DERA ISMAIL KHAN/ KOHAT/ PESHAWAR/ SHANGLA/ CHARSADDA:
Protesters turned violent in Shabqadar, Charsadda when they vandalised Shabqadar Grid Station on Friday in reaction to prolonged power outages in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
Residents of Shabqadar have been protesting for the past three days and have demanded Peshawar Electricity Supply Company (Pesco) officials repair all damaged transformers. This was the first incident of violence in nearly a week of protests.
On Friday morning, hundreds of protesters armed with sticks took to the roads in Shabqadar, Hassanzai, Katozai, Nazar Garhi and surrounding areas.
Led by Union Council Hassanzai former nazim Fayaz Khan and Union Council Katozai former nazim Muhammad Shahid Khan, the demonstrators marched towards Shabqadar Grid Station and blocked Bajaur-Peshawar Road. Some overzealous protesters plunged through the grid station’s wall and opened the gate, after which they smashed furniture and torched the office of XEN Jamal Khan. Official records were burnt along with the car of a Pesco official. Additionally, a motorcycle parked nearby was also destroyed and angry residents pelted stones inside and outside the office. They also smashed the windows of vehicles parked on the road.
Fayaz alleged Pesco and Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) officials were intentionally depriving the area of electricity. When the DPO and deputy commissioner visited the angry mob to negotiate, they realised the violent nature of the situation and turned back without engaging in any dialogue.
One the other hand, MPA Muhammad Arif Ahmadzai later joined the protesters and said power outages in Shabqadar would end when Pesco officials deployed at the gird station are removed.
Meanwhile, hundreds of protesters in Charsadda city led by MNA Maulana Gohar Shah marched towards Farooq-e-Azam Chowk. They chanted slogans against the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) governments and blocked the roads for all traffic.
Hundreds of women from Behzadi Chakar Kot surrounded the Pesco SDO office and blocked Kohat University Road in continued protests against lack of power. Heavy contingents of police were deployed to scatter the women, who refused to leave and demanded the load-shedding problem be resolved. A Pesco official promised to restore electricity, after which the women scattered peacefully.
Scores of enraged protesters led by local youth movement president, Gul Daad, blocked the Karakoram Highway in Bisham and chanted slogans against the government.
Addressing the demonstrators, Daad said not a single vehicle would be allowed to pass until three transformers were repaired and reinstalled.
Daad also said Pesco and the government were forcing them to turn violent and destroy government installations.
Residents of Basthi Diwal prayed their Taraweeh on DI Khan-Multan Road on Thursday in protest against the 10-day suspension in power.
Police officials were present on the occasion, but did not interfere with the protesters. The flow of traffic remained slow and demonstrators criticised the government and Wapda for not providing electricity during Ramazan.
Attaur Rehman, a resident, said locals were opening and preparing for their fasts without power since the first day of the holy month. He added the transformer in Khairabad Colony had been out of order for three days, but Wapda officials were yet to respond to their complaints.
Additionally, there have also been complaints of low voltage in areas such as Mandarah and Saddar.
Tempers also ran high in the provincial capital as scores of residents from Kohati blocked Ring Road. The residents complained their transformer had not been functioning for the past four days. They burned tyres and threw stones at passing vehicles. Later, a Pesco official managed to convince them the issue would be addressed, after which they dispersed.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2013.