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Public anger against inflated electricity bills prompts PM to call emergency meeting



People in different parts of the country on Saturday expressed despair and anger at unprecedentedly high electricity bills with some threatening demonstrations and even a civil disobedience campaign if the extra taxes weren’t deducted.

The severe reaction led caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar to call an emergency meeting at the Prime Minister’s House tomorrow (Sunday).

“In the meeting, a briefing will be taken from the ministry of power and distribution companies and consultations will be held regarding giving maximum relief to consumers regarding electricity bills,” the premier said on X (formerly Twitter) today.

Last month, the power regulator raised the national average tariff by around Rs5 per unit, pushing the base unit power tariff from Rs24.82 to Rs29.78. On Aug 22, the government once again sought to raise the power rate by Rs3.55 per unit.

Hours after the interim PM’s announcement today, caretaker Minister for Information and Broadcasting Murtaza Solangi, along with Federal Secretary of the Power Division Rashid Mahmood Langrial, held a media briefing in Islamabad to explain the current state of electricity tariffs.

At the outset of the briefing with anchorpersons and bureau chiefs from various media outlets, the minister acknowledged the difficulties faced by the people due to the escalating electricity prices.

He said all stakeholders within the power sector would participate in the prime minister’s emergency meeting.

The Power Division secretary confirmed that the facility of free electricity units to officers of power distribution companies would be discontinued, insisting that the burden was not being transferred to regular bill-paying individuals.

Langrial explained that the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) determined electricity tariffs using three distinct methodologies, adding that the Rs5.40 per unit additional quarterly tariff adjustment (QTA) for April-June was meant for new power plants.

Moreover, he said electricity prices were subject to fluctuations based on the Consumer Price Index.

The secretary also elaborated on the necessity of tariff alterations due to the upsurge in the Karachi Inter-Bank Offered Rate or Kibor rate — which are quoted on a daily basis by a large number of banks to indicate the cost of borrowing and lending money for tenors ranging between one week and 3 years.

In addition to this, fuel price adjustments also impacted electricity costs, Langrial added.

The secretary said in the fiscal year 2023, the tariff was initially set at Rs195 per dollar, but the value of the dollar surged to Rs284.

“We initially aimed to set the price of RNLG (regasified liquefied natural gas which is used as fuel for electricity generation) at Rs3,183 per mmBtu, however, the actual price ranged between Rs3,000 and Rs3,800,” he said.

Similarly, the secretary said the price range for imported coal remained between Rs51,000 and Rs61,000 per metric tonne.

He further said that Rs2 trillion would be exclusively allocated to capacity payments in the upcoming year.

The secretary insisted that the increase in electricity tariffs predominantly affected consumers utilising more than 400 units, adding the tariff remained unchanged for 63.5 per cent of domestic consumers.

For 31.6pc of domestic consumers, he said electricity prices saw an uptick of up to Rs6.5 per unit, and a tariff of Rs7.5 per unit was only applied to 4.9pc of domestic consumers.

Langrial asserted that the average tariff increase for domestic consumers stood at Rs3.82.

In July 2022, the highest recorded electricity tariff was Rs31.02 per unit, he said, adding that by August 2023, the price had increased to Rs33.89 per unit.

The press conference was held against the backdrop of countywide protests against exorbitant electricity bills.

wrote a letter to the chief police officer seeking police protection for its staff and property fearing adverse reactions from electricity consumers in different localities in the garrison city.

In a letter to the CPO, the superintending engineer (SE) said that consumers were visiting different offices of Iesco in mobs and groups to protest against the increase in electricity bills. The employees of the distribution company feel insecure while performing their duties, he said in the letter. The SE termed the situation alarming which may lead to a law and order situation and protesters may damage property and installations.

Karachi, Gujranwala, Peshawar, Toba Tek Singh and other areas against exorbitant power bills. They blocked roads, set fire to power bills and announced they would challenge the “injustice” by the public utility in the court of law.

Speaking to DawnNewsTV today, one person deemed the taxes imposed by the government as “sheer cruelty”, adding that he would be old by the time he paid off his entire electricity bill.

“The bills are so high that we are unable to pay the school fees of children,” he said. “If a person is living in a rented house, he has to decide either to pay the rent or the electricity bills.”

Meanwhile, former parliamentarian Nafisa Shah called the electricity bills “backbreaking” and “unacceptable”.

“Why should the people of Pakistan suffer for the poor policies of rulers? Even now the lesson has not been learnt as Pakistan is going for expensive nuclear energy when cheaper options, solar, hydel, wind and local coal, are available,” she said on X.

rising electricity costs appeared to have put the power companies in a vicious cycle of declining consumption and shifting resultant additional capacity charges to consumers, compelling the government to seek the staggered imposition of Rs146 billion quarterly charges in six months, instead of three months to minimise the ‘price shock’.

The situation emerged at a public hearing organised by the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) on the government request for Rs5.40 per unit additional quarterly tariff adjustment (QTA) to consumers for April-June 2023 when the Power Division made a departure from its petitions. It requested that consumers be charged at a rate of Rs3.55 per unit for six months, instead of Rs5.40 per unit for three months, to reduce the price shock on consumers still struggling to absorb 26pc increase in base national rates notified last month.

Also, the Power Division proposed that even the Rs3.55 per unit additional charge should be imposed after September when an existing quarterly adjustment of Rs1.24 per unit would lapse, thereby further reducing the cost increase. The net increase in tariff for six months — October 2023 to March 2024 — would thus stand at Rs2.31 per unit, a Power Division official pleaded before the regulator.

Additional reporting by Umar Bacha, Hasaan Ali Khan and Muzhira Amin


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Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens



Former US president Donald Trump will appear in a New York court on Monday as a civil fraud trial against him and two of his sons kicks off, with the case threatening the Republican’s business empire as he campaigns to retake the White House.

In Monday’s case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his sons Eric and Don Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire.

Trump said late Sunday he planned to be present for the start of the trial on Monday morning.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” the 77-year-old wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This whole case is a sham!!!”

In addition to this civil case, Trump also faces several major criminal proceedings in the months ahead.

He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on criminal hush money charges, and later in a Florida federal court, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favor.

In the New York civil case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organisation executives lied to tax collectors, lenders, and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.


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At least 38 injured in police station fire in Egypt’s Ismailia



A huge fire broke out at a police headquarters in the Egyptian city of Ismailia on Monday, injuring at least 38 people, according to local media.

No fatalities were immediately reported but the building is staffed by soldiers at all hours and hospitals were placed on alert.

Footage on local media showed smoke rising from the entirely blackened multi-storey building.

The cause of the blaze, which broke out at the headquarters of the Ismailia Security Directorate before dawn, is not yet known.

Of 26 wounded who were transferred to a local hospital, 24 had suffered from “asphyxiation” and two from burns, local media reported citing the health ministry.

Twelve more were treated at the scene.

The health ministry deployed 50 ambulances to the scene, which were joined by military emergency services including two planes, according to state media.

Deadly fires are a common hazard in Egypt, where fire codes are rarely enforced and emergency services are often slow to arrive.

In August 2022, a fire caused by a short circuit killed 41 worshippers in a Cairo church, prompting calls to improve the country’s infrastructure and the response time of the fire brigade.

In March 2021, at least 20 people died in a fire at a textile factory in the capital, while in 2020, two hospital fires killed 14 people.


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Annual inflation rises to 31.4pc amid high energy prices



Pakistan’s annual inflation rate rose to 31.4 per cent in September from 27.4pc in August, statistics bureau data showed on Monday, as the country reels from high fuel and energy prices.

The country is embarking on a tricky path to economic recovery under a caretaker government after a $3 billion loan programme approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July averted a sovereign debt default, but with conditions that complicated efforts to rein in inflation.

On a month-on-month basis, inflation climbed 2pc in September, compared to an increase of 1.7pc in August. Reforms required by the IMF bailout, including an easing of import restrictions and a demand that subsidies be removed, have already fuelled annual inflation, which rose to a record 38pc in May.

Food inflation remained elevated at 33.1pc with the year-on-year increase in non-perishable food items at 38.4pc and 4.37pc for perishable food items.

Annual consumer inflation in urban and rural areas increased to 29.7pc and 33.9pc year-on-year, respectively.

Meanwhile, the highest year-on-year increase was recorded in the categories of alcoholic beverages and tobacco (87.45pc), recreation and culture (58.77pc), furnishing and household equipment maintenance (39.32pc) and non-perishable food items.

Index-wise increase in inflation YoY (in descending order)

  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco: 87.45pc
  • Recreation and culture: 58.77pc
  • Furnishing and household equipment maintenance: 39.32pc
  • Non-perishable food items: 38.41pc
  • Miscellaneous goods and services: 36.42pc
  • Restaurants and hotels: 34.3pc
  • Transport: 31.26pc
  • Housing and utilities: 29.7pc
  • Health: 25.28pc
  • Clothing and footwear: 20.55pc
  • Education: 11.12pc
  • Communication: 7.42pc
  • Perishable food items: 4.37pc

Interest rates have also risen to their highest at 22pc, and the rupee hit all-time lows in August before recovering in September to become the best performing currency following a clampdown by authorities on unregulated FX trade.

On Friday, the ministry of finance said in its monthly report that it anticipated inflation remaining high in the coming month, hovering around 29-31pc due to an upward adjustment in energy tariffs and a major increase in fuel prices.

The report added that inflation was, however, expected to ease, especially from the second half of the current fiscal year that starts on Jan 1.

On Saturday, the government cut petrol and diesel prices from a record high, after two consecutive hikes. The finance ministry cited international prices of petroleum products and the improvement in the exchange rate, following the clampdown on unregulated FX trade.

Inflation has been elevated, hovering in double digits, since November 2021.
The country targeted inflation at 21pc for the current fiscal year, but it averaged 29pc during the first quarter.

Worsening economic conditions, along with rising political tensions in the run-up to a national election scheduled for November, triggered sporadic protests in September, with many Pakistanis saying they are struggling to make ends meet.

Analysts said the inflation reading was in line with market expectations.

Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited, a Karachi-based investment company, said inflation appeared to have peaked for the current fiscal year and would subsequently recede.

“The higher reading is mainly due to the low base effect which was also mentioned in the last monetary policy statement. Going forward, in the next few months, we expect inflation to ease to around 26-27pc,” said Fahad Rauf, head of research at Ismail Iqbal Securities, a Karachi-based brokerage firm.

Rauf said higher inflation statistics should not impact monetary policy.


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