Pakistan government defaults on its electricity bill

By Aijaz Maher
BBC News, Islamabad

image captionPakistan has debilitating energy shortages

Government institutions in Pakistan owe $2bn to the cash-strapped national power company, it has emerged.

Power Production Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told parliament that the defaulters included the army, the Supreme Court and the presidency.

Pakistan is currently going through a major power crisis which has slowed down the economy and led to riots.

The latest disclosures will embarrass the government which has threatened to jail people who do not pay their bills.

It has launched a massive campaign against private defaulters, accusing them of being unIslamic.

The crisis is due to a massive power shortfalls caused by poor electricity infrastructure and the shortage of new production units. Both problems stem from a lack of finances.

'Raising hackles'

"The biggest single defaulter is the ministry of defence, which includes the three armed forces," Mr Ashraf said in parliament in reply to a question.

image captionThe country's energy infrastructure lacks investment

"The amount owed by defence comes to a billion rupees ($11.76m)," he stated.

This is about half of what the federal government owes to the country's Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).

Pakistan's Presidency, on the other hand, owes a comparatively low 20m rupees ($235,294).

The Supreme Court's dues are pegged at 2.5m rupees ($29,400).

The figures are likely to raise hackles across the country as ordinary Pakistanis continue to grapple with long hours of power cuts.

The government's discomfiture over unpaid bills is likely to be enhanced because it has recently launched a new television advertisement campaign which portrays defaulters as working against the national interest.

The government has frequently warned that that bill defaulters are liable to imprisoned and fined as are people who have illegal connections.

The authorities regularly disconnect supplies to those companies or individuals who miss out on even a couple of months' payments.

But it is unlikely that any punitive action will be taken against defaulting government institutions.

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