KARACHI, June 3: Power riots spread to various city areas on Sunday where enraged protesters set fire to Karachi Electric Supply Company assets and pelted moving vehicles with stones, suspending vehicular traffic on main arteries.
The areas where people took to the streets in protest against prolonged power outages included Liaquatabad, Karimabad, Gulshan-i-Hadeed and Korangi.
The protesters ransacked a KESC substation, some local offices, torched four trucks and damaged several vehicles passing through the troubled areas.
Residents of Al-Karam Square and Apsara Apartments in Liaquatabad staged a violent protest against the KESC, which refused to restore their electricity on account of non-payment of its outstanding dues.
The protesters said that since their areas had been without power for the past few days, they could also not operate their water pumps owing to which they were also facing an acute water shortage.
Some other protesters said that they always paid their electricity bills on time and never stole power, but if somebody was not paying their bills, it provided no justification for punishing honest KESC consumers as well.
They condemned the KESC for not evolving a procedure that could only target its defaulting consumers and did not hit honest consumers.
The worst sufferers of the KESC’s indifferent attitude are intermediate students whose examinations are going on, and in the absence of electricity their studies are being affected badly.
A heavy contingent of police and Rangers reached the troubled area in Liaquatabad and tried to control the situation. The law-enforcers hurled teargas shells and fired into the air to disperse the protesting crowd.
While the area police insisted that nobody had been formally arrested, eyewitnesses claimed that a few people had been picked up.
The KESC on its part said that the troublemakers were defaulters and that power would not be restored until they all agreed to pay.
A KESC spokesperson, Adil Murtaza, said the defaulting consumers ransacked a KESC local area office in F.C. Area and torched three trucks — a technical maintenance operations truck (KN-0818) and two others (JX-1238 and JX-6390). Later, a few armed men entered the KESC office and ransacked the entire premises, he added.
He said that in another incident a mob comprising over 250 people attacked the KESC area office in Gulshan-i-Hadeed to pressure it to reduce loadshedding despite their millions of rupees default status.
He said that in yet another incident a KESC team attending to a high tension fault in Korangi’s Universal Town was attacked by the defaulting consumers of Haji Bangwar Goth PMT and Irshad Pan House PMT. Initially, only KESC staffers were held hostage but later the mob set ablaze the maintenance truck and expensive equipment (JX-7363). The KESC staffers were also attacked in Noorani Basti in Korangi.
He said the KESC had zero tolerance for “willful defaulters” and those engaged in “blatant power theft”.
Meanwhile, Liaquatabad division SP Nauman Siddiqui said that while traffic on the Liaquatabad flyover was normal, traffic on the roads under the flyover was disrupted due to the people’s protest.
He said the demonstrators had also pelted stones on vehicles and destroyed a few vehicles, including those of the KESC.
Answering a question, he said that so far no one had been arrested.