Pakistan’s Struggle for Power

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Muhammad Ali is a fixture on the streets of Lyari Town, a notoriously lawless part of Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial capital. Ali has the Sisyphean task of keeping the self-styled City of Lights lit — and electricity bandits at bay. Each day, he collects up to 20 kg of illegal connections, and each day, after he leaves, many residents tap back into the grid. Haji Umer, an 80-year-old who lives in the building that Ali is working on, says he doesn’t steal power, but he understands why his neighbors do. They find the electricity expensive, and the power cuts frequent and long. “It’s so hot and dark inside,” Umer says. “We don’t have any choice.”

Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places on the planet. It’s besieged by militancy — over a few days in late September, three back-to-back attacks took place in the city of Peshawar, killing more than 130 people. After U.S. troops withdraw next year from neighboring Afghanistan, the bloodshed might worsen if the Taliban become emboldened. Such violence, coupled with widespread urban crime and the decades-old conflict with India, has made the government devote about 19% of its annual budget to the military — money that could otherwise go to development.

A strong economy would improve livelihoods, give hope for the future, and undermine extremism, often a desperate resort for the marginalized. But the lack of reliable electricity has contributed to holding back prosperity. Over the past five years, GDP growth has averaged 3%, too low to fight poverty and create jobs. Demand for power far outstrips what the country can produce and deliver. In recent years, planned and unplanned electricity outages of 12 to 16 hours daily nationwide have hurt business, aggravated  unemployment and sparked angry protests. Over the summer, riots erupted in Bannu district in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province after the state shut off power because customers weren’t paying their bills. “The tolerance threshold has gone down,” says Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Center for Research and Security Studies in Islamabad.

Pakistan has ample energy resources: an estimated 186 billion tons of coal, over 100,000 megawatts of hydro potential, and wind potential of up to 346,000 megawatts. But the technology and investment to exploit these resources are limited. An overreliance on imported fuel — over 30% of Pakistan’s energy is from plants that burn furnace oil — has exposed the country to high oil prices. There isn’t enough money to keep the system — a mix of private and state-run enterprises — running or to fix faulty infrastructure that leaks electricity. Nor is there enough capital to develop cost-effective, energy-efficient alternatives. “If we do not solve the energy problem in the next three or four years, [Pakistan] won’t be safe,” Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Minister for Water and Power, tells TIME. “We will ultimately end up with no electricity, no water, no employment, no money. This is very critical to our survival.”—Krista Mahr / Karachi

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19 comments
JagNathan
JagNathan

Pakistan's energy problems are not going to end any time soon.   Infrastructural development takes time and needs massive investment, two things in virtual short supply here.  Who will lend money to a nation bankrupt, has one of the highest murder rates, is plagued by terrorism, political instability and takes credit for one of the least relevant educational curriculum.  The country has one of the highest population growths, and one of the lowest water tables.  In another 20 years 40% of Pakistani land will be non-arable (while the population balloons) because the country never made the necessary investments in canals and irrigation systems.  Pakistan excels in two things - producing jihadis and atom bombs.  Well jihadis cannot build or operate power plants and the population cannot eat atom bombs.  Good luck Pakistan.

harry.kahns
harry.kahns

India needs drastic changes in political thinking, public dialogs, national culture, leadership character and religious tolerance.  

JagadishPandya
JagadishPandya

Pakistan was created and built on wrong reasons and footings: hate, appeasement, opportunism and more on the basis of very narrow discriminating religious tenets. These all lack moral courage, honesty, human equality and political leadership commitments. The country was helped monetarily from all the world sources from all directions some with good intentions and some with narrow instant causal decisions. If such helps were conditioned on change of their values and attitudes about their way of governance. That means building true democratically elected government by organizing and honestly educating her citizens through series of town hall meetings and facing them squarely for all their problems and then redesign the government programs for, by and of the people. Make peace with the neighboring countries through honest and reasonable negotiations. Stop supporting home grown and international terrorism. Pakistan needs drastic changes in political thinking, public dialogs, national culture, leadership character and religious tolerance.  

gmichael
gmichael

I want to see one single Muslim Country have the faintest form of success.

Even these countries that have oil like Saudi Arabia, their masses still live in poverty, illiteracy and poor health.

What does that says about Islam itself that claim to have all the solutions for world ills.

ShaunakPurohit
ShaunakPurohit

Hahahaha....


Zulfikar Ali Bhutto famously said " Pakistan will fight, fight for a thousand years. If.. India builds the (atom) bomb.... (Pakistan) will eat grass or (leaves), even go hungry, but we (Pakistan) will get one of our own (atom bomb)....

Congratulations for successfully making the bomb...!!!

whthfu
whthfu

@harry.kahns you need to fix your own SELF-CREATED problems and lick your own SELF-INFLICTED wounds. 

since independence in 1947, your strategy has been blaming everyone else for your problems - sometimes India, sometimes afghanistan, sometimes America.. and see it has landed you in the toilet now...

the world looks at India, China & Brazil as engines of future growth. And pakistan ? the world thinks its a 3rd world terrorist-infested dump!

Sanpai
Sanpai

@harry.kahns Pakistan is in this state of mess not because of India. If one writes down a list of problems gripping Pakistan, India would figure somewhere in the bottom. Corruption and opportunism, and seemingly uncontrollable domestic fundamentalism are the actual troubles gripping the country. India wasn't responsible for sectarian violence in Pakistan, Indians did not put a stop to rehabilitation efforts in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Indians haven't stopped Pakistani aid workers from carrying out polio immunisation and finally, Indians did not try to kill a young girl who aspired to pursue her education. 

harry.kahns
harry.kahns

@JagadishPandya Muslim built Taj Mahal in India but you guys could provide toilets for 500 million of population.

GreatFurbian
GreatFurbian

@gmichaelNot forgetting the largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia, has issue and poverty, but progressing well. Malaysia and Turkey are doing reasonably well too, Turkey better than most east European states. Iraq though a brutal dictatorship was a industrial nation, bombed by the US into a pre-industrial state. Pakistan is bombed by drones on quite a regular basis, and having a neighbour like India, border disputes with every neighbour and like to be the regional bully, it's a tough neighbourhood to be in.


Take your semi-literate hatred elsewhere. Then again, I've just wasted five minutes replying to a hate comment, akin to barking back at a barking dog.

Odd thing is the article itself, "Pakistan is one of the most dangerous places on the planet.", I was there about six weeks ago with my whole family for a month, travelling between Lahore, Islamabad and the Murree, apart from the shocking traffic (how people drive in the third world), it didn't feel like 'one of the most dangerous places on the planet', true I didn't visit the North West etc. but the 400km area we travelled in was all we went to see. Then again if I was in New York, I wouldn't pick the roughest areas of the city for midnight stroll.


shariq.hamed
shariq.hamed

@gmichael Kuwait, UAE and Qatar are three muslim countries that are considered within the top ten richest countries (GDP). Dumbass. 

JagNathan
JagNathan

@harry.kahns @JagadishPandya A lot of Hindus paid with their lives for a Muslim invader to build the Taj Mahal.  India is not perfect.  The fact that a leader like Narendra Modi could say that India needs toilets before temples and can still walk around alive is a testament to who we are are and what we have achieved.  Can you say that about Pakistan?  If you could, Salman Taiseeer would be alive today.  Indians have a reason to hope.  Can you say that about Pakistan where your citizens cannot even walk the streets anymore for fear of being blown to smithereens.

whthfu
whthfu

@ameerhamid89 the remaining half a billion live better than all of your 180 million.. 

thats why the world looks at India, China & Brazil as engines of future growth. 

And pakistan ? the world thinks its a dangerous 3rd world terrorist-infested dump!

LOL !

RomanAli
RomanAli

@ramesh.manghirmalanii

Muslims are not stupid. They are innocent. Actually they can't recognize the hypocrisy of hindus and the other jealous people..

whthfu
whthfu

@Free_Kashmiri

Your first sentence itself proves you are a typical Porki dumb0 and the rest of your post is essentially worthless like your country..India's economy is growing faster than all except China in the BRIC club.. hahaha

The OECD said Brazil's economy will grow by only 1.3 percent this year, while Russia is expected to grow by 3.4 percent, China by 7.5 percent, India by 4.5 percent and South Africa by 2.6 percent

check statistics and then come and bark nonsense here. or your madarsa doesn't teach you basic math ?

goodluck next time, kiddo!

Free_Kashmiri
Free_Kashmiri

Don't put India in the same sentence with Brazil,China and Russia.
India has the worst performing economy in the BRICs and the worst social indicators, according to the guy at Goldman Sachs who coined the acronym BRICs, he regrets putting India in that acronym, he said he could do it again he would remove the "I" out of BRIC.
Pakistan is fighting a war on terror, that's why it's economy isn't doing well, India on the other hand isn't, so it has no excuse for doing so bad.
The average person in India doesn't have a quality of life on par with a Russian or Chinese, and Pakistan has better income equality than India, and it actually has better infrastructure.
This article was about the power crisis in Pakistan, you're acting as if there aren't power cuts in India, last year there was a massive blackout in India, leaving 600 million people in the darkness.
700 million Indians live in poverty,500 million defecate in the open cause they don't have access to toilets.
India has the 14th most people living on less than $1.25 a day, even Ethiopia and Pakistan rank better than India, India is also home to 33.8% of the world's illiterate population.
Life expectancy in India is only 63 years compared to 66 years in Pakistan.
India has received FAR more aid since world war 2 than ANY other country in the world.
In the world's top ten aid recipients, India ranks 6th, whereas Pakistan doesn't even rank in the top ten.
You people need stop your obsession with Pakistan, and worry about your cesspool of a country, once you fix your country make it as livable as any Scandinavian country, then you can talk smack about Pakistan, until then STFU.