Emergency Meeting Called by Government to Address Public Outrage over Inflated Power Bills

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Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has called for an emergency meeting in Islamabad today to discuss the issue of electricity rates and consumer bills. This comes in response to countrywide protests by citizens over inflated power bills.

Protests were held in various cities across the country due to the significant increase in the national average tariff, leading to outrage among the public. In order to address these concerns, Kakar has summoned an emergency meeting to seek briefings from the power division and power distribution companies (Discos), with the aim of providing maximum relief to consumers.

In addition, the government has formulated a plan to revoke subsidized electricity benefits enjoyed by Discos and government officers in grade 17 and above.

During a meeting with Power Division Secretary Rashid Mahmood Langrial, Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi discussed the issue of high electricity bills. It was mentioned that the increase in tariffs mainly affected consumers utilizing more than 400 units per month, while the tariff remained unchanged for about 63.5% of domestic consumers.

Protests in Multan and Lahore

Meanwhile, protests were also held in Multan and Lahore’s Shahdara against the exorbitant power bills. In Multan’s Alfalah Market, residents and traders took to the streets, holding banners and setting tires on fire to block roads.

One protester expressed his frustration and questioned the government’s decision to provide free electricity to institutions like Wapda (Water and Power Development Authority), while the citizens were burdened with high bills. The protesters demanded a 75% reduction in the bills.

In Lahore’s Shahdara, residents, including women and children, burned their bills in protest and vowed not to pay them. They chanted slogans against expensive electricity and expressed their struggle to meet their families’ basic needs due to high bills.

MQM-P calls for government’s attention

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P) has called on the government to take immediate steps to address the concerns of the people. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, speaking at a press conference in Karachi, urged the caretaker governments in Sindh and the Centre to resolve the issue promptly, expressing concern over the protests turning violent.

MQM-P leaders also highlighted the burden of Wapda’s circular debt on the people of Karachi and called for immediate relief measures.

Taxes cannot be lowered, say experts

Experts have stated that reducing the taxes and levies on electricity bills in the short term is not feasible. They believe that the current interim government, under pressure to maintain fiscal balance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), cannot reduce or delay the collection of taxes.

Analysts have pointed out that the high base tariff of Rs30 per unit is the primary reason behind inflated electricity bills. The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) report highlighted that a significant portion of the base tariff consists of the capacity payment component, which is the cost of maintaining power plants operational even when the government does not purchase electricity.

As the situation continues to worsen, analysts fear that there is no immediate solution. They attribute the upcoming inflated bills in September to the high base tariff and predict more public pressure and agitations in the days to come.

In order to address the issue in the medium and long term, experts suggest unbundling and privatizing the electricity and gas utility companies without any political interference.

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