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Punjab chambers protest against electricity, gas shortages

All chambers of commerce and industry of Punjab, in an emergent meeting on Wednesday, protested against unequal distribution of electricity and gas in the province, according to a statement.

“Punjab must not be made sole victim of power and gas shortages, rather it should be shared among all the federating units.”

The heads of all Punjab chambers met at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) to chalk out a joint strategy against discrimination in gas and electricity supplies that has crippled the industry, it said.

The mood of the Punjab business leaders, representing entire trade and industry of the province, was very aggressive. Many of them advocated immediate street protests and agitation along with workers. Some of the participants among them; however, asked them to first give the government a chance to set the things right.

They also demanded the government to immediately appoint a full chairman of the power wing that has been working without the head for the last over five years, according to the statement.

They also urged the Punjab chief minister to set aside their differences with the federal government and lead a delegation of businessmen for a meeting with the president or the prime minister to raise voice against discriminatory attitude towards Punjab.

Participants of the meeting include presidents of chamber of commerce and industry of Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujrat, Sahiwal, Chakwal, vice president of Sialkot Chamber of Commerce Ikram-ul-Haq, executive committee member of Bahawalpur Chamber Mujeeb-ur-Rehman, Rukhsana of Central and Punjab Women Chamber of Commerce, and Rao Abdul Basit, chairman of All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association.

Farooq Iftikhar, president of the LCCI, said that the chamber would utilise all available resources for ensuring equitable supply of gas and electricity to the industry in Punjab.

Zahid Aslam, president of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said that the discrimination in supply of electricity and gas is not acceptable and called for early construction of big dams.

Manzar Khurshid, president of the RCCI, said that there should be separate feeders for industrial and domestic consumers.

Ikram-ul-Haq said that due to electricity shortage, the businessmen of Sialkot have lost export orders worth Rs20 billion so far.

Tariq Hameed, former chairman of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda), gave a detailed presentation to the presidents of all the chambers of commerce in the province and apprised them of installed capacity and its availability in various seasons.

Wapda has 10 hydel projects in the pipeline but none would be functional within next four years even if construction work started right now, he said.

He said that 3,000 to 4,000MW shortfall is because of the circular debt and made it clear that Punjab has no contribution to it, while some provinces have to pay up to Rs54 billion on this account, while Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) has also stopped payment whose share in the circular debt has been increased to Rs14 billion, said Hameed.

He disagreed that small dam could meet the rising demand, saying that only quantum jump in electricity production can bring the country out of the energy crisis. The solution of the energy problem lies only in construction of Kalabagh Dam and some other bigger dams, which would not only produce substantial amount of electricity but also ensure water supply in canals across the year, he added.

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