Pakistan's power ministry said yesterday it would cut off supplies to major offices, including the prime minister's, in a crackdown on customers not paying their electricity bills.

Pakistan's economy is crippled by persistent blackouts lasting up to 12 hours a day partly because influential families, politicians and bureaucrats do not pay for their use while the poor often cannot afford rising utility bills. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has promised to fix the power cuts as one of his priorities. But Pakistan's minister of state for water and power said the campaign to eradicate non-payment would now target his own office. "Electricity to all state institutions and individual consumers who haven't cleared their dues will be disconnected," Abid Sher Ali said in televised remarks. "There will be no discrimination." The minister, who is from the ruling party, said he had ordered the Islamabad Electricity Supply Company to disconnect power to the President House, Prime Minister's Secretariat, the parliament building, the official residence of the chief justice and many other offices.

There was no immediate comment from those affected. It was also unclear when the power ministry would cut off supply and whether government offices would be spared if they paid up. Power cuts have worsened in recent years, becoming one of the main sources of discontent in the country, often leaving entire neighbourhoods without power for up to half a day.

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