PESHAWAR/ LAHORE/ KARACHI:
Widespread protests broke out in different cities across the country on Friday as intense heat coupled with prolonged power outages marred the first day of the fasting month. Taking notice of the protests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif directed the water and power ministry to address the complaints at the earliest.
Expressing his resentment over load-shedding during sehr and iftar, the PM has sought an immediate reply from the ministry over the unannounced power cuts, according to a PM House statement.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the premier had promised there would be no power cuts during sehr, iftar and taraweeh times during Ramazan.
The situation turned out to be the opposite in Karachi, where electricity demand hit a record high of 3,100 megawatts as the mercury soared to 40 degrees centigrade.
Scores of people took to the streets to protest the unannounced load-shedding in various areas, including Ayesha Manzil, Super Highway, Malir, North Karachi and Nazimabad. In Gulistan-e-Jauhar, people hurled stones at the power utility’s area In Hyderabad, several feeders remained shut, causing power outages of up to 15 hours. Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) supplies electricity to 14 districts in Sindh.
Protests erupted in several areas, with violent demonstrators attacking a Hesco office in Shaheed Umaid Ali subdivision and burning the records.
The residents of Mirpurkhas, Badin, Dadu, Jamshoro and other districts also complained of prolonged outages.
Protests were also reported in Multan, Sahiwal, Pakpattan, Bhakkar, Layyah, Bahawalnagar and Dera Ghazi Khan among other cities of Punjab.
Scores of residents in Multan staged a protest against Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) over unscheduled power outages. The protesters, mostly youth of Lohar Colony, beat drums and shouted slogans against the water and power ministry. They tore down posters and painted graffiti against the government.
“It is the first day of fasting and there seems to be no relief from the scorching weather,” a protester, Muhammad Hussein, said.
He said several complaints had been lodged with the MEPCO but no action had been taken to resolve the issue.
A MEPCO spokesman said a six-hour load-shedding schedule had been devised for urban areas and eight hours for rural areas. He claimed no unscheduled load-shedding was taking place.
The situation was not different in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa either, where thousands of protesters took to the streets of Swabi, Charsadda, Kohat and Bannu over prolonged power outages.
The demonstrations took a violent turn when protesters burnt down Wapda’s sub-divisional headquarters and an additional sessions judge office in Chota Lahor, Swabi. The mob also ambushed a fire brigade which had arrived at the site to put out the fire.
Six people were arrested as police controlled the mob with tear-gas.
The protesters later blocked the Islamabad-Peshawar motorway and only dispersed after Swabi DCO Matiullah Khan and DPO Sajjad Khan assured their grievances would be addressed.
In Shabqadar, protesters threw stones at a grid station. In Prang, a mob gathered outside a grid station. Protests were also staged in Kohat and Bannu.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 20th, 2015.
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