Interim premier announces decision during a media talk with senior journalists at PM Office

ISLAMABAD: Amid countrywide protests over high electricity bills, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar announced on Thursday that in the next 48 hours, his government would announce a relief plan for the inflation-hit masses.

The assurance was given by the interim premier in an interaction with senior journalists at the PM Office.

PM Kakar said that his government did a detailed review of the electricity bills for the last two months. All institutions, he further said, were asked how much free electricity they were consuming, adding that the electricity bill problem was “being exaggerated”.

“The electricity bills will need to be paid and IMF [International Monetary Fund] conditions will be implemented,” the caretaker prime minister said.

The reason behind the high electricity bills was the IPPs and line losses, he added. “We are working with the IMF and looking into the issue of electricity bills. There is inflation but not so much that there should be a shutter-down strike.”

He also said, “We have taken note of the free electricity units [being given to government departments and officials].”

He assured that no one in the army is using free electricity bills and it is being paid through the defence budget.

The caretaker premier also clarified that they were also told that no one in the judiciary is being provided with free electricity. Even in Wapda, only a few employees have free electricity facilities from grades 1-16 while most officers above grade 17 are getting free units of electricity, he added.

“Our point of view is that most employees in the grades 1-16 are protesting. It has been suggested to provide money to officers between grades 17-22 rather than free electricity.”

PM Kakar said, “We have asked all stakeholders to come up with a policy within 48 hours.”

On the matter of upcoming general elections, he assured that the polls would be held on time but at the same time clarified that it is the Election Commission of Pakistan’s authority and they are there to assist.

“I am not a constitutional expert but till the Supreme Court does not give its interpretation [on a law] then what law has been approved will be followed. Whatever Supreme Court decides on the election date we will respect it,” the premier said.

 

Incensed citizens, already battered by skyrocketing inflation continue to take to the streets protesting against massive hikes in electricity tariffs and increased taxes in across the country.

Those attending these demonstrations include members of the civil society — both men and women — traders, farmers, and members of the legal and business fraternities.

Earlier today, traders across the country demonstrated against massive hikes in electricity tariffs as the caretaker government expressed helplessness to provide relief due to strict IMF conditions.

Multiple traders’ associations in different cities including Rahim Yar Khan, Sukkur, Bahawalpur, Quetta, Vehari, Peshawar and others are observing shutter-down strikes to force the government to provide relief in the bills.

Caretakers mull allowing consumers to pay bills in instalments

Meanwhile, the news conference came hours after it was reported that the caretaker government is considering allowing inflation-hit people with bills of up to 400 units to pay their dues in six-month instalments amidst inflated electricity bills.

Presiding over a cabinet meeting in Islamabad, the premier mulled over proposals regarding relief provisions for the public in the wake of a nationwide outcry against the exorbitant power bills.

During the meeting, caretaker Finance Minister Dr Shamshad Akhtar apprised the session regarding ongoing discussions with the IMF as the Washington-based lender’s conditions are widely considered to be the primary factor behind sky-high energy tariffs.

During the meeting, the premier was also briefed on current economic indicators along with various other issues including the need to take concrete measures against smuggling, and illegal foreign exchange rackets in light of an already weak and depreciating rupee.

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