KARACHI: If you were stuck in the horrific traffic jam on Thursday, you were probably on one of the arteries connected to Liaquatabad where an entire neighbourhood came out to shout and burn tyres against the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) for cutting them off.
Faults developed in the area’s network but KESC’s staff refused to work on them because their centre in the area was earlier on attacked by petrol bombs. “We won’t work unless our staff is provided foolproof security,” said a spokesman.
After being ignored on Wednesday, Liaquatabad residents and shopkeepers eventually grew fed up and by Thursday their anger spilled out into the streets of Gharibabad where they decided to stage a sit-in protest.
“Only the government can resolve the matter because KESC is taking revenge for their office being set on fire,” said one protester. “We can also resolve the matter but in order to do that we have rioted.”
Things turned ugly as men and children started pelting passing cars with stones and some others tried to set ablaze a half-built toll tax post on the Lyari Expressway. “We do not want to take the law into our own hands but we are being forced,” said protester Nauman Shamim. “We burnt tyres on the roads only to record our protest. We can do more if the power supply is not restored soon and then the government and KESC should hold themselves responsible in that case.”
Police and Rangers were called in. By the evening traffic jams spread to Shahrae Pakistan, Hassan Square, Al Azam Square, Baloch Hotel and adjoining streets.
The parts of Liaquatabad Town hit by the load shedding and subsequent water shortages included Gharibabad, Bantwa Nagar, Bandhani Colony, Ishaqabad, Sikandarabad, Sharifabad. “Where are our ministers who won their seats with the help of our votes?” asked one protester.
For its part, KESC official Aamir Abbasi told The Express Tribune earlier on in the day that a fault had developed in a cable in the area but they would not repair it until they are given security. “We can repair the fault from our office that was set on fire in the previous attack in Al Karam. But it is a security risk.” By evening, a press release was issued, saying that after respectable figures from the area gave assurances, the team went back to work.
Liaquatabad DSP Taufeeq Ahmed earlier told The Express Tribune that the fault was “not a major one”. “We are ready to provide KESC security,” he explained. “We are with the residents of Liaquatabad Town and the police will support them. I am ready to give them the matchbox to burn tyres because they are protesting peacefully and until they take the law into their own hands, KESC will not restore the electricity.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2010.
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