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Monday Sep 21 2020
Web Desk

K-Electric, NEPRA chiefs briefly walk out of chaotic hearing as Karachi citizens raise angry chants

Web Desk

KARACHI: The K-Electric chief executive and the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority chairman had to briefly leave a hearing on public complaints against the metropolis' sole power supplier after the event turned chaotic as angry citizens raised chants over not being allowed to speak.

Organised by NEPRA at a local hotel in Karachi, the hearing was attended by many, including people associated with different industries, various stakeholders, and officials of K-Electric. Industrialist Siraj Qasim Teli was also spotted in the audience.

According to activist Jibran Nasir, the hearing's focus was to decide on "whether to end K-Electric's exclusive rights to distribute electricity to Karachi and allow other players to compete in the market given KE's failure to ensure safe and uninterrupted supply of electricity to Karachi".

When a participant raised a question, NEPRA Chairperson Tauseef H. Farooqi said K-Electric would be given a chance to speak first and present the company's position, which exacerbated the resentment among the Karachiites who were present at the hearing to speak about their power woes.

The chanting against K-Electric subsequently grew stronger, forcing Farooqi to adjourn the hearing for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, Farooqi, along with K-Electric CEO Syed Moonis Abdullah Alvi, left the room in a hurry after the NEPRA boss ordered that anyone not speaking in an orderly manner be kicked out of the hall.

The public outcry was strong, turning the hearing bitter and leading to a harsh exchange of words between those at the panel and the aggrieved participants.

However, K Electric's leadership remained present in the second session and briefed NEPRA on the investments and other figures generated by the company's performance

'Moonis Alvi threatened me'

The citizens at the hearing started protesting, saying their time had been wasted as they were called to the talks but not heard. "If our concerns are not being heard here, then why was this hearing scheduled today," asked one participant.

Prior to that, a woman in attendance addressed the hearing, saying she was representing Karachi's upscale Defence Housing Authority (DHA) neighbourhood.

She explained that the K-Electric boss warned her against speaking about the matter during the hearing. "Moonis Alvi threatened me that if I talked too much, the electricity supply in my area will not be resumed," she alleged.

"Even today, as a punishment, our area is without electricity," the woman lamented. "You can understand how I had to come here today," she added, referring to ongoing load-shedding and unannounced power outages.

"We have no personal enmity with K-Electric," she said, adding that her recommendation was for there to be more electricity-supplying companies just like there are those that sell mobile SIM cards.

Recovery from unplanned areas 'very difficult'

Speaking to the media later, K-Electric CFO Aamir Ghaziani said the NEPRA organised the hearing "in the public interest".

"We also want to talk about the public interest," Ghaziani told the media. He said some 40% of Karachi's areas were unplanned and recovery from localities was therefore "very difficult".

"We are providing electricity to neighbourhoods that are proper [in terms of planning], as well as areas that are exempted," he added. "We were given time until 2023 in our license."

Earlier in the day, Farooqi, the NEPRA chairperson, said the goal of the hearing was "not to make a decision yet" but to listen to the problems of Karachi's people.

"We are here to work on a single point agenda," he said. "The people of Karachi will inform us of the ground realities today."

The official noted that the Supreme Court of Pakistan had summoned the K-Electric and the NEPRA earlier with regard to a suo motu notice.

"If good service is not being provided, then it is our duty to look into such matters immediately," he said. "Our job is not only to make decisions but also to examine technical issues.

"Hopefully, the citizens here will present their case well," Farooqi added.

$25m investment to address load-shedding

Addressing the hearing later, K-Electric CEO Alvi said the city's sole power supplier had boosted power infrastructure by 104%.

"The KE has reduced losses by 16% and consumer growth has been 9%," he said, adding that the power-supplying company has invested more than what was required under an agreement with NEPRA.

The company chief highlighted that there were "350 loss and very high loss feeders in Karachi".

Farooqi, while speaking to K-Electric CFO Ghaziani, asked what steps did the company take to improve power supply during the year. "You say the investment in the loss-making areas will be affected if the profitable areas are removed?

"What are the steps in the next three years that will improve the power supply," he asked, terming the K-Electric "Robin Hood".

In response, Ghaziani said the company has made an investment worth $25 million for the next three years, noting that it would help "improve areas that face load-shedding".

KE committed 'biggest violation' of consumer court

MQM-Pakistan leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan, who was also present at the public hearing, said a unanimous resolution was passed in the Sindh Assembly stating that there should be other companies besides the K-Electric.

"Every third consumer in Karachi has paid their fines," Hassan said, adding that the industrial consumers paid more than Rs1.5 billion in fines as well.

Noting that no one had approached the consumer court, the MQM-P leader said the K-Electric committed the "biggest violation" of the users' rights protection forum.

JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman also spoke during the hearing, asking the K-Electric which were the days when there was no load-shedding at all.

"How is possible that there's power outage whenever it starts raining? Why didn't the K-Electric work on earthing before the NEPRA notice," Rehman asked further.

Additional reporting by Sanovia Chaudhry