People hold placards and shout slogans during a protest against rising inflation and high electricity bills in Karachi, Pakistan, 03 September 2023. EFE/EPA/FILE/SHAHZAIB AKBER

Pakistan gov’t announces crackdown against electricity theft to reduce bills

Islamabad, Sep 6 (EFE).- The Pakistani government on Wednesday announced a crackdown on electricity theft in the country in a bid to reduce power bills.

Last week, protests erupted across the country with electricity consumers burning copies of their bills and vowing not to pay them alleging they were inflated and beyond their means.

On Saturday, a partial shutter-down strike was observed in different parts of the country, prompting the government to take measures to reduce power bills without violating the terms set by the International Monetary Fund.

Pakistan is currently going through a $3 billion Stand-by Arrangement with the international lender on the condition of increasing basic power tariffs and imposing extra taxes with reduced subsidies.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Energy Minister Muhammed Ali announced the government’s strategy to crackdown on power theft and reduce bills without compromising on the IMF conditions.

“In every area, there are different levels of theft and there are different percentages of recovery [of bills],” he said, adding that the annual loss due to electricity theft and failure to get all of the bills paid amounted to 589 billion rupees ($1.9 billion).

He stressed that several domestic consumers steal electricity, while several others do not pay their bills in the South Asian country of 241 million people.

The minister clarified that because of the electricity theft and refusal by some consumers to pay bills, the loss gets transferred to those who dutifully pay their bills.

“Until this is stopped, electricity prices will not come down,” Ali explained.

He announced that caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar ul Haq Kakar had issued directives to end electricity theft and ensure recovery of unpaid bills.

The minister disclosed that some officials also facilitate the theft of electricity for bribes, and that action would be taken against them, including even dismissal from service.

He further said the government would constitute a task force at the provincial level for the crackdown and his ministry would monitor the operations from the capital, Islamabad. EFE

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