Who is minding the store?

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  • The woes of K-Electric

It took the Mayor of Karachi, Waseem Abbas, to have an FIR registered against K-Electric’s owner, chairperson and CEO in the Darakhshan police station, for the deaths of three young men who were electrocuted while trying to reach a K-Electric office to lodge a complaint. The torrential rains over the weekend had led to a number of deaths due to electrocution, with Mayor Waseem saying over 50 had been killed. The rain had led to breakdowns over large parts of the city, with the utility shutting off power to lowlying areas, which had furthet led to the water supply breaking down. It may have needed the Mayor to take a hand at the Darakshan police station, but the Paposh Nagar, Taimoria and Baldia Town also registered cases for persons electrocuted in their jurisdictions. The deaths were just the icing on top of the bitter cake that came from an Eidul Azha where electricity to cool people and regfrigerate vast quantities of meat was absent, as was water.

K-Electric, unfortunately, has been running on autopilot since its Chairman, Arif Naqvi, was arrested for fraud in April. Even though he has been named in the FIRs, he may not pay them much attention, as he is on bail in the UK, fighting off extradition to the USA, and facing charges in the UAE, where he has been convicted on one charge in absentia, getting a three-year sentence. The collapse of his Abraaj Group, which had not just acquired K-Electric but had signed an agreement with the Shanghai Electric Power Company in April to sell it to it. Among the problems with putting the sale through, which Mr Naqvi wants done because of his financial difficulties, is that Shanghai wants K-Electric to be clear of its liabilities.

As many of those liabilities are with government entities, it is the government which needs to work to speed up this sale, not because it needs any part in the transaction between two private firms, but so that the power utility in its most populous city, industrial and financial capital, and sole port could get a responsible management, one able to provide power without being responsible for killing off the citizenry.