MINGORA/ PESHAWAR/ DI KHAN:
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Saturday censured the federal government over unscheduled power outages during Ramazan.
The government had earlier instructed no load-shedding take place during Sehri, Iftar and Taraweeh timings in Ramazan. However, power outages still remain the norm in the capital city and the rest of the province.
Speaking to party workers and office bearers in Nowshera, Khattak demanded the Federal Ministry for Water and Power to provide K-P its full share of electricity.
“The federal government is not giving us power according to our quota. K-P’s requirement is 2,700 megawatts (MW) per day. However, it only receives 1,700 MW. “Unannounced outages occur because of forced load-shedding by the Regional Control Centre in Islamabad,” he maintained.
Khattak further demanded prompt steps be taken to address the dearth of grid stations in K-P and to repair the existing system of power lines, otherwise he himself would resort to protest demonstrations alongside the people. “The people are at immense unease with load-shedding; I myself have received a lot of complaints,” he said. Ihsanullah, a resident of Kohat Road, said: “We face outages every day, Sehri time is no exception.”
Mazhar Iqbal, a resident of Landi Arbab, said he was hopeful they would get some respite in Ramazan, but they did not.
Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) spokesperson Shaukat Afzal told The Express Tribune the company was trying to adhere to the government’s directives. However, they were faced by two major hurdles in doing so, he claimed.
“The Sheikh Muhammadi Grid Station which was recently destroyed by militants is still under construction, which is why there is a shortage of power supply to Peshawar and adjacent areas,” said Afzal. “The other reason for outages is the fact that power distribution system in the remote areas is outdated and not capable of bearing the complete load.”
Afzal maintained Pesco was striving to provide uninterrupted power supply during Sehri, Iftar and Taraweeh and requested customers to avoid using extra power in these timings.
Enraged locals blocked the main DI Khan-Multan Road in Tariqabad for two hours on Saturday to protest against load-shedding.
Protesters also chanted slogans against the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) and the provincial and federal governments.
Despite the government’s claims, power cuts during Iftar, Sehri and Taraweeh continue in the district where the average temperature remains over 40 degrees Celsius. Along with load-shedding, low voltage and tripping have also irked the locals, who find no relief during the sweltering heat in Ramazan.
Meanwhile, another protest was staged in front of Town Hall, DI Khan, resulting in traffic jams on Circular Road. Residents of Nawab and Mandahra villages claimed the duration of outages has reached up to 18 hours a day in their areas.
Aslam Khan Gandapur, in-charge at the only grid station in DI Khan, said there is only one station in the city so they have no other option but to cut power during those timings.
SDO Zafar Khan, however, was more optimistic. Zafar said if the University Grid Station becomes operational, load-shedding will reduce greatly. He added the 220KV grid station was under construction with funding from Japan, but the funds were transferred to other areas and its construction halted. “Setting up of this 220KV grid station can end load-shedding in DI Khan forever.”
Double edged sword
Along with prolonged power cuts, the people of Swat are also suffering from gas load-shedding during Sehri and Iftar timings.
“At exactly 2am, the gas supply is cut off and it is restored in the morning. That is the time we have to cook Sehri; without gas it’s impossible to cook,” said Minhajuddin, a resident of Saidu, adding even electricity is out at that time, compounding problems for those intending to fast. Minhajuddin said he had to buy readymade meals for Sehri from the market as a result.
“I was unable to cook food for Sehri at midnight and my family had to go out and fetch food from the market,” complained a woman from Khona Cham.
“During sehri, when the electricity went out, we would run our generators on gas. But now even gas is not available at that time and we are forced to eat in darkness,” said Waseem Khan, a resident of Afsarabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2013.