In a bid to conserve energy, the cash-strapped Pakistan government has decided to ban wedding functions in Islamabad city after 10 pm and shut markets across the country at 8.30 pm, according to media reports on Wednesday. Pakistan, which is facing a worsening power crisis, has taken various steps to bring down the consumption of electricity to reduce load shedding, will now ban wedding functions after 10 pm in Islamabad with effect from June 8, Geo News reported.
The current power crisis in the country, which has also affected Pakistan’s economy, has forced the National Economic Council (NEC) to order the closure of markets across the country at 8.30 pm (local time). The Wednesday decision, taken during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by the chief ministers of all provinces, except for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa CM, was taken in order to deal with the energy crisis.
A statement issued to this effect added that chief ministers of Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan have sought two days’ time to hold consultations with the traders’ association, but agreed to the move. Power Minister Khurrum Dastagir in an address to the press said the early closure of markets and work-from-home arrangements could save electricity.
The electricity being produced in the country is 22,000 MW and the requirement is 26,000 MW, said the minister, adding that there was about 4,000MW energy shortfall in the country. The federal cabinet has also restored the Saturday holiday in government offices to curb the use of energy and gradually bring down electricity load shedding to two hours a day by the end of June.
The Daily Times newspaper quoting sources, reported that the restriction on wedding functions in the country’s capital is being implemented on the instructions of Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The Islamabad Police and city administration have been directed to strictly implement the ban, the sources said.
The sources said that in case of violation, strict action will be taken by Islamabad administration. Geo News also reported that only one dish will be allowed at the wedding functions in the capital.
A notification to this effect will be issued soon, it said. With the economy in tatters and political instability looming large due to protests by former prime minister Imran Khan, there is increasing threat of Pakistan going the Sri Lankan way if quick measures are not taken.
Prime Minister Sharif said on Tuesday that Pakistan did not have enough money to buy oil and gas, ARY News reported. Long queues were witnessed outside fuelling stations in Karachi, Rawalpindi and Islamabad as panic stricken citizens, following Finance Minister Miftah Ismail’s remarks about a possible hike, queued up at petrol pumps while several filling stations shut down, forcing the finance minister to issue a clarification saying the government was not planning to further increase fuel prices.
While addressing a day-long pre-budget business conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Sharif said there could be no economic stability without political stability in the country, adding that there was the need for a Charter of Economy, which would lead to long-term stability. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves are under severe stress and declined by USD 190 million to USD 10.308 billion during the week ended on May 6, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
Pakistan is looking towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to restore a USD 6 billion package agreed in 2019. So far half of the promised money had been given. Pakistan would immediately get a USD 1 billion loan tranche from the IMF once the two sides sort out their differences, according to media reports.