Load shedding has given common man the taste of life as it was at least five decades back or even more to those who came from the more advanced parts of erstwhile pre-independent India. The darkness and lack of modern age facilities.
The Government did the right thing by responding to the mass demonstrations in the country in all parts of the country. No need scoring points that it should have been thought of much earlier before the public “ boiled over” to the streets. The main thing is that the Government tried to grapple with the problem , in my view on the right lines as was practicable. The plan was for the people to share the burden in combating load shedding. It is a national calamity and the nation must come forward. and participate in these efforts.
The measures Government has taken should be considered like a sketch of the plan , and the load shedding measures may be amended according to its acceptability keeping in view public reactions to them.. There is no reason why every responsible citizen would not accept the restrictions on use of energy proposed by the government. .However, the plan should be revised in accordance with the public demand. Minor modifications may become necessary later and should be made in the action plan now put into action. Of course the problem is so acute that the plan has to be put into action immediately and modifications can be made later.
Let us say that the rationing of electricity in the Government plan is in three sectors: Residential , Government offices and business sectors- shops and industries . There cannot be any dispute on the need for rationing electricity for specific hours for the residential purposes. Electricity for certain utilities is necessary like refrigerator, kichen items, computers, TVs. They are necessities but what about Air Conditioners. Should the number of permitted ACs be not limited and subjected to a reasonable tax for number of ACs after those permitted free of tax .
However, three class of energy users be specifically mentioned whose needs should be give special consideration. Industry, Markets and Hospitals.
Karachi, Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, Sialkot, are hubs of industry. The industrialist should be facilitated to the maximum, that is load shedding for them should be as less as can be possible. It is a matter of national economy and employment level in the country. Depends on the wheels of industry moving. Some selected facilities in major hospitals should also not starve for energy.. In a few major localities in the city a big medicine shop should remain open 24 hours where life saving medicines can be purchased at odd hours to meet emergency situations and emergency surgeries. On other shops the address of that shop which is open when the whole market is closed is put on notice on the doors of all medicine shops of that area. . This is the practice I saw in vogue in Ankara and Cairo during my postings there.
Working hours for markets should be as short as visualized now but times of business hours should be refixed so that shops are open on the normal rush hours, even if the working hours have a little break like in Summers during maximum heat and when the shopping is the dullest. The shops may for example , open for three hours when there is rush hour in the evenings. So the shops are not open in one stretch for a fixed number of hours but may have intervals. For example what is the use of having Liberty Market in Lahore open on very hot summer days from 8 a m to 7/8 p.m in the evening. There is not much sale in mid noons but rush hour is from 6 to 9 p.m This would mean that . shops may close for noon hours but open in the evenings. One can be sure that any patriotic Pakistani of which there is no dearth would like to make anti-load shedding measures succeed in his own and his country’s interest. Shopping hours may therefore be fixed in consultation with the shop keepers.
I should stress that people would go out of the way if the top people in the Government and Government Offices would give an example of surrendering their comforts by drastically cutting out use of ostentatious living. First the President and Prime Minister should set an example. Every one knows how the residences of these tops and the major government buildings give a spectacle of being a mountain of ‘Noor’ or a heavenly light. Such as the Ministries, Parliament house, Secretariat etc . Except the minimum lighting required for security of the premises, all the mountains of noor should be abolished.
I wonder whether the President and Prime Minister would like to copy the example of some of their counter parts I saw in Nigeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Yugoslavia and Jakarta. Sadat and Suharto did not live in the Presidential palaces . Suharto lived in his own house in Jakarta on a small street Chandana right behind Pak Ambassador’s residence but used Presidential Palace only for State receptions . Sadat used the great palaces of Cairo and Alexnaderia for hosting big national occasion receptions. In Belgrade the President lived in a small flat on Ojichka Street right behind Pakistan Ambassador’s residence and used the big palaces etc for national occasions. Same in Nigeria . Come to think of it the dictator whose name has been removed from the Constitution by the 18th Amendment as President lived in Army Chief’s house and used the Presidency for official receptions or hosting foreign heads of State. It is worth giving this suggestion some consideration.
I was talking to Raja Zafrul Haq the other day, on using technical expertise to bridge our gap of energy. He mentioned to me his visit to Japan years ago. He was accompanied with Dr Mahbub ul Haq and Sahebzada Yaqub Khan. The Japanese showed them some mobile electric generators which could be hooked up with the main supply line and add their electricity to the main grid. They were prepared to sell them to Pakistan at a very short notice. They recommended their purchase to our Government. Mr Ghulam Ishaq Khan suggested that those mobile generators be purchased if the Japanese sell thjem in knock down out condition and the Japanese taught our people how to assemble them so that they transferred the know how also.. The matter did not proceed further.
it seems to me that we could have gone for both –purchase the mobile linkable generating units from Japan and thereafter negotiated transfer of technology of these generators .
This reminds me that when I was going as Ambassador to Indonesia, the Japanese Embassy in Islamabad had shown us , some seniors of the Foreign Office, a documentary film about use of city refuse, the trash , for converting it to electricity by burning it in big burners which was utilized for producing electricity for half of Tokyo city, if I recollect correctly. I wrote on this Japanese practice a number of times but no one took notice of that writing. May be the Government would do well by asking the Japanese Embassy in Islamabad to give uptodate information on utilization of trash for producing energy, and also ask our Embassy in Tokyo to furnish details and if that be so, then our Government should send some energy experts / engineers to Tokyo to learn all the details and prepare a detailed paper of what machinery is required, how much would it cost, where our people can be trained in Japan to absorb training on this project. This is a time consuming project but it should in my humble opinion be undertaken in all earnest. We have too much of trash in Karachi, Lahore, etc, to convert that into energy. But as they say, alas you can take a donkey to the fountain but you cannot make it drink. Will someone please look into this proposal and if facts be as I state them may like to ACT on them. Long range projects must also be undertaken in all earnest NOW, before it is too late.
“ Raja Zafrul Haq also said that he had once suggested that the existing electric generation plants should be subjected to an audit to find out whether they are producing energy to the full capacity they were expected to or below that capacity, and if so why ?. What should be done to obtain full capacity from them. I may add that we have a habit of forgetting all about the facilities we establish once they are set , and do not maintain them in full shape. Maintenance is our weak point. The Audit, Raja Zafrul Haq suggested, would be useful. We might discover that we can add to our energy producing capacity after discovering where we are below the capacity from existing electricity providing plants. Such Audit as he calls it would be worth our efforts.”