The power riots that have rocked Punjab’s cities over the past few days have grown more fearsome as tempers rise and people become more desperate. Loadshedding has suddenly increased and is now upto 10 to 14 hours a day and this comes just as the summer approaches. But even more so than physical discomfort, it is the prospect of losing work that is scaring people. Times are already hard, the notion that they may worsen is obviously unbearable.
As the protests on the streets continue, two people were killed during a riot on the GT Road in Lahore, when guards at a private petrol pump opened fire on a rampaging mob. In Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and elsewhere, cars have been burned and WAPDA offices attacked. People clearly feel that they do not have a choice and must act. The power shortfall has reached 6,500 MW, while the old crisis of circular debt has also raised its ugly its head — with Lesco claiming it is owed huge amounts by the Punjab government. The Independent Power Producers’ dues are also said to be outstanding. The promises of reduced loadshedding have, of course, proved entirely futile. Right now the people feel they have no choice but to revolt against a set-up that has failed them again and again.
Unsurprisingly, the issue is becoming a politicised one. It has been raised in the ongoing joint session of parliament by opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali, who also noted that neither the prime minister nor the president were in the country to look into the crisis. No one really believes the Interior Minister Rehman Malik when he says the issue will be solved in 24 hours, especially since he did not say exactly how this will happen. The PML-N has warned of a long march if the matter is not dealt with in 48 hours. With all this happening, one can only wonder the extent to which our economy is suffering and how the threat of increased joblessness hovers menacingly around people who live in a constant state of fear to make ends meet.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 28th, 2012.
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