Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Asif announced in parliament on Wednesday that the current power crisis will see its end in the “next eight to ten days”, Radio Pakistan reported.
Asif was replying to a question raised in the National Assembly on Monday when he said that the electricity shortage that has plagued Pakistan for years, will start to subside in the next few days.
The statement comes in the backdrop of the inauguration of a 760 megawatt (MW) power plant in Bhikki, Sheikhupura, where the prime minister spoke today.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf has started its protest drive against power loadshedding, while the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has threatened to take to the street over the issue from Saturday (April 22).
Khawaja Asif informed the house that certain power plants in the country had not been operational due to maintenance, adding that from May 1, there would be no unannounced loadshedding.
Asif expressed the government’s aim to add 6,400MW to the national grid by the end of the year, surpassing Pakistan’s shortfall, which, according to him, stands at 5,200MW.
However, speculations are rife over the uncertain future of PML-N’s government, as the Supreme Court is scheduled to announce its decision on the Panama case by tomorrow.
Opposition on the streets against energy crisis
Opposition parties have gone into protest mode over what they deem has been the government’s failure to resolve the power crisis.
“In 2013, during the election campaign, Shahbaz Sharif claimed he would solve the issue in six months or the people would change his name. After four years, the crisis has not ended, so what should we call him?” asked PPP Punjab’s central president Qamar Zaman Qaira, while speaking at a press conference on Tuesday.
Qaira announced that the PPP would be setting up protest camps at Lahore’s Minar-i-Pakistan and Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi.
Meanwhile, PTI workers led by Jamshed Iqbal and Musarrat Cheema blocked Lahore’s busy Canal Road on Tuesday afternoon. Being one of the main city arteries, the blockade resulted in one of the worst traffic jams as queues of vehicles were seen on both sides over a seven kilometer stretch — from Harbanspura up to Dharmpura.
The protesters, including women and children, beat their chests, raising slogans for consistent supply of electricity as promised to them by the PML-N leaders before 2013 elections.
Burgeoning power crisis
The prime minister ordered action against officials who failed to plan in advance for the summer season a day earlier, as the electricity shortfall crossed a record 7,000MW.
Due to the shortfall, the duration of load-shedding in urban areas had increased to an average 14-16 hours. Loadshedding in rural areas was even worse, rising to 20 hours.
The prime minister had expressed “dissatisfaction over the negligence of departments concerned” over the latest power situation that has put the government in an awkward political position at one of the most challenging times and ahead of the Panama Leaks case judgement.
Presiding over a special meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy, Nawaz had directed all resources to be put to use to reduce the current shortfall and provide maximum relief to people through as much reduction in load-shedding as possible.