HYDERABAD: As rampant power theft in the jurisdiction of Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (HESCO) in connivance with the company’s staff continues, in a rare action, HESCO has booked its own executive engineer and three staff members in separate FIRs.
HESCO Qasimabad Executive Engineer Zafar Ali Solangi, Lineman Shahab Khokhar, Assistant Lineman Shahid Narejo and Line Superintendent Rafique Shahani have been charged with corruption, malpractice, favouritism, gross negligence and irregularities.
However, the action has been taken under the pressure of the legal fraternity. Several lawyers in Hyderabad had begun to register one FIR after another against Solangi and his associates for corruption, threats, blackmailing and unlawful severing of their electric supply.
“A high level inquiry committee has found Zafar Ali Solangi, who is now under suspension, involved in rampant electricity theft and irregularities in residential plazas in Qasimabad under his patronage,” stated HESCO Labour and Legal Additional Director-General Laung Khan Jakhrani, as a complainant in the FIR. He made a similar statement against Khokhar, Narejo and Shahani in the second FIR. Both cases were lodged at Bhitai Nagar police station in Qasimabad, Hyderabad.
When asked why the corruption references against the accused have not been referred to Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) or National Accountability Bureau (NAB), HESCO Spokesperson Sadiq Kubar told The Express Tribune that both the options are under consideration.
In the FIRs, the additional director-general stated that inquiry found Solangi and three others taking bribes from five residential plazas and a farm house, which reportedly belongs to Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) MPA Jam Khan Shoro, to allow power theft. According to the company’s estimate, roughly 100 to 110 flats in the five apartment buildings were stealing electricity in connivance with the staff.
The nominated accused charged bribes of between Rs4,000 to Rs15,000 per month from each illegal beneficiary and allowed them to steal electricity, the FIRs stated. The FIRs have been registered under sections 462G, 462H, 161 and 34 of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) which are punishable with up to three years imprisonment after conviction.
The conflict between the lawyers and HESCO started on November 16 when Solangi got a lawyer, Jumo Khan Jakhrani, arrested and booked in an FIR under sections 324, 337, 427 and 353 of PPC and 6/7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). The lawyer was accused of firing gunshots at the company’s transformers in Qasimabad. However, Jakhrani claimed that he is being implicated in the case because he reacted to the power disconnection at his residence. Two more FIRs against Solangi were lodged subsequently by the lawyers.
HESCO Employees Union on November 23 requested Hyderabad District Bar Association (HDBA) to sort out the ongoing confrontation between the two sides. The union’s chairperson, Abdul Jabbar Qureshi, contended that the registration of police cases was affecting the company’s campaign for recovery of utility bills. However, the legal community stuck to their position, compelling HESCO to take action against Solangi and others.