Friday, April 3, 2009

Council demands cancellation of KESC’s privatisation

By Irfan Aligi

KARACHI: The City District Government Karachi (CDGK) City Council, on Thursday, unanimously approved a resolution condemning the ongoing, prolonged load shedding in the city and called for the cancellation of the Karachi Electric Supply Company’s privatisation and handover of the utility to the government.

In this regard, City Council Convener Nasreen Jalil had called a special and urgent session on Thursday and the house debated the load shedding and Karachi Electric Supply Company’s (KESC) dismal performance. The treasury benches tabled a resolution that was jointly presented by the leader of the house, Muhammad Asif Siddiqui, Abdul Jalil, Waqar Hussain Shah, Sheikh Mehboob-ur-Rehman and opposition bench members including Saeed Ghani, Dr Ziauddin and Abdul Razzaque.

The eight-point resolution demanded the cancellation of KESC’s privatisation and recommended that it should be given back under government control. The other points included that KESC should immediately operate all power generating units and should stop making technical excuses to shed load. It was demanded that the KESC enhance its power generation capacity on a war footing basis. The government should establish gas and coal-based power units instead of thermal units, so that furnace oil expenditures can be minimised at KESC’s end.

The possibilities of hydel power units should also be taken into consideration and in this regard, a hydel power unit should be set up at the Meerani Dam near Ibrahim Mubarik Village. Measures should also be taken to establish power units on ships to produce power from seawater, as done in Japan. The harnessing of solar power was also suggested.

The Thar Coal reserves should also be utilised for power generation and power conservation at the consumers’ end should be encouraged too. The resolution said that KESC should take corrective measures to end load shedding, or else the government should take back the utility’s control. In her opening remarks, Jalil said that despite repeated discussions and resolutions approved by the house, KESC has failed to improve the situation, which is tantamount to eliminating trade, economic and academic activities from the city.

While taking active part in debate, leader of the house, Muhammad Asif Siddiqui said that KESC is at the disposal of foreign masters, deliberately creating political turmoil in the city by producing less power than the actual available capacity. Siddiqui demanded that the government should exercise its control on KESC and cancel its privatisation. Imran Baghpatti, in his speech, said that KESC Chief Executive Director Naveed Ismail should be held responsible for all criminal activities that take place under the cover of the artificial darkness created by the KESC and should be nominated in all such FIRs.

Sultan Mujahid Baloch said that KESC should not underestimate the power of the people and warned that if they are inconvenienced any further, they may take to the streets.

Musarrat Jabeen said that the ‘imported’ KESC has no idea what the local people go through and even if on a humanitarian basis, the government should take control of the utility. Mazhar Alam said that the tax collected from the city’s ports and airport for two months should be given to the city so that it can set up new power plants. In his speech, Saeed Ghani said that the opposition in the City Council has been raising the issue again and again but have not once been supported by the treasury benches during the past three-and-a-half years. The treasury benches have now accepted the opposition’s point of view, which they have shown by tabling the resolution. Ghani added that it is imperative that investigations should be immediately initiated against those involved in the privatisation of KESC because it has proved to be a massive blunder, as it has slowed economic activities down to a trickle and has stunt industrial growth.

KESC’s management is receiving electricity at cheaper rates from Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO), which has made the management greedy, hence, it has cleverly opted to create a false power situation so that PEPCO continues to supply power at cheaper rates and KESC reaps the benefit at both ends.

In a separate resolution that the treasury benches tabled, they demanded that two members of the City Council should be inducted to monitor KESC’s operations. The resolution was also approved unanimously. The City Council also tabled a resolution to commemorate and pay tribute to the first elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. (DT)

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