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Power sector and politically motivated vandalism!

The present sad state of the Pakistan’s Power Sector cannot be emphasized any further. Everyone, including the successive governments, understands the gravity of the situation but even then no correction whatsoever is evident – all leading to the conclusion that these very governments have not been serious at all in their resolve to correct things. Further, it is seen that the reason could be that no one detests from reaping illegal benefits out of this under-assail sector. As such, it becomes a serious case of politically motivated vandalism or the illegal reaping of the political economy of the Power Sector.

Explaining the above, we see that politically motivated decisions are those made primarily to serve the interests of a particular political party, ideology, or individual; often at the expense of broader national interests. These decisions may be driven by factors such as electoral considerations, partisan agendas, or personal gain, rather than what is best for the country as a whole.

On the other hand, decisions made in the national interest are those aimed at promoting the well-being, security, and prosperity of the nation and its citizens as a whole, regardless of political considerations. These decisions prioritize the long-term stability and development of the country, taking into account factors such as economic growth, social cohesion, environmental sustainability, and national security.

While politically motivated decisions may sometimes align with national interests, they can also diverge significantly, leading to outcomes that are detrimental to the overall welfare of the nation. In contrast, decisions made in the national interest are guided by principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability, with a focus on achieving the greatest benefit for the country as a whole, both in the short and long term.

To be precise, politically motivated vandalism in statecraft can encompass actions such as defacing or destroying public property, monuments, or symbols associated with a particular political ideology, party or leader. It can also involve tampering with official documents or infrastructure to undermine or disrupt the functioning of government institutions. Additionally, cyberattacks targeting political opponents or state entities for ideological reasons can also be considered to be in the political realm.

While reaping the illegal political economy of a country may not involve physical vandalism in the traditional sense, it can still be considered a form of vandalism in the broader context of governance and societal well-being. Exploiting the illegal political economy often involves corruption, bribery, embezzlement, or other illicit activities that undermine the rule of law, damage institutions, and harm the public interest. In this sense, it can be seen as a form of “vandalism” against the principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability, ultimately resulting in harm to the socio-economic fabric of the Country.

It will thus be appropriate to explain and layout for the reader the various acts of politically motivated vandalism of power sector in the past, recent past and during the present times. Here, examples would be the induction of IPPs under all of the Power Policies of 1994, 2006, the aborted one of 2006 and thence of the 2013 / 2015. In all of these cases, the policy came from the top and thereafter had been forced and also rammed down the gullets of the poor technocrat’s, left with no choice but to acquiesce to the whims of those who called the shots then. That, these policies have wrecked the economic landscape of the country and its poor denizens proves the devastating effect of the same. Of course, the poverty on part of the bureaucracy and technocracy is indeed another facet to contend-with. Presently, the situation is so serious that no one is ever allowed to correct the situation as otherwise, we have told, Pakistan would become a pariah state and no one would even think of investing here. Imagine the devastating state of affairs where even the thought of correcting the situation is not allowed to cross our minds. As a corollary to the same, is the classic example of a solar park set-up through the provisioning of the off-take facilities for 1,000MWs and that too at a phenomenal cost, while a max 40% utilization has ever been seen during the last decade. It is also important to inform that the technocrats concerned did point out the issue, but were shot down at the peril of losing their jobs. Come what may, projects should only be set in motion once due feasibilities are got conducted, etc. No project should ever be undertaken without due process, including planning, etc., at the national level.

The second of the examples of vandalism is the politically forced postings of “unqualified” persons as the CEOs of the various PSCEs like GENCOs, NTDC & DISCOs. The burden of such postings, on quantification, was found to be so large that none of these entities delivers at the moment – rather, is responsible for more rot than any positivity. Baring postings and transfers in the armed forces, political vandalism is evident everywhere, but specially in the power sector. The third of the issues relates to the downhill seen in the nomination of directors to the most important BoDs of the GENCOs, the NTDC and the DISCOs. As clearly, standards have regressively gone down through each nomination to the boards during the last one decade, it is a foregone conclusion that the situation has reached its nadir at present when juvenile politicos have been packed in the boards to a detriment for the sector. The strange part is that all such nominations are in contravention to law and also against the subordinate rules and regulations which only allow sectoral professionals and experts to be nominated to the boards. As presently, these very BoDs are responsible for the management of specially the DISCOs, the responsibility of the present rot lies squarely on the shoulders of those who made the nominations and the nominees themselves. This is on face of the continued press releases that very soon the sector would be reformed.

The fourth of the issues, which in all probability is responsible for the continuing below-par working of the Sector is the non-availability of professionals in the MoE (Ministry of Energy) and specially its power division. Here patently against professional advisors, additional secretaries, joint secretaries and deputy secretaries from the power sector, the positions are now being filled up by the generalists alone. The strange part is that such postings are directly proportional to the losses in the sector. In other words, more the loss the more has been the removal of professionals from the MOE.

Then comes the complete intervention of the politicos in the operation of the PSCEs through control of field posting and transfers and the squander of any budgeting ear marked for ELR (Energy Loss Reduction) programmes. All of such monies is being forced to be spent upon opening up of new areas to electrification, instead of being used for buffeting and improving the existing system. Consequently, billions of funds are being wasted while junk keeps on being added to junk of the power infrastructure in the country. The political appointees basically being of no merit are then responsible for the various procurement and contracting failures that beset the Power Sector. This situation can also be gauged from the PM’s inaugural speech in the National Assembly and the utterance that illegal abstraction of energy totals a whooping Rs 600 billion or so.

In view of all the above, the most recent policy statement of the newly-elected Chief Minister of Punjab to the effect that her government would not allow anyone to indulge in corruption or any politically motivated vandalism, is a breath of fresh air. In fact, her proclamation that these are red lines which her government would not allow anyone to cross needs to be emulated by the Federal Government and also by the governments of KP, Sindh and Baluchistan. It is important that the political leadership should understand that by indulging in the politically motivated vandalism, the parties concerned are losing their political capital and are also indulging in acts which are anti-national, to say the least. While understanding the electoral pressure on the politicos, it is very important to state that they in fact would be going against what they proclaim in their manifestos to be upheld.

Engr Tahir Basharat Cheema, "Power sector and politically motivated vandalism!," Business recorder. 2024-03-06.
Keywords: Political science , Power sector , Energy challenges , National interest , Power crises , Power division , Governance , Pakistan’s. , ELR , IPPs

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