Protracted power cuts: ‘City of Pirs’ erupts in violent protests

Demonstrators in Multan attack police, ransack MEPCO offices.

Owais Jafri July 27, 2013
A police officer looks at the damage caused to the Mepco office. PHOTO: INP

Irate protesters burnt and vandalised Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) offices and police stations on Friday in protest against unscheduled load-shedding and non-replacement of obsolete electricity transformers.

The first demonstration was organised near Garden Town Colony on the National Highway connecting Multan with South Punjab. The protests turned violent later in the afternoon when hundreds of demonstrators joined the mob.

The protesters burnt tyres and blocked the highway.They chanted slogans against Mepco and the government for protracted power outages in their neighbourhoods.

The company’s sub-division in Garden Town was attacked and burnt. Vehicles, official records and other items were either stolen or burnt.

There was no staff present at the time and security guards on the site were injured by the mob.

Senior Superintendent Police (Operations) Khurram Shakoor told The Express Tribune that Mepco officials will submit their report in the next 12 hours about the losses incurred and the police was arranging for all CCTV footage of near by banks to arrest the criminals.

Mepco official Naeem said the estimated loss stood at about Rs4 million to Rs5 million.

The protesters also attacked the first response of police officers who had arrived on the scene to stop the mob from ransacking the 20-year-old building, but reinforcements soon arrived to disperse the unruly crowd.

Rescue 1122 officials and firefighters took three hours to extinguish the fire.

The power company’s officials told The Express Tribune that the power cuts were according to schedule. They insisted that the power cuts lasted for 10 hours a day and not 16.

In another demonstration organised in New Multan Colony, protesters attacked the New Multan sub-division of Mepco but were dispersed by the timely arrival of police.

The people were protesting against the non-replacement of an electricity transformer for the past four days. Officials at the sub-division said teams of workers were working at the head office to repair the dysfunctional electricity transformers and the New Multan transformer would be repaired accordingly. They teams were working round the clock.

Elsewhere, more than 500 men staged a protest near Sewara Square on Nawabpur Road in the city over a dysfunctional transformer in the area.

But they were restricted to the square by police personnel which led to them attack a police check post of Gulghast police station.

The demonstrators accused local sub-divisional officer Babar Lodhi for demanding a bribe of Rs50,000 from them to replace the transformer.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2013.

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