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Pondering power

That Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, only hours after taking oath, took on the country’s energy crisis head-on and chaired a high-level meeting on the issue is a positive sign showing how much significance should be attached to a problem that is foremost on the minds of the people and has come to dominate virtually every aspect of life. According to a new World Bank report, some 15 million Pakistanis are among the 1.2 billion persons around the world with no access to electricity. The issue in Pakistan, though, is that even those who have ‘access’ to power face 12 hours or more of loadshedding daily, which cripples industry and creates severe despondency and rage among domestic consumers. We have already seen power riots in the country as people resorted to protests in the face of outages in temperatures well above 40 degrees Celsius.

At the meeting in Lahore, attended also by Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif, incoming finance minister Ishaq Dar and other senior PML-N leaders as well as energy experts, the power crisis was noted as one of the top priorities for the new government. The prime minister announced the removal of the chairman of Wapda and the heads of power distribution companies, while emphasising that incompetence or power theft would not be tolerated. Nawaz also called on officials to evaluate all existing power projects, assess the finances required and use any and all resources to help fix this crisis. Such swift decisions offer at least a glimmer of hope to those who have lived an energy-deprived existence for a long time. This first step by the new government suggests to them that someone is at least attempting to so something to address the problem – and to many this alone offers a bit of hope. We must remember, though, that we should not expect instant solutions. The PM has already urged people to be patient, warning that it will take time to sort out these matters. The power crisis has grown over the past decade and today stands before us – a well-fed monster. Vanquishing it is essential for the sake of our economy and the welfare of the people. But a sensible and viable strategy will need to be devised. Sadly, there are no magic wands that can just wave away loadshedding in the blink of an eye. But we can take heart from the fact that some efforts are at least being made and priority being accorded to a problem that has become chaotic. We hope these will eventually pay off so that we can at least have before us the vision of a future where power cuts are not so regular a feature of our lives and see that work is underway to achieve this.

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