The workers of the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) organised rallies on Tuesday in several districts across Sindh to protest against what they said was the dissolution of the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco).
They warned that they would disconnect the electric supply to the entire country for a complete day and hold a continuous strike at work if the decision is not reversed and the government goes ahead with its plan to lease powerhouses.
The federal government dissolved Pepco on October 30. It handed over its functions temporarily to the National Transmission Dispatch Company (NTDC) until the Central Power Purchase Company (CPPA) is formed. The move will allow a variance in the rates of electricity units in different regions of the country.
Pakistan Wapda Hydro Labour Union president Abdul Latif Nizamani, who led a rally of thousands of employees in Hyderabad, was full of ire. “As a first step of our defiance, we will shut down the electric supply to the entire country for a complete day. This will be followed by more ferocious resistance,” he declared while addressing the workers who answered in a chorus of affirmatives.
The unionist contended that the dissolution of Pepco was unconstitutional and had taken place without obtaining the written consent from the governments of all the provinces.
Throwing down the gauntlet to the government, Nizamani, who began his speech with the slogan of ‘Death to the enemies of labourers’, rebutted the claims that privatization would streamline the service. “We were duped in the early 1990s that tearing apart Wapda would reduce load shedding, improve revenue collection and make electricity cheaper,” he said.
“What followed, however, was an absolute deterioration in every aspect of the service promised by the then government.”
The labour leaders claimed that the government would hold a pre-qualification bid on November 7 to lease nine powerhouses at Kotri, Jamshoro, Guddu, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Quetta, Faisalabad I and II, and Shahdara. The rally criticised the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for what the people said was pressuring the government to privatise WAPDA and make electricity more expensive.
“We would have seen the government harness coal and renewable energy if it had any commitment to eliminate load shedding and make electricity cheaper,” said Iqbal Qaimkhani, another union man. The solution, he argued, was to restore Wapda to its old form. Rallies were also organised in Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan and Sanghar.
Meanwhile in Sukkur, hundreds of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) employees organised a rally demanding the government withdraw the decision immediately.
The rally was held by the Pakistan Wapda Hydro Electric Central Labour Union and led by Syed Zahid Hussain Shah and Badar-ul Islam. They set out from Mohammad Bin Qasim Park and travelled to Minara Road where they staged a sit-in.