For now, they bless him
Perhaps if the water and power minister had pleaded with the gods earlier, the rain would have come sooner. But it would hardly have mattered, for the mercury dropped and people breathed a sigh of relief, yet the load shedding persists. Granted, there is a slight, very slight, ease in some areas. Yet the rains also imply the dry season is giving way to long months of humidity. And Khawaja Asif will need more than prayers to keep the mob from protesting, especially since his apology was accompanied by admission of helplessness that nothing can be done as summer rages, and people in some cities have already begun demonstrating.
Soon the government will be reminded of its election promises, especially how solving the energy problem was at the top of its agenda. It will be embarrassed, again, by admitting that such claims were but hollow campaigning gimmicks – as if accusations of vote fraud were not enough. The matter of the circular debt will come up again too, rightly. Why was a mysterious bulk payment made to clear the Rs500 billion overhang, without audit? And how, in just one year, it has again ballooned to not far from the same number? Also, since the main problem is not production, generation, or distribution, but rather billions stuck in unpaid bills and debts, why is it that some of those responsible occupy the highest seats of government (and opposition), while some more are their friends and accomplices? Why is the entire country made to suffer for excesses of an influential few who continue to wield considerable power?
At the centre of this storm is the unfortunate water and power, and defence, minister, Khawaja Asif. His junior minister’s (prime minister’s nephew Abid Sher Ali) usual front-foot arrogance has been visibly muted since the power crisis rubbished the N league’s Ramazan promise. Now, with the KPK government also lashing out over his rude remarks, not to mention his ministry’s failure, there are, once again, unnecessary problems for which the government has only itself to blame.
The power crisis is a grave problem, but it is not without solution, or irony. The government can go after non-payments, take whatever steps necessary, and make the law make those responsible pay. It will not only turn the lights back on, but also treat the cancer of corruption to no small degree. Such steps do risk unhinging our political system far beyond the sitting government, though. But short of that Kh Asif can keep praying, and hoping that the gods will continue to favour him.