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Pakistan struggles with ‘power plan’

Confusion reigned supreme in Pakistan with some government departments remaining open while others staying closed on Saturday, following the prime minister’s decision that Pakistan’s public sector will have a 5-day week.

world Updated: Apr 25, 2010 23:28 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

Confusion reigned supreme in Pakistan with some government departments remaining open while others staying closed on Saturday, following the prime minister’s decision that Pakistan’s public sector will have a 5-day week.

The confusion comes as Pakistan struggles to bridge the gap between electricity production and consumption — and to try and reduce the number of blackouts the country faces each day.

On Saturday, schools were closed in some parts, while they were open in other areas. Banks remained open despite the Central Bank’s direction that they stay shut.

The measures have not gone down well with people. Muhammad Shah Abdali, a landlord in Sindh, says that on a “good day,” there is power for 6 hours. “Otherwise we have blackouts for almost 22 hours”.

Owing to protests, the government decided to curb consumption through a series of measures, which include closing markets by 8 pm and disallowing marriage halls to function for more than three hours in a day. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani unveiled his power conservation strategy earlier this week. The strategy also proposes a five-day week for the public sector, as against the normal six-day working week.

Private schools have rejected this proposal saying they “cannot be expected to change the classes to suit the whims of politicians.”

In higher education institutions, a massive reshuffling of classes has, however, started.

The most vocal opponents to the power conservation measures are businessmen. “We would rather die than close my shop at 8 pm,” said Muhammad Firoz, a member of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce, who claims that the government “is once again punishing the poor”.

The government says the move will save enough power to cut down power outages. So far, this has not happened.

Others in Pakistan have questions the rental power plants that the government is keen on installing to bridge the power gap in the short-term. “This crisis has been created to justify the purchase of expensive power projects,” claims opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali.