NOWSHERA/ PESHAWAR/ KOHISTAN:
After passing the blame back and forth for weeks, the federal and provincial governments finally decided to put heads together to end power cuts in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Centre and the federating unit have decided to form a committee; if committees were the panacea, the country would be free of all ills.
The decision came after State Minister for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali called on Chief Minister Pervez Khattak at the CM’s Secretariat, amidst violent protests across K-P, on Monday.
Minister for Energy and Education Atif Khan will head the team which will also include Abid Sher Ali, Minister for Health Shahram Tarakai, K-P energy secretary Ali Raza, two retired Peshawar Electric Supply Company officials and the company’s current MD. The committee is tasked with tabulating a contingency report.
According to a handout issued on Monday, Khattak urged Abid to ensure K-P receives its rightful share from the national grid and in return assured full cooperation on the provincial government’s part. It was also decided to finalise the MoU between the Centre and province over net hydel profit shares and adjustment of arrears next week in Islamabad.
Abid admitted to the presence of corrupt elements within Water and Power Development Authority, whose officials were accompanying the minister. He said the committee’s recommendations would be followed by the federal ministry. He also assured the completion of Nowshera and Mardan region grid stations in 12 months. “K-P should be given its 13.5% from the national grid. Consumers should not be victimised in the name of theft,” said Khattak.
Out on the streets
While Khattak, flanked by fellow cabinet members, was presenting his case before Abid and the latter was voicing his own reservations, residents of K-P were up in arms over load-shedding.
Residents of different areas including Taru Jabba, Khush Maqam, Trakha and Akbarpura in Nowshera took to GT Road and blocked it for two hours. They said Pesco provided electricity for only two hours at intervals every day. Protesters added low voltage had damaged almost all electric appliances in their houses.
Blocking all forms of traffic on the region’s most important artery was not enough for protesters in Taru Jabba who went a step ahead and attacked the Wapda office. They vandalised furniture and set office record and electricity bills ablaze. The protest ended only when the Nowshera district administration and the police successfully negotiated with the demonstrators.
Meanwhile Farida, a resident of Batkhela, was being rushed to Lady Reading Hospital in an ambulance but due to the blocked road died en route.
Kohistan’s residents also blocked the Karakoram Highway near lower Pattan area. The rally was taken out after afternoon prayers. Protesters held a sit-in on the highway and despite attempts from district administration officials, did not vacate the road till the filing of this report.
In June, protesters in Swabi had burnt down the Wapda sub-divisional office and also the office of an additional civil judge. Similar incidents of vandalism were reported in Charsadda where numerous protestors were charged under the Anti-terrorism Act for attacking state property. Several people were reportedly injured.
Pesco’s management claimed to have reduced power outages in the province.
According to Pesco DG PR Shaukat Afzal, as many as 209 feeders have been exempted from load-shedding out of 650 feeders – these are areas where line losses are under 30%.
Afzal said four hours of power cuts will take place every day in areas where the losses are between 30% and 40%,. Similarly, feeders with 40% to 50% losses will have six hours, 50% to 60% will have 10, 60% to 80% 12, 80% and above will have over 14 hours of power outages.
“Due to the severe heatwave that has engulfed the country, feeders trip frequently and remain overloaded. Referring to the areas where protests were carried out on Monday morning, the DG said they were high loss areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 7th, 2015.