PM to chair meeting as protests continue against inflated bills

Instructs Ministry of Power and distribution companies to give a detailed briefing at meeting.

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has convened an emergency meeting in Islamabad on Sunday (today) regarding electricity rates and consumer bills as protests against inflated bills continued in different parts of the country.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister office, the Prime Minister also instructed the Ministry of Power and the distribution companies to give a detailed briefing in this regard. Consultations will be held in the meeting to provide maximum relief to consumers in their electricity bills. 

Hours after the interim PM’s announcement today, caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi, along with Federal Secretary of the Power Division Rashid Mahmood Langrial, held a media briefing in Islamabad to explain the current state of electricity tariffs.

At the outset of the briefing with anchorpersons and bureau chiefs from various media outlets, the minister acknowledged the difficulties faced by the people due to the escalating electricity prices. He said all stakeholders within the power sector would participate in the prime minister’s emergency meeting.

The Power Division secretary confirmed that the facility of free electricity units to officers of power distribution companies would be discontinued, insisting that the burden was not being transferred to regular bill-paying individuals. 

The hike in power tariff triggered country-wide protests, including in major cities such as Karachi, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujranwala, and Peshawar.

In Karachi, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) held demonstrations at multiple places against the skyrocketing increase in power bills and what it said overcharging on part of the K-Electric (KE).

Meanwhile, in Rawalpindi, protesters gathered at Committee Chowk and burned bills while demanding that the government abolish imposed taxes on electricity.

In Peshawar, protesters called the increase in electricity bills unbearable and demanded relief from the government.

In Gujranwala, Protesters surrounded the Gujranwala Electric Power Company office in protest against expensive electricity. Protests were also held in other cities, including Narowal, Attock, Sargodha, and Haripur, against high power bills.

In July, the then federal cabinet gave its go-ahead to a massive increase in the base tariff of electricity by up to Rs7.50 per unit against the national average tariff determination of Rs4.96 by the power regulator National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra).

The regulator had hiked the tariff to increase revenue collection for the loss-making power distribution companies (Discos) during the current fiscal year.

According to a Nepra statement, the revised national average tariff for the 2023-24 fiscal year has been determined at Rs29.78 per unit kWh, which is Rs.4.96 per unit higher than the previously determined national average tariff of Rs24.82.

While the regulator cited the rupee’s devaluation, high inflation and interest rates, the addition of new capacities and overall low sales growth as reasons behind the increase, it was actually hiked to meet one of the conditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of introducing structural reforms in the energy sector.

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