Hundreds of people, mostly traders, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against prolonged and unscheduled power outages.
The strike call was given by a faction of the local traders association to register indignation against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) and State Electricity Department (SED), which is the local power distributor, for causing up to 16 hours of loadshedding a day in the city and its outskirts.
They maintained that the city is facing power outages despite a recent announcement by Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) to end unscheduled loadshedding across the country and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
Anjuman-e-Tajran (Traders’ Association) Secretary-General Shoukat Chaudhry, former AJK Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Javed Iqbal, and civil society leaders led the procession taken out from Naangi, a major shopping centre. The protesters marched through Allama Iqbal Road, raising slogans against WAPDA and the electricity departments. Earlier the demonstrating traders closed their shops to join the rally.
Traders’ Association leaders pointed out that the erratic electricity supply in AJK, including Mirpur District which is on the periphery of Mangla Dam, has badly affected daily life. They threatened to take out a long march, continue street protests and hold a complete shutter-down in the city if unscheduled load-shedding was not stopped.
“Unscheduled loadshedding is being observed in every part of AJK and the people have no option but to come to the streets,” said a protester.
However, a senior official of the AJK Electricity Department, requesting anonymity, said that the “entire responsibility” for unscheduled loadshedding in AJK lies with WAPDA and PEPCO. “The AJK Electricity Department cannot be held responsible for the power cuts in AJK since SED is the principal power consumer of WAPDA and PEPCO for onward supply to consumers,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.