When a country’s citizens don’t pay their power bills, their access to supplies may be cut off, yet in Pakistan it is the Prime Minister who will be feeling the pinch if the matter is not resolved.
The country’s power ministry said earlier this week that it would take the action of cutting off supplies to major offices, including that of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in a crackdown on customers not paying their electricity bills.
Pakistan’s economy is crippled by persistent blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day partly because influential families, politicians and bureaucrats do not pay for their use while the poor often cannot afford rising utility bills.
Mr Sharif has previously promised to fix the power cuts as one of his priorities but, on Tuesday, Pakistan’s minister of state for water and power, Abid Sher Ali, said the campaign to eradicate non-payment would now target his own office.
“Electricity to all state institutions and individual consumers who haven’t cleared their dues will be disconnected,” he said in televised remarks. “There will be no discrimination.”
The minister, who is from the ruling party, said he had ordered the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company to disconnect power to the President House, Prime Minister’s Secretariat, the parliament building, the official residence of the chief justice and many other offices.
There was no immediate comment from those affected. It was also unclear when the power ministry would cut off supply and whether government offices would be spared if they paid up.
Power cuts have worsened in Pakistan in recent years, becoming one of the main sources of discontent in the South Asian country, often leaving entire neighbourhoods without power for up to half a day in the sweltering summer months.
Pakistan’s state power companies are notoriously inefficient but critics have long questioned just how far Sharif will be prepared to go to overhaul an important sector dominated by decades-long alliances, industry loyalties and lobby groups.