KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Friday asked Prime Minister Imran Khan and Federal Power Minister Omar Ayub to "wake up from your sleep" and address the deepening electricity crisis that has taken over Pakistan's southern province as it battles the coronavirus pandemic.
"I don’t understand when K-Electric says there is unavailability of furnace oil and Pakistan State Oil (PSO) responds by saying that they are providing them with it. KE also says they are not getting gas and Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC) says they are providing them with it," CM Shah said.
Addressing a session to conclude the budget discussion in the provincial assembly, he said: "These organisations — PSO, SSGC, KE — come under the jurisdiction of the federal government.
"Why are their lips sealed on the matter? Given the fact that Karachi is a virus hotspot, why don’t the power minister and prime minister wake up from their sleep?"
The provincial chief "strongly" condemned the prolonged power outages and the federal government’s failure to ensure electricity provision. He questioned why during a time when lockdowns are being imposed, and almost all of Lahore has been sealed in the name of a smart lockdown, were they unable to provide electricity to the people.
After much criticism from several lawmakers, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail later in the day said the federal government would provide additional furnace oil to the Karachi power utility through HUBCO/PSO.
Ismail said that an additional 500MW of electricity to KE in addition to 650MW "can not be utilised because of non-upgradation of system".
"CEO KE directed to ensure upgradation of their system," he added, noting that additional gas upto 100 mmcfd will also be provided from SSGC "to ease pressure of furnace oil shortage".
The KE, in a statement, appreciated the support extended by the federal government in "allowing import of furnace oil".
It said members of the board in a meeting today "expressed concern on the inconvenience faced by KE customers due to power outages".
'Accept your mistakes'
In his speech at the Sindh Assembly today, the Sindh chief minister also lambasted PM Imran for his statements regarding the nationwide lockdown made during his address in the National Assembly.
"The prime minister had claimed that the lockdown had been imposed in the country on March 13 […] while the first one to impose a lockdown was Sindh — on March 23.
"The prime minister had said that people would come out of their homes (in protest) if a lockdown would be imposed […] tell me who has died out of hunger," he said.
Referring to Minister for Climate Change Zartaj Gul Wazir’s statement on the pandemic, he said: "She said that there are 19 types of coronavirus […] US President Donald Trump also gave a similar statement," he said, adding that their personalities "intersect at this point".
The provincial chief said that the Centre was not competent enough to collect revenue. "The person who heads the federal cabinet has asked that all the blame (of the government's performance) be assigned to the coronavirus."
"No disaster took place in 2018-19 […] it was just that the PTI came into power during the period," he said.
CM Shah urged the federal government to "accept their mistakes" and at least not bring their "selectors" any disrepute.
Reacting to PM Imran’s speech in the National Assembly, a day earlier, he said: "I was surprised that the prime minister had called a known terrorist a martyr."
Shah, referring to his predecessor Qaim Ali Shah, said that the seasoned politician has been part of the assemblies since the 70s.
"He does not go into hiding like your lot. If he is summoned, he will appear."
He reminded everyone of the chief justice's observation whereby he had asked: "Under whose instructions have the names of Murad Ali Shah and Bilawal Bhutto been included in the JIT probe (investigation of the sugar crisis).
"I have not sought bail to avoid arrest," said the chief minister.
Referring to Jahangir Khan Tareen's departure to London, he said: "One man was getting tangled in all this and left for London."
"My counterpart was also getting embroiled – why is he not caught?" he said, in a veiled reference to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar.
Speaking of the prime minister's visits to Karachi and Larkana, he said: "He came for a private visit. He went to Larkana and met his ATM (financier). One ATM left so he went to meet the other."
"This is what is left of this party."
Sindh's coronavirus response
The chief minister also paid tribute to police, Rangers, armed forces, and media workers, who had fulfilled their responsibilities admirably during the pandemic and saved people’s lives.
Talking about the coronavirus situation in Pakistan, he said there were over 195,000 COVID-19 infections in the country.
Providing a statistical break down, he said that Balochistan had conducted 46,623 tests, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 135,671, Punjab over 461,000, and Sindh 409,145 till last night — June 25.
"We have ramped up our testing capacity from 80 tests per day to 13,000-14,000," he said, adding: "Sindh has carried out 8,585 tests per million, which is the most compared to any other province. In Punjab, the ratio stands at 4,192, 3,822 in KP, and 3,730 in Balochistan."
In the last 25 days, Sindh has conducted 228,342 tests, while Punjab has done 221,981, KP 74,720, and Balochistan nearly 21,500, he noted.
The provincial chief said that on April 1, Sindh had reserved 91 beds in intensive care units for COVID-19 patients and over the last week the number had been increased to 459.
Talking about beds in high dependency units, he said they had 71 beds on April 1, and today the figure stands at 1,569 and by the end of July, Sindh aims to take this figure to 1,968, and ICU beds to 606.
"But these are not enough, and this virus is here to stay with us."
'Corruption rife in NICVD'
Meanwhile, opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi, while addressing the session, said mosques could be utilised for education in places where schools are not available.
"Sindh Building Control Authority has destroyed this city […] Why is modern technology not used for constructing buildings?" he said.
The opposition leader asked where the 100,000 homes that former chief minister Sindh Qaim Ali Shah had promised were.
"The province has no data. Ambulance services are nowhere to be seen," he continued, adding: "Corruption is rife in the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases."