By Kamran Chaudhry
Christians in Pakistan are aggrieved that an official blind eye has been turned to requests for Christmas exemptions to annual load-shedding power cuts.
“There will be no electricity, especially in Christian-majority settlements on Christmas, I can bet on it,” Father Inayat Bernard told ucanews.
The rector of the Sacred Heart Cathedral of Lahore was referring to power cuts that resumed across the country this month.
There are four-hour daily cuts to the supply of electricity as temperatures fall to minus 12°C in some areas.
“They don’t care about us,” Father Bernard said.
“We are not considered equal citizens or even humans.”
The government had a poor track record when it came to facilitating the religious celebrations of minorities, he added.
The lack of electricity was also affecting Christian marriages, which are popular during the Christmas season.
Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore and Protestant leaders were continuing to press for special consideration in regard to load-shedding.
Khalil Tahir Sandhu, the Christian Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs in Punjab Province, also requested “uninterrupted supply” during the Christmas period.
The representation was made by Sandhu in a Dec. 5 letter to the federal minister responsible for water and power supplies.
Father Inayat Bernard lauded the minister for his efforts, but said he did not trust the government.
In 2012, the then State Minister for National Harmony, Akram Masih Gill, had given an assurance that power would not be interrupted.
“It was a lie,” Father Bernard complained.
For the past five years, generators had been needed to conduct Christmas and New Year masses, incurring additional cost.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Dec. 9 reportedly said that the government had successfully accomplished the mission of ridding Pakistan of load-shedding, besides launching projects to meet all the country’s power needs going forward to 2030.
Addressing the groundbreaking ceremony of the 1263-megawatt Punjab Power Plant in Jhang district, Abbasi said that there were no longer any instances of load-shedding in the country except in areas where cases of power theft had been reported.
The first phase of the LNG-fuelled project is expected to be completed in 14 months and generate 810MW of electricity while the output would reach 1263 MW after completion of the second phase in 26 months, AFP reported.
Riding the country of load-shedding was an election promise of Abassi’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
When the government came into power in 2013, power cuts were at their worst with load-shedding up to 20 hours a day during summer, which sparked riots and attacks on the offices of power distribution companies by angry protestors.