PESHAWAR, June 1: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Senior Minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour had a narrow escape when enraged protesters tried to attack him during a rally against excessive loadshedding here on Friday.
The police came to the minister’s rescue and resorted to baton charge to disperse the crowd, which left many injured and resulted in a clash between police and protesters.
According to a Yakatoot police station official, the vehicle which the minister was riding in came across protesters, who began approaching it.
Policemen, who were detailed to guard duty there, stepped in for the minister’s protection and resorted to baton-charging protesters some of whom fled and others clashed with policemen.
The minister was on the way to his constituency, where his meeting with Awami National Party workers was scheduled.
Jamaat-i-Islami leaders Haji Samiullah and Jamaat Ali Shah, who led agitation, said Mr Bilour was to blame for the incident as he himself entered the area where loadshedding protesters had staged a sit-in.
“The minister’s arrival incited protesters,” Mr Jamaat told Dawn.
He claimed he invited the minister to speak to protestors but he fled prompting protestors to run after him.
Mr Jamaat said excessive loadshedding had made life of the PK-3 constituency’s residents miserable as electric supply remained suspended for at least 18 hours a day.
“The constituency located in the city is linked to rural areas and therefore, it remains without electricity most part of the day.
Under the current circumstances, there is no water to drink, to the misery of the people, especially children and patients, in scorching heat,” he said.
The protester leader said people regularly paid electricity bills but even then, they were subjected to prolonged loadshedding.
He alleged that police restored to torturing peaceful demonstrators on the orders of the minister.
However, the minister couldn’t be contacted for version despite repeated attempts.
Earlier, protesters blocked the main Yakatoot Road for around one and a half hours near the area police station amid sloganeering against the government and Wapda. They announced to stay put until smooth electric supply was restored to them.
When contacted, a spokesman for Pesco said electric supply to Peshawar and adjoining areas was suspended after a fire in the forests near Tarbela Dam led to the shutting down of the Tarbela Power House late on Thursday as a precautionary measure.
He, however, claimed that NTDC and Pesco restored electric supply from Warsak, Ghazi Barotha and Chashma to Peshawar and adjacent areas afterwards.
7“Now, we’re just following the routine loadshedding plan,” the spokesman said.
In Landi Kotal, locals and Jamrud tribesmen on Friday agitated against prolonged loadshedding.
Schoolchildren in Malagori area of Jamrud blocked Malagori-Jamrud Road for four hours, saying electric supply to Malagori region has been suspended for three days.
They pelted Khasadar checkpost and the administration offices with stones and placed logs and stones on the roads.
Students dispersed only after local officials and elders assured them of early redressal of their woes.
Also in the day, dozens of Jamaat-i-Islami workers protested excessive loadshedding in Satra Meel area of Sultankhel after Friday prayers.
JI leader Inam Gul, who led the protest, demanded that the administration procure generators for the smooth functioning of tube wells to provide locals with water uninterrupted. He also demanded early end to unscheduled power cuts.
Awami National Party leaders and workers also condemned prolonged loadshedding and said the administration should provide people with water free of cost by tankers.
JI and ANP protesters threatened to block Peshawar-Torkham Road over energy crisis.
In Lakki Marwat, Shabab-i-Mili workers on Friday blocked Bannu-DI Khan Road to record their complaint about excessive power cuts.
Led by Shabab-i-Mili district president Malik Jehanzeb Hassan, they also burnt tyres and kept the road closed for nearly half an hour. They converged on the main GT Road and marched through different bazaars to reach the old railway crossing.
Traders and shopkeepers joined the protest after shutting down their outlets.
Mr Jehanzeb said the government had miserably failed to deliver. He complained of power outages for long hours in Naurang town and adjacent villages and said unscheduled loadshedding had virtually brought life to a standstill.
He warned the administration that people would agitate if unfair power cuts weren’t halted within three days.
Later, protesters dispersed peacefully at the request of local Pesco SDO leading to the opening of the roads to traffic.