Protests over prolonged power outages turned unruly on Friday, as Wapda’s office was attacked and vehicles pelted with stones, injuring police and rescue officials and leading to 35 arrests.
The enraged protestors also attacked the Naseerabad grid station, smashed windows and set tyres on fire. Peshawar Road was blocked at three points for over four hours. Several public transport vehicles and Rescue 1122 vans were also damaged as a result.
The protestors started gathering at Churr Chowk, Pirwadhai Morr, Golra Morr and Tarnol soon after Friday prayers. They chanted slogans against the federal government for failing to control unscheduled and untimely power outages.
The residents of Pirwadhai and Churr have been putting up with unannounced load shedding which spans between 14 and 16 hours daily. “The power outages have made life miserable for the residents in the summer heat,” said Aftab Khan, a protestor.
He said the residents were out to express their anger and agony as the authorities were unable to control the power cuts. He said children faced particular difficulty, especially students currently taking their annual examinations.
“It seemed the protestors were ready to smash every thing in their way. They attacked every vehicle in their range including public transport vehicles, Rescue 1122 one ambulances, two fire fighting engines and some media vehicles,” informed Khurram Shahzad, a shopkeeper at Churr Chowk.
According to another eye witness, the violent protestors caused a massive 4-hour traffic jam on the main road that connects Rawalpindi cantonment areas with Islamabad and other northern parts of country.
The enraged protestors attacked the Naseerabad grid station and ransacked the offices of Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda). They set fire to the office record and eight rooms. “Luckily, they were unable to reach the main grid station,” said executive engineer Ijaz Ahmed.
He said the authorities would file a criminal complaint against the protestors for attacking the Wapda office, whose staff had to run to safety.
Because of the pelting, five official of Resuce 1122 were injured, of whom two were taken to the district headquarter hospital for treatment.
PML-N MNA Malik Abrar Ahmed tried to assure the protestors that the duration of power outages would be cut down but was unable to pacify them.
During the entire episode, the city police remained a mere spectator. Apparently, the police refrained from using force because of the recent Gujar Khan incident, in which two protestors were killed as a result of police action.
By the time the protestors dispersed, six policemen including Tarnol police station’s Station House Officer were injured in the stone pelting.
In another similar protest, hundreds of locals gathered at Airport Chowk (Koral Chowk) and blocked Islamabad Expressway. They also damaged traffic signals and government property. Koral police used tear gas shelling to disperse them.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2011.