Blatant negligence: Agitated residents of Karak lash out against PESCO’s ‘apathy’

11 days on, uprooted power pylons yet to be restored.

Abdur Rauf July 10, 2013
The breakdown occurred on June 29 after a powerful rainstorm uprooted 120 power pylons. PHOTO: PPI/FILE

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) remains unmindful to the growing discomfort experienced by residents of Karak as nearly 70% of the district is without power since nearly two weeks.

The breakdown occurred on June 29 after a powerful rainstorm uprooted 120 power pylons. Since then, power supply remains disrupted to power feeders in Ahmadwala, Takht-i-Nasrati, Siraj Baba, Indus Highway, Warana, Latambar, Gudikhel, Chokara, Bogara and Khojaki Kallay.

On Wednesday, agitated people from the affected areas convened a jirga in Ahmadabad. The gathering decided to block the Indus Highway – connecting Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with southern regions of the country – to protest against ‘Pesco’s apathy’.

Angry residents of surrounding villages including Ahmadabad, Babulkhel, Dingerwala and Warana blocked the highway for all traffic in the evening till the filing of the report.

“Inept Pesco employees who are meant to reinstall the power pylons leave work midday, with the tasks at hand unfinished,” complained a local, Lal Saddique.

“They (Pesco employees) said ‘since Ramazan starts on Thursday, we will not work on installing the pylons as we have to make arrangements at home’ for the holy month,” added a frustrated Saddique.

Pesco had estimated Rs12 million would be needed to fix the damage caused by the storm and had appealed to locals to contribute. But residents complain of continued indifference from the electric supply company even after the local populace shelled out Rs300 per person.

“We responded to Pesco’s appeal and collected Rs300 from each person in Ahmadabad – which has a population of 18,000,” shared Israrullah. But he added nothing moved the authorities to cooperate with the distressed residents, even as they offered physical labour to get the job done.

Former nazim of Ahmadabad, Saeedullah noted: “although it was Pesco’s responsibility, the required amount of Rs12 million was collected by the people of the area. Yet awkwardly enough, Pesco officials have not moved to resolve the problem.”

“This is ridiculous. Pesco made a peaceful population resort to violent demonstration,” argued Wahidullah, who was earlier allegedly beaten up by local policemen along with other protesters.

A day earlier, SHO Hakim Khan reportedly resorted to aerial firing near demonstrators on the Indus Highway. “We approached the police well before the protest to assure them it was a peaceful demonstration by residents to make Pesco mindful about their woes,” explained Hamid Khan. “But we were fired upon on the orders of DSP Ashraf Khan,” alleged Hamid, claiming the police also beat up the protesters.

The situation in Karak district is fast moving towards a meltdown – the combination of hot weather and water shortage is pushing residents and even law enforcement agencies over the edge. Water in most parts of the district is only extractable from electric tube wells which need functional electricity transformers.

The acute scarcity of potable water has also pushed the cost of a water tanker to Rs2,000 from Rs1,000.

Six days ago, Pesco spokesperson Shaukat Afzal told The Express Tribune power would be restored very soon. But ground realities differ; Pesco has not made any headway since despite the help extended by residents, who even arranged for vehicles and power generators to reset the pylons.

From all available evidence, the uprooted power pylons are situated in accessible localities and there are no logistical problems in carrying out the repair work.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.


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