Chor hai chor hai, K-Electric chor hai (KE is a thief) chants echoed as Nepra started a public hearing held by it on Monday to mull over ending the monopoly of KE as the sole power supplier in the city.
The hearing was adjourned for at least half an hour after people started sloganeering against KE in protest for not taking questions from members of the public. The hall was full. Majority in attendance were business persons, residents, KE representatives and politicians, including MQM’s Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Jamat-e-Islami’s Hafiz Naeem and activist Mohammad Jibran Nasir.
Nepra Chairperson Tauseef Farooqi, who was holding the electricity court, said questions were taken from those who emailed them beforehand. This public hearing was held on the orders of the Supreme Court to look into breaking KE’s monopoly or “exclusivity”. The top court had taken notice of the load-shedding problem in Karachi after people suffered days of power outages.
Former Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Siraj Kassam Teli asked Nepra to justify its earnings and resolve the long-standing issue.
He said there should be three to four competitors so there is heathy competition over price and quality.
“There remains a debate on the price of electricity, but never on quality. When there’s electricity, there are issues of fluctuation. People’s machinery and appliances malfunction because of it,” he said.
KE’s Muhammad Aamir Ghaziani claimed the power company has increased load-shedding exempted areas from 6% to 75% in the last 15 years.
Bilal Khan, a resident of Phase 6, DHA, however, said his area is apparently exempted, but power outages happen quite often.
When Khan tried finding out why, he was told the outages were for load management. “They have actually changed the head (column’s name). Otherwise, load-shedding is still happening literally everywhere in the city,” Khan said.
But not everyone at the hearing was angry with the KE. Layton Rahmatullah Benevolent Trust and Indus Hospital representatives praised KE for its “support” to the two welfare hospitals.
“KE did a great job in our area. We don’t have any load-shedding,” said Mohibullah, a former chairperson of UC-42 (Macchar Colony).
His comments sent the public into frenzy.
“I live in Macchar Colony and power outages happen and children also die during rains,” rebutted a resident from the crowd to Mohibullah’s comments.
Hafiz Naeem of JI said KE officials were all lying about exempted areas. Naeem said that all parties – PPP, MQM, PTI and PML-N have patronised KE in the past.
“When temperatures reach 34 to 35 degrees Celsius, we have load-shedding. When it drizzles and when humidity rises, we have power outages. These are the characteristics of Karachi and you should be able to provide electricity in these circumstances. Even in winter, there is load-shedding under the pretext of low gas supply,” said Naeem, who is a petitioner against KE in the apex court.
“We want a forensic audit and cancellation of the license of KE,” he said.
Before a verbal brawl started between Naeem and MQM’s Hassan, the latter also said that KE’s monopoly should end and MQM has raised the issue in the assembly.
“Karachi’s decision has reached the parliament (through them),” Hassan said.
The verbal brawl between the two politicians and a charged crowd compelled the Nepra officials to end the hearing three hours earlier.
The Nepra chief requested the attendees to settle down or they would have to end the hearing. He said they had already honoured the apex court’s order to hold the public hearing. He soon left the venue with his team.
KE’s stock was among the highest traded stock on Monday with nearly 30 million shares traded. Its share price fell by Rs0.03 to Rs4.22.