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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Pampered ‘Crore’ Commanders of Pak army demanding 50% cut in electricity bills may hit IMF wall

The continuous rise in power tariff has hit the people of Pakistan hard, including the Pakistani army. But while there is no respite for the common Pakistani, the army has asked the Imran Khan government for a 50% reduction in power tariff – that too only for the commissioned officers.

In a communique to Pakistan’s nodal authority National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), the Army’s Rawalpindi based General Headquarters (GHQ) said that despite the government order in 1996 to discount 50% on total consumed units, army officers are getting merely a 3.5% discount.

“Military Engineering Services (MES) is responsible for ensuring the 50% rebate for officers in light of previous notifications by the Government of Pakistan. Since it is calculating the rebate on the basis of energy charges instead of variable unit charges, the 50% notified rebate for officers has been reduced to 3.5% in reality,” reports Business Recorder quoting the letter.

“The factual position is, as per a government regulation of the 1990s, armed forces’ officers are entitled to a 50% rebate, but due to the calculation mechanism of Distribution Companies (Discoms), only a net rebate of 3.5 % has been given to them,” says the report.

The Pakistani defence ministry also sent a draft to the Imran Khan government to ask the power companies to follow the rules, but the cabinet, which asked the Finance Ministry to look into the matter, referred the issue to the power division, stating that issues concerning electricity bills do not concern the Finance Ministry.

And the powerful Pakistani military establishment is not happy with this bureaucratic attitude, as it is used to getting its orders implemented immediately. It has asked the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA) to get the discount order enforced without any delay.

According to the Pakistani media, the power tariff has risen sharply in the last six months, after the government withdrew the Pakistani Rs 72 billion subsidy, which was provided to various categories of power consumers including the army officers.

Now, the government has reduced the subsidy requirement from the earlier Rs 240 billion to Rs 168 billion. And most importantly, the Imran Khan government, to save Pakistan’s collapsing economy, is trying hard to fulfil the conditions put by the IMF, so that it can avail the conditional USD 6 billion stalled programme. Under the quash from the IMF, the government has no options but to raise the power tariff and withdraw all subsidies.

According to a report of the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) National Human Development Report (NHDR) for Pakistan, Pakistan’s powerful military, which has directly ruled Pakistan for roughly half of its 74-year history, was found to receive $1.7bn in privileges and subsidies, mainly in the form of preferential access to land, capital and infrastructure, as well as tax exemptions. The report noted, however, that Pakistan’s military is also “the largest conglomerate of business entities in Pakistan, besides being the country’s biggest urban real estate developer and manager, with wide-ranging involvement in the construction of public projects”.

And that is the reason, Pakistanis refer to the generals as “Crore Commanders” of the Pakistan Army.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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