NOWSHERA/ DERA ISMAIL KHAN/ SHANGLA:
Protests against prolonged power outages continued across Khyber-Pakhutnkhwa (K-P) on Thursday as the government failed to restore electricity supply during Iftar and Sehri timings.
Grid station besieged in Bannu
Demonstrators armed with sticks besieged the grid station in Bannu to protest against the two-day power outage in Kaki area of the city on Thursday, confirmed police officials and residents.
The protesters, most of whom were from the Kaki tribe, took to the streets and walked 15 kilometers towards the grid station. They pelted stones at government buildings on the way and chanted slogans against the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda).
After reaching the grid station, they tried tearing down a side wall of the structure, but tribal elders prevented the mob from damaging the site.
Protesters also blocked the Bannu-DI Khan Road, leaving commuters stranded. Protester Azmat Khan said despite repeated complaints, Wapda paid no attention to their pleas. “We even consume Sehri and Iftar and offer Taraweeh without electricity. Therefore, we have a right to protest,” he added.
The protesters were flanked by local leaders and workers of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), PTI, and Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party.
The protesters dispersed after elders assured them of further protests if electricity was not restored to Kaki area. They said the government will be held responsible for any damage caused by such protests in the future.
Hundreds of locals from Rashakai started pouring onto the streets at 8am and tried to block the motorway. After being pushed back by the police, they instead managed to block the Nowshera-Mardan Road, suspending all traffic on the route as a result.
Led by social activists and local leaders Zakir Khan and Khushal Khan, protesters chanted slogans against the provincial and federal governments for failing to live up to their promises.
Addressing the demonstrators, Zakir said the electricity transformer in Rashakai has been dysfunctional for the past 13 days and the problem persists despite multiple complaints to Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) officials. He said the transformer was taken for repairs after a week and it has been six days since then, adding they will block the road till the transformer is installed.
DSP Cantt Akhtar Ali Khan visited the protesters to negotiate and was told by Khushal they were facing more than 18 hours of load-shedding in Ramazan despite promises made by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He said until they were given guarantees of reduced load-shedding, they will not clear the road.
Later, SDO Risalpur Warehouse Fahad Khan arrived at the scene and assured protesters the transformer will be repaired and installed by evening. By 10am, the protesters opened the road and dispersed peacefully.
More than 1,000 people blocked the Karakorum Highway in Bisham area of Shangla at about 1:30pm.
Led by the local youth movement president, Gul Daad, enraged demonstrators chanted slogans against the government and pelted stones at vehicles. As a result, hundreds of commuters were stranded during the protest.
Addressing the demonstrators, Daad said three transformers were taken by Pesco officials from Bisham Bazaar and its surrounding colonies for repairs. It has been three days since then and people have been living without electricity, which has ultimately forced them to come out on the streets, he added.
Daad maintained voltage is low in areas where transformers are working and demanded the government to provide them power from Khan Khawr hydel power dam, which produces 72 megawatts of electricity.
He vowed to continue protesting until electricity was supplied from the dam. The highway remained blocked for more than three hours, after which the protesters scattered.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.