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Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 15:11 UK

Pakistan's PM announces energy policy to tackle crisis

A man with light bulbs tied to his head at a power protest in Lahore - April 10 2010.
There are frequent protests against power shortages across Pakistan

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has launched a national energy policy to tackle the country's massive power crisis.

Measures include extending the official weekend from one to two days, early closure of street markets, and a 50% cut in power to government offices.

Pakistan's energy crisis is due to a surge in demand and a failing power distribution infrastructure.

The shortages have crippled industry and led to rioting across Pakistan.

Electricity supplies to homes and businesses across Pakistan are often cut for several hours a day because of the power shortfall.

Extending the weekend will shorten the working week and so cut electricity use by businesses.

Mr Gilani says the government will take the lead in cutting demand for energy.

"We are taking these decisions in the best national interest," he told reporters.

According to government sources, Pakistan's energy shortfall comes to around 3,668 megawatts (MW) per day.

BBC correspondents say officials hope the new measures will save 1,500 MW a day.

Wedding hall restrictions

Mr Gilani said that Pakistan's government would pay 116 bn rupees ($1.38bn) to the power sector to help resolve the issue of debt owed to various power producers within the industry.

Other energy-saving measures include:

  • The power supply to Karachi, Pakistan's main port and industrial capital, will be reduced by 300 MW a day
  • Marriage halls will no longer be able to host all-night wedding parties
  • Neon signs and brightly-lit billboards are to be banned

All the measures will be reviewed at the end of July.

Mr Gilani said he would introduce government units and 13 independent power producers as part of the plan.

He said the steps were necessary and that the government now had a long-term strategy to deal with the power crisis.

The BBC's Syed Shoaib Hasan in Islamabad says that the energy crisis is also seen as a threat to Pakistan's security situation.

Pakistan's leadership has been examining alternatives to its hydroelectric power-based energy producing sector.

One option they are looking at is more civilian nuclear power plants, our correspondent says.



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