EDITORIAL : A self-inflicted debacle - Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Source: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\06\19\story_19-6-2012_pg3_1

EDITORIAL : A self-inflicted debacle
Another energy conference is planned for today. Another Rs 8 billion has been released to PEPCO for distribution to fuel-starved powerhouses. Another order is issued to the Ministries of Power Petroleum and Finance by the president to bottle the genie gone berserk in the shape of a severe power shortage rising to 8,500 MW and largely affecting Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There is nothing new in the steps taken so far by the government to overcome the power crisis that has compelled the suffering people to come out on the roads and in their frustration and anger attack government buildings and the houses of sitting MNAs. Terming the violence as being backed by the PML-N does not absolve the government of its mismanagement, policy failure and botched up planning. Similarly, it is no longer possible to blame the failures of the previous government to escape responsibility for the worsening mess. Four years should have been enough, if not to completely eliminate then at least bring the power crisis down substantially. According to an estimate, nearly Rs 12 million worth of losses have been incurred in a day due to the violence that saw people attacking banks, WAPDA offices, police stations, petrol stations and public and government vehicles. Joining the bandwagon, the All Pakistan Traders Association has announced a nationwide campaign and strikes from June 23 if load shedding continues at its present level. The attack in Khanewal on the house of an Advisor to the prime minister and in Chichawatni on the house of a sitting PPP MNA is sending a message that the government is losing its grip. This is not a good omen for it, especially in an election year.

Not surprisingly, the government has been trying different options to handle the power issue. Naveed Qamar, the former minister for power, was shown the door for his inability to deal with the crisis. Though it is too early to expect any wonders from the new minister, Ahmed Mukhtar, probably still adjusting to his new role, the argument that even a layman knows what ails the power sector, in any case calls for swift action. It is the shortage of fuel that has restricted generation by the powerhouses. The money needed to buy sufficient fuel is not available. Circular debt, as is well known, is a web that has tangled up the power generating houses so badly that sporadic injections of funds have failed to overcome it. Six powerhouses are completely shut down. Hubco and Kapco are generating half their capacity, 15 grid stations are not working. According to official estimates, the power sector needs around Rs 3 billion a day to buy fuel. Unfortunately, it is collecting only Rs one billion from consumers. Distribution companies have failed to meet government-set targets of recovery by 50 percent. Power theft adds its own contribution to the power shortage.

This crisis is a self-inflicted debacle. It is a policy failure. When the Supreme Court took up the Rental Power Plant case, the verdict mentioned absence of policy in cutting such a flawed deal. The question has arisen: who heads the power sector? Despite the prime minister’s directive to supply 207 million cubic feet gas a day to the power sector, the SNGPL and SSGPL express their inability to do so since they do not have the gas. How can such an important sector be subjected to such ad hoc decisions? The government has to come out of its fire-fighting mode, make a plan and then adhere to it. The exodus of foreign investment and the dwindling of domestic industry and commerce primarily because of the power crisis could lead the country to a serious economic meltdown.*

SECOND EDITORIAL : Goodbye Fauzia Wahab 

Ms Fauzia Wahab’s passing away on Sunday in Karachi has evoked shock and sorrow from the PPP as well as across the political divide and from society at large. Her sudden and shocking demise because of post-operative complications has raised many questions about the care she received in her last days. Ms Wahab leaves a husband and four children, to whom we can only extend our condolences. Along with a rich legacy of social and political activism, Ms Wahab will be remembered as one of the PPP’s most outspoken spokespersons. Being part of Pakistan’s biggest political party with the largest women’s representation, the 56-year-old Ms Wahab rose to prominence due to her advocacy of human rights, and an avid yet rational voice of the party. Following the manifesto of the original founders of the PPP, her main focus always remained the deprived. Her first entry in politics came during her studies in the early and mid-1970s. Ms Wahab joined the PPP during Benazir Bhutto’s first tenure. She later served as the Information secretary of the party in Sindh. Working in close liaison with Benazir, she was later elected an MNA. She was appointed central information secratary of the party during the PPP’s present tenure, a role she fulfilled with dedication and distinction. Ms Wahab’s name became synonymous with devoted, passionate and loyal adherence to her party’s policies and the vocalisation of that on numerous TV shows where she became a regular presence. Invoking strong sentiments in her audience, there was no one — her admirers or critics — who remained immune to her oratorical prowess. The PPP and all those she fought for — the minorities, the persecuted and the downtrodden — will remember her for her unwavering focus and dedication to her party and her causes.

As her well-wishers and many amongst the general public call for a proper medical investigation into the post-surgical complications leading to her slipping into a coma, resulting in her premature death, it will bring into focus the less than satisfactory medical care in the country. In the meantime, let us all unite to bid adieu to one of those few Pakistani women who dared to live according to her principles and made a significant mark in whichever field she touched. *

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