April 29, 2014 / 3:12 PM / 6 years ago

Pakistan cuts prime minister's electricity for not paying bills

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses attendees at a flag raising ceremony to mark the country's 67th Independence Day in Islamabad August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Mian Khursheed/Files

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s power ministry said on Tuesday it would cut off supplies to major offices, including the prime minister’s, in a crackdown on customers not paying their electricity bills.

Pakistan’s economy is crippled by persistent blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day partly because influential families, politicians and bureaucrats do not pay for their use while the poor often cannot afford rising utility bills.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to fix the power cuts as one of his priorities. But on Tuesday Pakistan’s minister of state for water and power said the campaign to eradicate non-payment would now target his own office.

“Electricity to all state institutions and individual consumers who haven’t cleared their dues will be disconnected,” Abid Sher Ali said in televised remarks. “There will be no discrimination.”

The minister, who is from the ruling party, said he had ordered the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company to disconnect power to the President House, Prime Minister’s Secretariat, the parliament building, the official residence of the chief justice and many other offices.

There was no immediate comment from those affected. It was also unclear when the power ministry would cut off supply and whether government offices would be spared if they paid up.

Power cuts have worsened in Pakistan in recent years, becoming one of the main sources of discontent in the South Asian country, often leaving entire neighbourhoods without power for up to half a day in the sweltering summer months.

Pakistan’s state power companies are notoriously inefficient but critics have long questioned just how far Sharif will be prepared to go to overhaul an important sector dominated by decades-long alliances, industry loyalties and lobby groups.

Targetting government offices as part of the campaign would send a powerful message to ordinary people in Pakistan that Sharif is serious about reform and that no one would be spared in his campaign against non-payment of bills.

Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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