Daylight darkness.

On Jan 23, at 7.34 am, the entire national grid system collapsed and the whole of Pakistan slipped into premature darkness. All Indian Prime Minister Modi needed to invade Pakistan was a torch.

Last year, Pakistan had an installed power generation capacity of 43,775 MW. Of this, 26,683 MW was thermal (the domain of the private sector), 10,635 MW hydroelectric (controlled by Wapda), 1,838 MW wind, 530 MW solar, 369 MW bagasse and 3,620 MW nuclear. So, how does a nuclear power run short of power?

One is reminded of the jibe made in 1945 by the British Labour leader Aneurin Bevin: 'This island is made mainly of coal and surrounded by fish. Only an organising genius could produce a shortage of coal and fish at the same time.'

Who were the geniuses whom Pakistanis, fumbling in Monday's daylight darkness, could and should hold responsible for the current energy shortage?

The country has had no end of energy policies.

The country has had no end of energy polAiAcies. The one that has had the most lasting and damaging effect has been the eneArgy policy of 1994. It advocated the 'large-scale induction of private sector' in power development, until then the sole prerogatAive of Wapda. In effect, Wapda, with its track record of installing 13,000 MW of energy capacity and laying 29,000 miles of traAnsmission lines, could no longer be truAsted with the expansion of the energy sector. The World Bank, once Wapda's friendliest support, became its fiercest critic.

Wapda lost control of thermal power and was left with hydel dams. These produced electricity cheaper but found no favour with commission agents.

A triumvirate of three government functionaries - Shahid Hasan Khan, Tanveer Azhar and M. Salman Faruqui - hastened the induction of the private sector.

The policy introduced the Bulk Power Tariff of 6.5 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 10 years of the project (to cover the period of indebtedness of each project), reducing to 5.9 cents for its remainder. The BPT consisted of (1) an energy price to cover fuel cost and variable operating costs, and (2) a capacity price to cover debt repayment obligations, fixed operating costs, maintenance costs and return on equity (then assumed to average 17 per cent). Payment of BPT and repatriation abroad of dividends stood guaranteed.

At the behest of the World Bank, Wapda's transmission and distribution system was unbundled, creating 12 local distribution companies (Discos), providing employment to military...

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