Pakistan: Protests over exorbitant electricity bills refuse to die down

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As the protests over exorbitant electricity bills refuse to die down, the Pakistan caretaker government is considering providing one-slab benefit to household consumers, Pakistan-based The Express Tribune reported. 

As the nationwide protests continue, a high-level meeting was held on Monday to address the issue. During the meeting, there were discussions over various proposals intended to reduce the distress of the power consumers, which will subsequently be presented to the federal cabinet for approval on Tuesday. 

Sources said that the plans to extend instalment relief to the consumers for the bill payments were discussed, giving the citizens an option to pay their bills in more than two instalments and easing their financial burden, according to The Express Tribune report. 

Similarly, another proposal that is being considered is to provide relief to the people by allowing them to pay a portion of the electricity bill during the winter months when energy consumption reduces. Furthermore, the meeting sought the Pakistan Finance Ministry’s views on slashing the taxes imposed on the electricity bills. 

The final decision regarding tax reduction will rely on whether it contradicts the agreement between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The source said, “If the reduction in taxes is not repugnant to the agreement with the IMF, then the government will definitely cut the existing taxes on the electricity bills.” 

Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy said that a high-level meeting on power bills had taken place. Pakistan’s Caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi said that the energy ministry has finalised recommendations with respect to the electricity bills, The Express Tribune reported. The recommendations were finalised at a high-level meeting that took place at Pakistan’s Ministry of Energy. 

The proposals come as protests have erupted across the nation with people rejecting the prices of electricity. People, traders and business communities in Pakistan have said that they were no longer ready to shoulder the weight of exorbitant electricity costs and refused to pay the bills.

The business community in Balakot on Monday rejected the recent increase in electricity bills and announced a shutdown strike. Under the banner of Anjuman Tajran, the business community took to the streets and demanded immediate action to reduce their economic pain, The Express Tribune reported.

The chamber of commerce in Hyderabad announced a shutter-down strike. Businesses also remained closed in Mansehra after a union of traders called for a complete shutdown of all business centres in the city, the report said. Meanwhile, a complete shutdown was witnessed in Pind Dadan Khan. 

People in Rawalpindi surrounded the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) grid station and set fire to their electricity bills, The Express Tribune reported. Protesters rejected the government’s taxation policy and expressed their unwillingness to pay their bills. Meanwhile, Senators voiced concerns regarding the electricity situation in Pakistan and highlighted the sufferings of the people due to theft, line losses, and defaulters.

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