"--IANS/EFE"
Islamabad, April 30 - Pakistan's government has ordered electricity supply to be shut off to parliament and the Supreme Court, among some of the main state institutions, due to non-payment of bills, said local media.

Minister of State for Water and Power Abid Sher Ali announced at a press conference the decision to shut off the power supply to 18 official agencies.

He stated that a campaign against electricity theft and payment default has been started on the order of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The prime minister's secretariat also is one of the offices to be hit by the new order, along with the headquarters of the highway police, the chief justice's residence, and the Town Hall of Islamabad among others.

By afternoon, however, Sharif asked for power supply to be restored to the Supreme Court, local TV channel Geo reported.

The controversial measure, which is not expected to last for a long while, is a move by the government to check the growing demonstrations every year during summer when the scorching heat leads to massive power outages throughout the country.

A large energy deficit, rising temperatures and the subsequent electricity consumption due to use of air conditioners result in massive outages in all parts of the country.

It is the working-class, unable to afford diesel generators, that is most affected by these annual power crises.

One of the key factors that explains the country's lack of energy is the widespread theft of electricity and the endemic non-payment of bills, including by public institutions.

According to data provided to the media by the government, parliament owes around $1.2 million in electricity bills while the Town Hall of Islamabad owes around $3.6 million.

It is calculated that the so-called arrears, the quantity that the Asian country owes the power supply companies, amounts to around $5,000 million.

According to data by the Petroleum Institute of Pakistan, the country has increased its energy consumption by close to 70 percent in the last 15 years.

Even as the demand has been increasing steadily, the supply has remained stagnant and is barely sufficient to meet 60 percent of the electricity requirements of the country.

--IANS/EFE

ab/vt


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