Enraged traders and residents took to the streets in yet another series of high-voltage protests held after Friday prayers in Faisalabad and Lahore against continued load-shedding.
While Lesco reaches an electricity shortfall of about 110 megawatts, Lahore is facing up to 14 hours of power outages and the situation on the outskirts of the metropolis is even worse.
A fresh round of protests was led by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. Addressing the public at a rally held at Chungi Amer Sadu area, Shahbaz threatened to embark on a long march to Islamabad while expressing solidarity with the peeved citizens.
Following Shahbaz’s initiative, the traders’ wing of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) also launched protests in four different areas of Lahore.
Hundreds of traders blocked the main boulevard near Main Market, M M Alam Road, Nisbet Road and Australia Chowk for nearly two hours. Sporting anti-government banners, the protesters chanted slogans against the federal regime and burnt tyres.
The traders also vowed to continue their protests until Islamabad gives Punjab its due share of electricity.
A protest was held at the Yateem Khana Chowk by traders of the nearby market, in which Mian Shafqat of the PML-N traders’ wing reiterated that the public refuses to accept the government’s “lame excuses and false hopes.”
Expressing doubt over the government’s ability to improve the situation, Shafqat said little could be expected from the last stretch of its tenure.
He said the protests, of which more were to come, were peaceful and not political in nature. Admitting that burning tyres would not solve the issue, Shafqat said that it was all they could do to voice their concerns.
In Faisalabad, protests entered their sixth day with over a dozen demonstrations staged in different parts of the city.
The protests were not only attended by labourers, industrial and power loom workers, but also children, the elderly and students. However, they were not as peaceful as the ones in Lahore.
Property and vehicles were damaged as angry protesters pelted Fesco offices with stones. The situation was compounded by an ongoing parallel protest by Fesco employees against the privatisation of the power sector.
The company’s employees staged protest rallies from their respective subdivisions and divisions.
“Fesco employees are using public agitation to exert further pressure on the government,” former president of Wapda’s labour union Syed Sajjad Hussain Shad said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2012.
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