Power Politics: The Violence of Energy Insecurity

Posted on April 16, 2008
Filed Under >Adil Najam, Economy & Development, Law & Justice, Society
30 Comments
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Adil Najam

These pictures from the Associated Press are truly astounding (story in Dawn).

Riots over energy power cuts in Multan, PakistanRiots over energy power cuts in Multan, PakistanRiots over energy power cuts in Multan, PakistanRiots over energy power cuts in Multan, Pakistan

Crowds rioted in Multan – the home city of the new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani – in protest of the massive power cuts because of the growing energy crisis in Pakistan. The office of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) were ransacked. A dozen cars and buses were set afire. Stones were thrown. A bank was torched. At least 13 people were injured.

The angry man with the gun in the red shirt that you see in the first picture is senior WAPDA official, Mohammad Ishtiaq, opening areal (hawaii) fire to disperse the crowd after about 10 WAPDA workers were injured. In the last picture you see an unidentified WAPDA official grabbing hold of one of the protesters.

This is the “power” politics at its very worst. The real face of energy insecurity. When life is made miserable, anger spills on the streets and so does blood. The senselessness of the violence is only compounded by the senselessness of the energy crisis that triggered the violence. And it is not even summer yet. It promises to be a summer of even greater discontent.

30 responses to “Power Politics: The Violence of Energy Insecurity”

  1. -Farid says:

    I wonder how many of the writers were sitting in an air-conditioned space while they wrote about conservation of electricity…..

    I’m all for avoiding waste.

    But this demand-management thinking has to be coupled with some supply-side thinking as well.

    Pakistan is going to need a heck of a lot more electricity. That’s an unavoidable reality.

    The more we develop, the more we will need it. The more GDP / capita goes up the more people will be able to afford A/Cs. And why shouldn’t they ? Why should air-conditioning remain a privilege for the “babus ” only ?

    The power shortage is Pakistan is a huge business opportunity. Nothing more, nothing less.

    What we need is a good power policy, which would attract investment and competition in this sector. There is money to be made here while simultaneously solving the problem.

  2. Ayaz Siddiqui says:

    WAPDA’s new motto

    If your fans don’t work, use air conditioners.

  3. Daktar says:

    SJH, I may be wrong but my understanding is that no new new power plants were built since the last Benazir government. I think this was because the whole IPP corruption fiasco then created such a bad atmosphere that it became politically difficult to follow. Musharraf in his early years seemed to be pushing for Kalabagh but gave up on that soon once he realized that he was not willing to have this jeapordize his hold on power. The shame and surprise is that Shaukat Aziz was either unaware of uninterested in this key aspect of national management.

  4. faraz Waseem says:

    The fat guy in red looks like a “profesional goon”.

  5. SJH says:

    This is an energy crisis, that needs a solution in the very short term. Ideas on conservation are critical to the medium and long term solution but they may not provide enough to solve the immediate problem. It is a bit odd that Pakistan was able to boast of strong external surpluses and no one thought of using some of it to build a few power plants. Can someone more knowledgeable tell me when the last major power plant was built in the country?

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