The chaos and anarchy in Pakistan has started affecting the common people. The situation has been heading towards bloody revolution as the prices of essential commodities reached beyond the power and affordability of the people. The food shortage can be felt everywhere. Terrorists have created the crisis as teasing and taunting the poor people is a game for them. Now the question arises - who are the terrorists? The terrorists are the corrupt rulers. These corrupt rulers have been breeding terrorism in tribal areas situated on Pak-Afghan border.
According comment of a leading newspaper of Pakistan: Behind the formidable smoke-screen of political troubles in Pakistan there is the looming crisis of power shortage that has made its presence felt this week through unprecedented load-shedding by WAPDA. If in Lahore the violent crisis of Karachi was not registered in 2007, Thursday was the day of realisation — realisation that the country was rapidly falling under the more terminal crisis of energy shortage. Chairman WAPDA Mr Shakil Durrani told the press that the current load-shedding of 30 minutes on the hour would be relieved somewhat by January 20.
The causes given are various, including the perennial one that the waters flowing down to the dams are still frozen on the mountains, and will be freed following the snowmelt in summer. Realising that power production was no longer linked to waters, and that 80 percent of the electricity is produced from gas and other fuel, the officials fall back on the report that new power stations are being built and would be completed in 2009, which clearly means that the country will suffer for another year. After that we might have another “miscalculation” of the demand-supply situation, and load-shedding and outages might go on beyond 2009.
The latest crisis is therefore not because of “no water in the dams”. According to chairman WAPDA, the transmission line of Hubco was destroyed by blasts on January 1, which disrupted supply, and supply of fuel was prevented from being supplied to the IPP power stations because of the PPP demonstrations. Another 500 MW of power was not available because of the lower availability of gas to WAPDA. In winters, Pakistan needs 8500 MW of electricity during the day and 1150 MW during the night. The country has only 6500 MW of power at its disposal on the basis of current production. Those who say the country is short by 300 MW are not entirely right; we are short by 400 MW. (Federal caretaker water & power minister Mr Tariq Hameed says Pakistan needs 1200 MW but produces only 9000 MW.)
During the recent violence, all state companies have suffered losses through damage, led by the railways and followed by WAPDA. The government is required to shell out more money for power expansion while it is unable to pay the bills for the sale of oil whose domestic price it has kept frozen since one year. The oil bill, which used to be a billion dollars a decade ago, is today $3.7 billion. The economy demands that power be kept cheap to enable exports to catch up with imports. The cotton-related sector which contributes single-handedly to over 60 percent of exports, is in deep depression, mainly because of the high infrastructure cost, and is now hamstrung by closures following load-shedding.
When the international power producing companies (IPPs) entered Pakistan in the 1990s, almost everyone except the then PPP government cried foul over the deal made with them. Pakistan even incurred the wrath of the guarantor of the deals, The World Bank, as military generals running WAPDA openly cursed the IPPs as exploiters. Today the IPPs are bailing the country out. They are there because we could not throw them out and had to suffer them under law. They produce 4500 MW of electricity while WAPDA is static at 4000 MW per day. Because of the recent spate of vandalism, Hubco’s production had dropped from 900 MW to 300 MW.
Will the crisis go away? It won’t. The estimates are that Pakistan will be able to produce an additional 1200 MW of power by 2009 whereas the shortage is of 3000 to 4000 MW. Violence has grown in the cities most hit by load-shedding and outages. Karachi and Hyderabad are the two cases in point. After the assassination of Ms Bhutto on December 27, there was anger and fury which vented itself on public property. Not all of the protesters were the workers of the PPP. Some were common criminals looting banks, but a large number were ordinary citizens habituated to violence through Karachi’s most cruel period of power outage in the summer of 2007.
The outgoing government of Mr Shaukat Aziz boasted high growth rates but could be faulted on vision, which means it lacked a proper assessment of the future energy needs of the country after the State Bank unleashed consumerism on the country’s middle classes. It caused “food inflation”, followed by “food shortage”, but more lethally it failed to anticipate the energy needs of a population with cheaply borrowed money in hand and new Chinese split air-conditioners flooding the market. The energy requirement, which used to increase by less than 10 percent, shot up to 20 percent last year! Will Pakistan catch up? Estimates are that the energy gap will be filled by 2010. Till then the population will suffer and continue to become more and more violent. That is, if the target year 2010 is realistic.