Pakistan’s National Economic Council (NEC) has approved a proposal to close all markets across the country at 8 pm as part of the energy conservation project, Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives, Ahsan Iqbal, announced on Tuesday.
The NEC meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, was held to discuss and approve estimated budget figures. Representatives from all provinces participated in the NEC meeting. According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), provincial governments were urged at the meeting to implement the energy conservation plan effective July 1. The plan has already been approved by the federal cabinet.
Ahsan Iqbal said that the consensus on closing all shops at 8 pm was reached unanimously after assessing the prevailing energy situation in the country. Minister Iqbal emphasized that controlling energy expenses is crucial, as it is one of the government’s highest costs. He mentioned that if energy expenses can be effectively managed, it will contribute to resolving many issues faced by the country.
The minister acknowledged that electricity generation is a major challenge during the summer season. To fulfill the demands of domestic consumers, there was a consensus to close markets early in the evening. Minister Iqbal also mentioned that the government will make further important decisions regarding energy conservation in the future.
Traders Oppose Early Market Closure
Meanwhile, traders have opposed the government’s decision to close markets early. The All Pakistan Traders Association (APTA) has rejected the government’s decision and demanded its immediate withdrawal.
APTA President Jamil Baloch criticized the practice of early closure of shops, highlighting that most purchases are made during the evening hours.
“Every government has failed in the unsuccessful practice of closing shops at 8 pm. In the summer season, no purchases are made during the day; buying only occurs from 8 pm to 11 pm,” said Baloch.
He suggested alternative approaches to energy conservation, such as ending the supply of free electricity, emphasizing that the traders are the ones who purchase the most expensive electricity in the country.
“It is absurd to stop the economic wheel to save energy. The government should cease the supply of free electricity and the rulers should turn off their air conditioners. Every household’s fan will be operational then. It is unfortunate that when it comes to energy conservation, either the defense minister speaks or the planning minister does. The energy minister should sit with trader representatives and have a discussion,” Baloch further said.
Energy Conservation Plan
The energy conservation plan was first discussed in a cabinet meeting in January to reduce the country’s fuel import bill. As part of the plan, it was proposed to:
- Close markets at 8:30 pm
- Close wedding halls at 10 pm
- Promote the use of efficient electronic appliances
- Decrease power consumption in government offices by 40 percent.
- Impose additional duties on inefficient electric fans
- Promoting the use of light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs
- Phase out petrol-run motorcycles by introducing electric bikes as an alternative mode of transportation
- Illuminate street lights at only 50 percent capacity