Sharif faces power cut over unpaid bills

April 30, 2014 - 7:35:56 am

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s power ministry yesterday said it would cut off supplies to major offices, including the prime minister’s, in a crackdown on customers not paying their electricity bills.

Pakistan’s economy is crippled by persistent blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day partly because influential families, politicians and bureaucrats do not pay for their use while the poor often cannot afford rising utility bills.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to fix the power cuts as one of his priorities. But Pakistan’s minister of state for water and power yesterday said the campaign to eradicate non-payment would now target his own office.

“Electricity to all state institutions and individual consumers who haven’t cleared their dues will be disconnected,” Abid Sher Ali said in televised remarks. “There will be no discrimination.”

The minister, who is from the ruling party, said he had ordered the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company to disconnect power to the President House, Prime Minister’s Secretariat, the parliament building, the official residence of the chief justice and many other offices.

There was no immediate comment from those affected. It was also unclear when the power ministry would cut off supply and whether government offices would be spared if they paid up.

Ordinary people struggle without electricity for 12 to 18 hours a day in the blistering heat of summer, but up to now little action has been taken against recalcitrant bureaucrats working in air-conditioned offices.

The Capital Development Authority, Islamabad’s civic agency which is responsible for paying government offices’ bills, owes the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company (IESCO) 2.36 billion rupees ($24m).

The President’s Secretariat, which is the head of state’s office and residence, owes 28 million rupees, while lawmakers’ residential block, Parliament Lodges, had to pay 20 million rupees to IESCO.

Power company officials said that electricity supply to more than 100 government offices had been disconnected over non-payment of bills.

The disconnections are not limited to electricity. The state-run gas company has also disconnected natural gas supply to the prime minister’s offices.