Privatization of state water and power authority triggers protests in Pakistan

Unions are opposing the federal government’s decision to privatize the Water and Power Development Authority of Pakistan, claiming that it will result in an increase in power tariffs

October 15, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
Pakistan WAPDA
Workers affiliated with the All Pakistan WAPDA protest the decision to privatize the government-owned entity.

Ever since the federal government of Pakistan declared its plans to privatize the  Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), workers’ unions in the country are up in arms, claiming that it will only bring misery to consumers. 

On October 5, workers under the banner of the All Pakistan WAPDA Hydro Electric Workers Union Balochistan held a demonstration against the government’s move at the Quetta Press Club. Similar protest rallies were carried out by workers in several cities of Sindh province, such as Sukkur, Larkana, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas.

The union leaders accused the government of selling the organization to its “favourite people,” cautioning that the results of this policy would be devastating as power tariffs will rise multifold.

All Pakistan WAPDA Hydro Electric Workers Union Balochistan vice-president Abdul Baqi Lehri addressed workers at the protest in Quetta, pointing out that similar attempts at privatizing the authority had failed in the past due to resistance by unions.

Union leaders said that the workers had already informed the government of their views on the privatization of WAPDA through their representatives at several collective bargaining platforms. They had also written to the management of WAPDA and held street protests to register their opposition to the move.

It is being alleged that the present decision by the Pakistani government is due to pressure from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The union activists added that political interference in the governance of the state-owned enterprise –  in the form of appointment of directors and the role played by them in managing the crisis at WAPDA – was a critical factor leading to this decision.

The All Pakistan WAPDA Electric Workers Union has demanded that no political interference disrupt the functioning of the public-sector entity. “We demand the end of recruitment and transfers on political lines. The WAPDA Act 1958 must be restored in order to bring the organization to its basic status, besides the priority given to appointing competent management who would provide help in affordable production of electricity.”