwave
Another official said these employees were not the only ones to freeload off the government. “Their guests also remain with the officials until evening,” he said. When contacted, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Secretariat Employees Coordination Chairman Abbas Khan said he has only heard that employees remain at their offices after 2am but has not personally witnessed it.
“Employees should not violate rules and regulations,” he said. “They must avoid turning office spaces into hujras.”
According to Khan, the administrative wing of every department should ensure employees comply with the rules set by the government. “Only officials of the finance department are allowed to stay until the late evening,” he added. However, spokesperson for the K-P government, Mushtaq Jadoon, was not available for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2015.