For the past week, Pakistan has witnessed extensive protests against the recent surge in electricity prices. In several cities, these protests escalated into violence.

The government-sanctioned price increase arrives at a critical juncture as Pakistan grapples with one of the most severe economic crises in its history. This crisis imperils the fundamental rights of millions, including access to healthcare, nutrition, and a satisfactory standard of living.

According to Human Rights Watch, successive Pakistani governments have failed in reforming the country’s energy sector, contributing to the current crisis. The recent surge in prices is linked to a substantial US$3 billion agreement between the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan.


This pact, sanctioned in July 2022, stipulates the government’s obligation to eliminate energy and fuel subsidies, transition to a market-driven exchange rate, and implement tax increments.

While Human Rights Watch fundamentally opposes fossil fuel subsidies due to their adverse climate impact, the removal of these subsidies without substantial investment in social security often results in disproportionate repercussions for individuals with low incomes.

Elevated electricity prices can further elevate the costs of essential commodities like food, housing, and services.

Recognising the right to an adequate standard of living, Human Rights Watch asserts that access to dependable, secure, clean, and affordable electricity without discrimination is imperative.

Given the situation, it is imperative for the IMF to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the consequences of these adjustments. Rather than abrupt subsidy removal, the IMF should establish a comprehensive reform strategy aimed at mitigating price escalations and facilitating a seamless transition to sustainable energy sources.

Such reforms could encompass the implementation of a universal social protection system designed to extend benefits to individuals at higher risk of income insecurity, including children, elderly citizens, and people with disabilities.