Protests against outages natural

English: Location of Lahore, in Punjab.

English: Location of Lahore, in Punjab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LAHORE– The protest demonstrations by the masses against unscheduled electricity loadshedding are a natural reaction; and if power outages of 18 hours a day were carried out in a city like Lahore, the citizens would have no option but to silently sit in their homes,” Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandia observed on Tuesday.

He was hearing a petition filed by Judicial Activism Panel Chairman Advocate Azhar Siddique against electricity loadshedding during Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh timings.

Expressing grave concerns over unscheduled loadshedding in the country, especially Punjab, the chief justice observed: “People will definitely come out on the roads if they were deprived of electricity and water in the summer season.”

The chief justice further remarked that officers sitting in air-conditioned offices could not relate to the miseries of the common people. “The government has doubled the miseries of people by exempting VVIPs from loadshedding,” said Bandial, adding that Wapda would not be allowed to adopt a discriminatory policy on electricity load management.

Advancing arguments, Advocate Siddique pointed out that Bahria Town Housing Society in Lahore was exempted from loadshedding in violation of Articles 9 and 25 of the Constitution. When asked by the court, counsel of Wapda sought time to file a reply in this regard.

Siddique further pointed out that in a case regarding the Neelum Jhelum Project pending before the LHC, the government had taken a plea that no work was being done on the project; but, on the other hand, more than Rs26 billion had been collected from the public through surcharge in electricity bills.

He pleaded that Punjab was being subjected to discrimination and given less share in electricity. “In the other provinces, electricity theft is common and bill recovery is also low. Even then, Punjab is being victimised in the electricity load management plan,” he maintained.

Azhar pointed out that power production was being affected because of non-recovery of bills from the other provinces. He also produced a published statement of Public Accounts Committee Chairman and MNA Nadeem Afzal Chan against unfair and unscheduled loadshedding in Punjab.

The lawyer said Chan had threatened to tender his resignation if loadshedding in his constituency was not put to an end like the constituencies of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and Minister of Water and Power Ahmad Mukhtar.

Siddique pointed out Chan’s statement was enough to establish that a discriminatory attitude was being adopted with Punjab. The petitioner said despite an announcement by the water and power minister, citizens of Punjab were facing severe loadshedding not only during Sehri and Iftari timings but also throughout the day. He said the action was against the principles of promissory and a fraud with the citizens of Punjab.

He contended that THE failure of electricity supply in Ramzan was violating the fundamental rights as envisaged in the Constitution, especially under Article 9, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 19-A, 23, 24 and 25 of the Constitution.

The chief justice recorded the arguments of the two sides and directed the federal government to apprise the court of the problems being faced by it in production of electricity, and submit a detailed report about money earned through electricity bills and its subsequent use.

Putting the hearing until August 17, the chief justice also sought six-month record of the loadshedding schedule and the criteria of granting exemption from loadshedding.