Federal, Sindh govts spar over Karachi power crisis

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ISLAMABAD: With no immediate solution in sight to the suffering of Kara­chiites, the electricity crisis in Karachi appears to be turning into a major pre-election issue between the federal and Sindh governments.

The federal government on Friday took a public stance on the gas supply dispute between K-Electric (KE) and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) and said the authorities could not succumb to the “blackmailing” of the former utility. This happened at a time when Karachi’s consumers continued to endure hours-long outages due to power shortage.

Power Minister Awais Ahmad Khan Leghari categorically said that matters could not move forward on the issue of enhanced gas supply to KE without payment, or an agreement on mechanism for payment, of Rs80 billion receivables.

The minister asked Mr Shah to stop influential people in Sindh from stealing electricity in order to ease the suffering of Karachiites.

For his part, Sindh’s chief minister went a step further and threatened to “raise the issue forcefully in the Council of Common Interests and National Economic Council next week” and not to participate in discussions on other issues.

Mr Shah said the federal government owned 70pc shares in the SSGC and 25pc in KE. The Karachi-based power utility was privatised without the consent of the provincial government, while the federal government guaranteed outstanding liabilities of the Karachi Water Board.

He was of the opinion that the federal government was responsible for resolving the dispute between the SSGC and KE which was threatening to shatter peace in the country’s largest city.

Speaking to journalists after presiding over a meeting with senior officials of KE, SSGC and petroleum division, Mr Leghari said the dispute between the two utilities had been discussed in detail at the meeting.

He said a consumer lost his electricity connection on non-payment of only two monthly bills. How was it possible then for a big consumer like KE to continue receiving natural gas after failing to pay such a huge amount for such a long time. The law should be applied to all concerned fairly and equitably.

The KE had its own perspective and wanted to recover receivables from the Sindh government and Karachi Water Board, said the power minister. But the payment of those dues was a provincial matter and should be dealt with at that level.

He said the meeting asked the representatives of the Sindh government, petroleum division, SSGC and KE to sit down and settle their issues while the ministry of finance was asked to assist the parties in reaching an agreement as early as possible.