The power sector of Pakistan is being pushed towards a new crisis by an influential lobby that has mobilised the federation to pave way for privatisation of power distribution companies including Lahore Electric Supply Corporation (Lesco), Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco) and Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco).

The lobby has successfully promoted its own chosen members on the board of directors of distribution companies against the merit. The Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and foreign investors have expressed interest to buy power distribution companies, which have assets worth billions of dollars.

Legal experts have called the nomination of board members a violation of Supreme Court’s orders while engineers working in distribution companies have planned to oppose the measure by launching a campaign.

Against government policies, the said lobby is working to recruit chief executives (CEOs) and other top officials, favoured by it, at distribution companies.

In the first phase, headhunting for potential CEOs of power distribution companies has been planned by the lobby while in the second phase, these companies will be privatised. According to sources, the lobby has successfully recruited its own representatives as members in the board of directors of power distribution companies to pave the way for swift privatisation.

Most of the new members have no direct expertise of working for the power sector rather they are experienced in education, business, marketing and management fields.

According to documents available with The Express Tribune, Lesco Board of Directors Chairman Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan was a professor at the University of Management Sciences (UMS) Lahore for 30 years.

Similarly, Fesco Board of Directors Chairman Syed Hasnain Haider holds an MBA from IBA Karachi and possesses experience of working in American Express Bank and Mashriq Bank. He is also a board member at Lesco and Iesco.

Abdul Sami, a board member at Lesco and Iesco, holds an MBA in Finance from LUMS, and is working on a USAID project while another board member of Lesco, Saima Akbar Khattak, holds a law degree and works as PTCL’s company secretary.

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Lesco board member Hassan Ali Chughtai holds an MBA from a Canadian university and experience in banking and finance fields.

Another board member of Lesco and Iesco Sadia Khurram has an MBA from LUMS and she is also appointed as vice president of marketing for a private telecommunication company.

According to sources, officials from IPPs and K-Electric have been inducted as board members at distribution companies under a well drafted plan to privatise the power suppliers.

They are currently working in the federal capital while representing various pressure groups, which are eager to buy Lesco, Fesco, Iesco, Gujranwala Electric Power Company (Gepco) and Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco).

Senior lawyer and Punjab Bar Council member Irfan Hayat Bajwa said that as per orders of the Supreme Court, nomination of members on board of directors of public sector companies who do not meet the required criteria is against Public Sector Companies Corporate Governance Rules 2013.

“The court should take notice of these illegal nominations in light of its orders,” Bajwa told The Express Tribune.

Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) Chairman Javed Saleem Qureshi also condemned the appointments of incompetent board members in power distribution companies.

“The power sector is purely a technical field and only experienced and old engineers should be included in the board of directors of the distribution companies,” he said.

When contacted, Lesco Board of Directors Chairman Dr Syed Zahoor Hassan said that if there are any objections on board appointments, then the Ministry of Energy should be contacted.

People with diverse experience are hired on the boards of the firms, he said.

“I cannot say if there is an ambiguity in hiring process,” he said. “If I feel there has been a violation of law in my nomination, I am ready to resign immediately.”

The Express Tribune also contacted officials from the Ministry of Energy, who maintained that Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Power Tabish Gohar would comment better on the board appointments. A questionnaire was sent to Gohar by the officials of the Ministry of Energy to which he said that he would reply the next day. An attempt was made to contact him on the phone for two consecutive days and messages were also sent, but no reply was received from him.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 31st, 2021.

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