PESHAWAR: There are some villages dotting the fringes of the city which suffer almost day-long power outages. Their living in the dark, however, does not draw as much as even attention as the occupants are known for their rather open opposition to paying bills.
The newly-elected chairman of Masho Khel village council Malik Amjad said, “There was no electricity in our village these past three days; it got to a point that there was no drinking water in the area.” Anyone who has suffered power outages knows electricity is essential to make water pumps work and Masho Khel has been without power for three days.
He said Masho Khel, Mashogagar, Suleman Khel, Sheikh Muhammadi, Sheikhan and Mustherzai villages faced long, sweltering days with equally long outages. “When the electricity supply does finally resume after two or three days, our people get to use it for perhaps an hour before it lights out again – barely enough time to start the tube wells which supply houses with potable water.”
According to the Masho Khel councillor, “This is possibly the worst situation we have had to face as we do without electricity for days at a time.” He believed Peshawar Electric Supply Company was of the view that since villagers were not paying their bills, Pesco had no option but to turn to unscheduled load-shedding.
Bribes or bills?
“I think when you cut off the power supply for three days you cannot call it ‘load-shedding’,” he said. “Each Ramazan, [villagers] gather and collect money to pay Pesco employees a bribe and each year these employees take millions from these villages and disappear,” claimed Amjad.
“Our people are willing to pay bills if these people (Pesco) do not include penalties and taxes in the dues. But when you receive 200 per cent of the real bill as taxes and penalties – it will scare villagers away,” he said. Many of the residents have turned to cheap Chinese solar panels instead, however, the councillor insisted they could not run tube wells with solar panels and this was creating great hurdles for the villagers.
Sheikhan elder Akbar Khan said they had electricity for just one hour after every two or three days – a deprivation which invited little to no attention by any authority. “It is unfortunate that around 15 years ago all these villages paid their bills regularly but now—since one and a half decade—no one is willing to pay their bills because of Pesco’s attitude,” added Khan. “Why isn’t the government taking notice of the situation?”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2015.