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Centre and Punjab lock horns over electricity issue

The Centre and the Punjab are at loggerheads on the issue of electricity generation asking each other whether it is a federal or a purely provincial subject, it is learnt here. “The provinces have not been empowered in this respect (electricity),” Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

As minutes of last CCI session are available with The News, the CM said that the electricity formerly being a subject in the Concurrent Legislative List has now been placed on the Federal Legislative List Part-II under the 18th constitutional amendment.

Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf responded to Shahbaz Sharif that legally the provinces could produce, transmit and distribute electricity and levy taxes. “But there are certain technical or operational hindrances which need be removed,” said the PM, assisted by incumbent and former Water and Power Ministers, Ch Ahmed Mukhtar and Syed Naveed Qamar.

As the Centre and the Punjab blame each other for the electricity shortage, the CM pointed out that the investors take keen interest in power generation but the financial guarantees become the core hindrance.

“Negative impact of load-shedding is more than that of the terrorism in Punjab because of its direct and adverse fallout in the industrial and commercial sides. We need to think today for tomorrow and at least wok out some short-term measures to control power outages by optimally utilising the available natural resources like Thar coal, hydel and thermal,” he added.

The chief minister maintained that although the Constitution provides for generating the electricity by the provinces yet the cap of 50MW was got removed through decision of the CCI. He mentioned the generation potential from sugar mills’ waste and said the obstacle of not allowing upfront tariff by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has washed out this provincial benefit.

Shahbaz said the provincial powers for raising the loans and expanding their drawing power would be enhanced but no headway could be made. “This has handicapped provinces as investors ask for sovereign guarantees which can be given by federal government and provincial guarantees are not acceptable to them,” he argued.

Referring to 2010 and 2012 decisions taken in two national energy conferences, the chief minister complained that while Punjab is strictly adhering to the decisions, others have not implemented them to save up to 900MW power. He also called for ensuring gas supply to KESC for its 300MW power generation plant as the company obtains 700MW from the Wapda. “This 300MW can be saved.”

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