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Pakistanis Tire of Water, Electricity Shortages

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s new prime minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf, faces a struggling economy and has said he will make the delivery of electricity a priority, but the nation is tired of constant shortages of water and power.

In the capital, Islamabad, homeowners pay for private water trucks to fill their tanks. Others have huge generators to make sure their air conditioners run.

But residents say they are tired of leaders who can’t deliver basic services like water, gas, electricity.

The lack of power is crippling Pakistan’s ability to grow with its population. City workers in crowded Rawalpindi use generators to fix the infrastructure.

But when they go home, workers like Jamsheid have little relief.

“We work here, we even sleep here. Because when we go back to our work quarters there is no electricity there, so we sleep here. What are we supposed to do? We have to earn a living. The conditions are terrible,” said Jamsheid, a welder.

About 40 percent of cars and buses here run on compressed natural gas or CNG, a cheap alternative to gasoline.

Recent CNG strikes protesting distribution cutbacks in favor of industry have hit the popular mini-bus business.

“Three days a week there is no CNG. The 4th day I spend waiting at the CNG station. The other days I use gas, but people can’t afford to pay the higher fare when I use gas. And, if I don’t use gas, I can’t run my buses. That’s why things are so hard,” said Ahsan Goropur, a mini-bus owner.

Just minutes from the traffic of Rawalpindi, is Bahria town, a closed community. It’s an organized middle-class suburb of some 6,000 people, with its own private supplies of electricity and water.

Ironically, one of Pakistan’s allegedly most corrupt men, Malik Riaz, is the prime developer. His nephew, Ali Mazhar Malik, sees Bahria town as the future.

“This should be a model. Pakistan’s government should take this as a model and develop it. Malik Riaz has given them a lifestyle model and they should follow it. If Malik can do it, the government can do it too, and they should,” Malik said.

Bahria town has gas stations, shops, and well cared for public spaces. Residents say once people live here, they don’t want to leave.

Aref Khan is from the north, but owns two homes in Bahria.

“100 percent the government can’t solve these problems. If the government takes 10 years to do something the private sector can do it in six months. Because the very roots of the government are corrupt,” Khan said.

Developer Riaz has been accused by some of land fraud. But for residents Bahria, Riaz has delivered more than what the government has.
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    Sharon Behn

    Sharon Behn is a foreign correspondent working out of Voice of America’s headquarters in Washington D.C  Her current beat focuses on political, security and humanitarian developments in Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Follow Sharon on Twitter and on Facebook.

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