The cornerstone of Nawaz Sharif’s campaign in 2013 was the promise to eliminate load shedding of electricity in two years. With 10 hours of load shedding in Karachi and 12 on average in Lahore, rally after rally, the Sharif brothers took the stage and vigorously promised to alleviate the public of the crippling energy shortages, garnering passionate applause. PML-N blamed the previous government of deliberately increasing power cuts in Punjab and supported massive street protests throughout the country. However, well into the fourth year of PM Nawaz Sharif’s term, load shedding has still to be tackled and hours remain as bad as those seen in 2012 under the PPP government.
Empty campaign promises are part and parcel of Pakistani politics but as the summer heat intensifies the public, who voted for the PML-N in droves, will inevitably wisen up and question the true level of competency of the current government.
Empty campaign promises are part and parcel of Pakistani politics but as the summer heat intensifies the public, who voted for the PML-N, are questioning and rebuking their parliamentarians over not having electricity. Whether Panama will bring down Nawaz Sharif may seem contestable, the lack of electricity and the high tempers over it, right now do not bode well for the ruling party. Nawaz which once posed lack of electricity as a question of incompetency for the PPP now faces the same questions. The last couple of weeks saw aggressive questions and hashtags #MariamLightChaliGai throughout the social media.
Nawaz Sharif has now started to respond to this pressure and has convened three meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Energy just this month. The Ministry of Water and Power secretary Younis Dagha and additional secretary Omar Rasool have been sacked to show the government’s seriousness concerning the energy crisis. Now, the Prime Minister has directed the Ministry of Water and Power to take measures to ensure minimum load shedding during the month of Ramadan.
It is highly unlikely that the government will be able to come up with a viable plan to meet the requirement now shortfall 7,200MW of energy, which as recently as April 18, they had estimated the shortfall to be only of 2,500MW. Consequences of this mismanagement look dire if we take the current political scenario into context. The opposition which is still busy talking about Panama and corruption has yet to capitalize on talking about the energy issue. But it offers them more arsenal as they start campaigning for the upcoming elections.
Southern Punjab, where the heat is most intense in the summer months and where the load shedding reaches 12 hours during the summer months, will be a key battleground where the opposition
The government’s blundering regarding the energy issue might debilitate their political standing in the upcoming elections, forecasted by the ongoing social media campaign against the government: #MaryamLightChaliGai.
— Farhan K Virk (@FarhanKVirk) April 19, 2017
— Athena (@ManagingMankind) April 18, 2017
Southern Punjab, where the heat is most intense in the summer months and where the load shedding reaches 16 plus hours during the summer months, will be a key battleground where the opposition, especially the PPP will try to wrest control from the PML-N and Shahbaz Sharif’s Metro Bus project in Multan may prove to be inadequate incentive for the voters.
There are reports that many of the IPPs are not operating at all or not operating at full capacity due to circular debt, a challenge the government has not been able to address effectively during the last four years. In addition, the solar plants, including those set up in the Quaid e Azam solar park Bahawalpur, installed by the government to full hullabaloo are not even producing even one-fifth of their stated capacity.
The actual requirement to solve the energy crisis involves the complete overhaul of the national energy infrastructure which includes updating of the transmission system, converting the currently outdated grid stations to Smart Grid Stations, and building new solar, wind, and hydel projects. However, the current Minister of State for Water and Power, Abid Sher Ali, has been otherwise preoccupied, with defending the Prime Minister on the Panama scandal. No systematic plan has so far been put forth by him to tackle these issues.