SWABI/KOHAT, May 24: Protesters of prolonged power outages on Thursday turned violent in Zaida town of Swabi district as they blocked roads, torched a local Awami National Party MPA’s office and stormed a local government school marching through the city.
However, their bid to attack MPA Sikandar Irfan’s house was thwarted by police, who dispersed them by using teargas and firing gunshots in the air.
Organisers had made a public appeal by using mosque loudspeakers for active participation in the protest. People, especially youth, from Zaida town and adjoining areas showed up at the town’s main bazaar in large numbers before marching through the bazaar.
Former union council nazim Abdul Qadoos Khan, PPP-Sherpao’s Iftikhar Khan, social worker Pazir Mohammad and members of a local jirga led the protest amidst sloganeering against the Water and Power Development Authority, the Peshawar Eclectic Supply Company and locals politicians, especially ANP lawmakers.
Protesters later stormed the Government Middle School for Boys and urged administration to let students join them. On refusal, they destroyed furniture and the school’s main gate, and left.
The mob later blocked Topi-Zaida Road for around four hours suspending traffic and forcing traders to pull down shutters of their shops. Afterwards, they converged on Zaida Eidgah, where their leaders delivered fiery speeches against Wapda, Pesco and local politicians over excessive loadshedding.
They complained that Wapda and Pesco turned a deaf ear to their complaints about suspension of electric supply for as long as 22 hours daily.
Protesters then began marching towards Zaida Bypass Road for attacking ANP MPA Sikandar Irfan’s house but a big contingent of police deployed on the way forced them into returning by teargassing them besides firing gunshots in the air.
They again gathered at the main bazaar and stormed the MPA’s office there.
They threw computers, furniture and other valuables out, set them on fire, and stayed put until all the stuff burned to ashes.
Zaida police arrested two people and registered an FIR against eight protesters for destroying public property.
This forced protesters to go to the Zaida police station, where they held dialogue with the district administration officers for release of the arrested colleagues and withdrawal of FIR but to no avail.
The protester leaders then asked the mob to disperse peacefully and left for the district headquarters for talks with district coordination officer Mohammad Shah and Pesco officers.
Until the last reports came in, talks were underway.
In Kohat, people complained of 14 hours long loadshedding daily and said they’re stressed out by the frequent suspension of electric supply during hot summer days.
They said they were subjected to excessive loadshedding for supplying electricity to Hangu.
They demanded that Hangu be supplied electricity from Thall tehsil, while 22 villages of Kohat being given electric supply from Hangu be connected to Kohat on permanent basis.
The Pesco staff said after the burning of huge transformer in Kohat grid station, technicians from Karachi were repairing it, while arrangements were being made to restore electric supply to Hangu.