PML-N calls for JIT to probe closure of cheap power plants

ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has expressed serious concerns over the ongoing energy crisis in the country and called for constitution of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into the “closure of world’s cheapest power plants” in the country.

Speaking at a news conference at the National Press Club, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former minister of state for finance Miftah Ismail and the party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for its “directionless and failed” economic policies, which had drastically brought down the country’s growth rate in just five months.

“This government has failed in just five months. The country is in a state of recession. The growth rate has come down to four per cent and inflation is constantly increasing,” said Mr Abbasi.

The former prime minister claimed that when the PTI government came to power, there was no shortage of electricity and gas in the country. He alleged that the government was generating some 4,200 megawatts of electricity through furnace oil, which was considered to be the most expensive way of producing electricity.

“The world’s cheapest power plants are closed and electricity is being produced through most expensive fuel, causing a daily loss of Rs1 billion to the national exchequer,” he said, demanding that an inquiry should be ordered to probe why cheaper power plants had been closed.

“Since a new culture of forming JITs has been developed in the country, I demand that a JIT be formed to find out those responsible for the present energy crisis in the country,” Mr Abbasi said.

The former premier said when the PML-N had assumed power in 2013 the country was facing worst kind of electricity and gas loadshedding. However, he said, it was the PML-N government which brought the country out of the energy crisis under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. He, however, regretted that due to “incapability” of the present rulers, this was the second consecutive month that the people had been suffering from electricity and gas shortages.

The PML-N leader castigated the government for removing heads of two gas utilities, stating that they could not be held responsible for the gas shortage. Without elaborating, he also accused the government of “diverting” the ships carrying LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas).

Responding to the allegations regarding corruption in the LNG deal with Qatar, he said he took all the responsibility for bringing LNG to the country and was ready to defend it at any forum.

Speaking on the occasion, former finance minister Miftah Ismail alleged that the government had already borrowed Rs1,400 billion from the State Bank of Pakistan whereas the PML-N government had borrowed Rs288bn from the SBP during its entire five-year term.

Mr Ismail, who had presented the last budget of the PML-N government, explained that borrowing from the SBP meant printing of more currency and increase in inflation. He said the PTI had promised to provide 10 million jobs in five years for which a growth rate of nine to 10 per cent was required. He said the PML-N government had brought down the inflation to a single digit from the 14 per cent it had inherited in 2013. The inflation, he regretted, was again showing an upward trend.

Responding to a question, Mr Abbasi said that due to the “visionless economic policies” of the rulers, the government now intended to present a second mini-budget within six months. He said the government had been forced to present another mini-budget as it had failed to meet the revenue target and stop increase in its own expenses due to rising inflation.

He said the government was planning to put more burden on the masses to pay off Rs400bn interest on loans.

Responding to another question, Mr Abbasi said that so far the government had not contacted the opposition on the issue of the military courts. He, however, said that the government would have to explain before parliament why there was a need for giving another extension to the military courts. The former premier also accused the government of using the exit control list (ECL) as a tool to victimise its opponents.