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Pakistan's answer to electricity shortages: Don't wear socks

Published: 21st May 2013 10:17 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd May 2013 09:02 AM   |  A+A-

Civil servants across the country have been sent a memo detailing the new dress code, which came into force last week. Sandals and moccasins are now to be worn by all staff, but without socks.

"There shall be no more use of air-conditioners in public offices till such time that substantial improvement in the energy situation takes place," a cabinet directive said.

"The dress code includes white or light coloured shirt (full-sleeved or half sleeved) with light coloured trouser or shalwar kameez with waist coat, and moccasins (shoes without laces) or sandals (shoes with straps) without socks.

"All public servants have been given seven days for preparations and have been directed to observe the dress code."

The unusual step is a sign of Pakistan's increasingly desperate attempts to save electricity, as shortages continue to plunge much of the country into darkness.

Electricity companies are only producing two thirds of Pakistan's required electricity – a result of outdated power generation plants being unable to cope, combined with the government being unable to pay electricity companies for the power they do produce.

Much of the plants were built in the 1960s and are creaking under the strain, while a drought is further hampering power generation.

Musadik Malik, the caretaker minister for water and power until the new government is inaugurated, has also logged a complaint against non-cooperation from ministries of petroleum and finance, who Pakistan Today said are reluctant in making payments.

Power outages lasting as long as 20 hours were recorded in Faisalabad and Gujranwala, while the capital Islamabad has also been hit.

In Peshawar, electricity "load shedding" – black outs – went up to 14 hours, and in the north western tribal areas bordering Afghanistan the situation was worse, with electricity available for only five to six hours per day.

In Punjab, power outage has almost destroyed industry. In Lahore, the country's second largest city, power was cut off for 12 to 14 hours daily, leaving the residents to swelter in 40C heat.

Mr Malik, the minister for water and power, and Sohail Wajahat Siddiqui, minister for petroleum and natural resources, together "expressed their inability to overcome the crisis", the Daily Times said they told a news conference in Lahore, where the temperature was 40C on Monday.

"They have termed financial constraints as a major, and incompetence as a minor, hurdle in resolving the issue," the newspaper said.

"Presenting the realistic picture, the ministers announced that they were going to increase the price of electricity and gas for all sectors."

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