Pakistan orders Islamabad shops to close early to save energy

ISLAMABAD (REUTERS) - After ordering summer dress code and switching off air-conditioners in offices, the Pakistani government has reintroduced a plan to beat the energy crisis in Islamabad - shops and restaurants must close earlier.

Shops in the capital should close at 8 p.m (11.00 pm Singapore time), restaurants at 10 p.m. and wedding venues at 11 p.m., the Prime Minister's Office said. Two years ago, Pakistanis were told they should stop wearing socks in the summer if they felt too hot.

This is not the first time early closing hours have been introduced, but in the past they have been largely ignored.

Pakistan suffers horrendous energy shortages, especially in the summer, with electricity cut off up to 12 hours a day in major cities and as much as 20 hours a day in parts of the countryside.

Last year, compressed natural gas (CNG) stations, which provided fuel for cars, were closed for good because of shortages. Now about two-thirds of Pakistan's energy is generated by oil and gas.

Traders and shopkeepers in Islamabad were not happy with the new rules. "We conducted a meeting of all the traders in Islamabad and we have decided that shops cannot close at 8 p.m.," said Raheel Ahmad Awan, an administration officer with the Islamabad Chamber of Small Traders and Small Industries.

"Already the circumstances and atmosphere have impacted business a lot," he added, referring to the country's fight against a Taleban insurgency. "If they close the shops at 8 p.m. then it will be even worse."