Islamabad. Nationwide protests continue in Pakistan over huge increase in electricity bills. The caretaker government has failed to provide any relief to the citizens and is trying to strike a balance between avoiding the displeasure of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the problems of the citizens. Don gave this information on Wednesday. At a Cabinet meeting chaired by Caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakkar on Tuesday, the interim Cabinet expressed helplessness in resolving the issue, adding that there is even a dilemma on taking the electricity bill in installments until the International Monetary Fund clears it. Does not provide its approval. Interim Information Minister Murtaza Solangi later told a private TV channel that the government was in talks with the IMF regarding relief measures for electricity consumers and a decision was expected soon.
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Solangi said the Cabinet has decided to provide short-term, medium and long-term relief to consumers. He, however, said that these decisions have certain implications that require IMF approval. He said that our Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar is talking to them and hopefully we will be in a position to announce soon. Solangi said he was hopeful that we would reach a decision without any difficulties as the relief measures finalized by the caretaker Cabinet will not have any impact on primary surplus and circular debt.
On the question of the upcoming elections, the minister said the caretaker government has nothing to do with the election date, stressing that it is the mandate of the Election Commission under the new amendment to the Election Act. However, he said the government is committed to helping the ECP conduct the elections as per its schedule. He also said that according to the Constitution, it is mandatory to give 54 days time to all political parties for election campaign after delimitation.
Meanwhile, a source privy to Tuesday’s meeting told Dawn that the interim cabinet said the interim arrangement may not provide any relief to consumers, but it may allow bills to be divided into four to six instalments. The source said that even in the case of installments, the government will have to take prior permission from the IMF. Some cabinet members also opposed the installment option and expressed apprehension that short-term receipts in the electricity sector in the coming months could upset the IMF. On the other hand, there is also a view that consumers can easily pay the increased bills in four to six installments in the coming months as there is a sharp drop in power consumption in winters.
On Monday, Solangi told Dawn that the interim government would provide genuine relief and not break the bills into monthly installments to reduce the burden. However, he admitted that the government was helpless in considering a settlement with the IMF and that a full-fledged circular loan would not serve any purpose. Meanwhile, the nationwide protests over power bills continued for the fifth consecutive day on Tuesday with citizens taking to the streets, blocking roads and setting ablaze their power bills to express anger over rising power prices.
Jamaat-e-Islami has also announced a nationwide strike on September 2 (Saturday) against electricity bills. A meeting on Tuesday between a ministerial team led by the Speaker of the Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly and businessmen and civil society ended without any decision. As a result, the traders reiterated that there will be a shutter-down and chakka-jam as per schedule in Muzaffarabad division on Thursday against electricity bills and other issues of public interest.
Shaukat Nawaz Mir, elected president of Muzaffarabad traders and leading the action committee at the meeting, told Dawn that the meeting was organized at the wish of the government and the official team included Lower House Speaker Chaudhary Latif Akbar and four ministers of the Muzaffarabad division. Were included. He said that when we placed our demand before him, he said that taking any decision in this regard was beyond his reach and he would have to talk to the Prime Minister, which is enough to prove the helplessness of the official team.
At the same time, Gojra Sadar Police of Pakistan’s Punjab province registered two cases against about 158 people who protested against the increased electricity bills. Meanwhile, in another incident, Muhammad Hamza (35), a resident of Sabri Town area in Dijkot near Faisalabad, allegedly committed suicide after failing to pay electricity bill of Rs 40,000. The family of the deceased said that due to financial constraints, his mental balance was already unstable and hence, paying the electricity bill was beyond his capacity. He committed suicide by shooting himself.
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