Punjab remained in the grip of violent protests for a third day in a row on Monday as authorities failed to deal with an unprecedented power shortfall in the country amid scorching summer.
Frequent, long-hours outages triggered violent protests in different towns and cities of the province, with angry protesters burning tyres and setting public property on fire.
At least one person was killed while 25 others were injured in protests held against load-shedding in Khanewal, Chichawatni and Jahanian.
Khanewal city went into a complete lockdown due to riots that erupted early morning. The protesters ransacked an office of the Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) and then walked towards the residence of Hamid Yar Hiraj, the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority.
Police used teargas, but the protesters only dispersed after guards at Hiraj’s residence opened fire on them. One protester was killed and seven wounded in the firing. Elsewhere in Khanewal, police used tear gas and fired gunshots into the air to disperse protesters, who threw petrol bombs on the police in retaliation. At least 20 people were injured in the melee.
Demonstrators also held up the Millat Express train for more than four hours at Khanewal.
In Chichawatni, MNA Zahid Iqbal of the PPP blamed the PML-N government responsible for an arson attack on his house, two police stations, a mosque, a CNG station and Mepco offices.
He told The Express Tribune that protests had been initiated by Chaudary Arshad Jutt, who is an adviser to the provincial chief minister.
Protesters burnt down an office of the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco). Official records and a number of transformers stored in the office were destroyed in the conflagration.
District Nazim Maj (retd) Sardar Tahir Sadiq Khan also took part in the protests and censured the government for its failure to tackle the energy crisis. Khan gave the government until Wednesday to address the problem or else prepare for the consequences.
All commercial and business activity remained suspended for the second consecutive day. Traders and shopkeepers observed a shutter-down strike in several downtown neighbourhoods of the city, including Circular Road, Kotwali Road, Sitiana Road and Railway Road.
An unruly mob burnt tyres, stoned vehicular traffic and damaged public and private property. In some areas, protesters smashed windows of shopping centres, banks and destroyed ATMs.
Police clubbed protesters who were marching towards the headquarters of the Faisalabad Electric Power Company (Fesco) at Canal Bank Road, Jaranwala Road and Abdullahpur Chowk.
Duration of power outages has increased from 18 to 20 hours a day in Faisalabad district. Sargodha Road police station, meanwhile, registered a case against 60 people.
In the provincial metropolis, 16 hours of load-shedding triggered protests on Monday while the supply of drinking water was also affected by the power outages. The city’s main roads and thoroughfares were swarmed by protesters, who made bonfires and destroyed public and private property.
In Mirpur, children staged a symbolic protest against prolonged and unscheduled load-shedding. The protesting children, carrying banners and placards marched on major roads of the city and chanted slogans against Wapda and the local electricity department.
Residents blocked several roads across the district to protest to protest 22-hour long outages. Protesters chanted slogans against the government and officials of the Peshawar Electric Power Company (Pesco).
They threatened to besiege all Pepco offices and close the Motorway for traffic if the authorities did not minimize the duration of power outages.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2012.
More in KP & FATAJailed for peddling drugs, girl completes Matric in Haripur