RAWALPINDI, June 19: Tuesday was more horrible as compared to the preceding days for the twin cities as power rioters played havoc with the public and private property giving vent to their anger.
Violent protests erupted in the garrison city over prolonged power outages as angry protesters burnt the Iesco offices located at Chandni Chowk and Committee Chowk and closed all main roads for more than four hours, throwing traffic and routine life out of gear.
A sense of fear gripped the city hit by rallies. The traders and shopkeepers closed down their outlets and observed a complete shutter-down strike to press the government end power outages.
The strike call was given by Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) patronised Muttahida Traders Association (MTA) led by Malik Shahid Ghafoor Paracha and others.
The protesters pelted roadside buildings with stones and forced the trader community to close down their shutters. The shopkeepers were seen helpless as they stood outside their shops to avoid any untoward incident while the Punjab police and district administration made no attempt to stop the angry mob.
In the afternoon, hundreds of angry people took to the streets and roads across the city to protest peacefully against prolonged power outages but several dozen of them carrying clubs and stones broke free from the main demonstration to run amok.
The protesters marched on Benazir Bhutto Road smashing traffic signals, private vehicles and traffic warden’s posts. They also damaged the Iesco’s sub offices at Asghar Mall and Chandni Chowk.
Later they set tyres on fire and blocked roads, hurled stones on moving vehicles and private buildings. Iron fencing erected in the middle of Benazir Bhutto Road was uprooted by them.
Surprisingly, no senior police officer or official of district administration was seen near the trouble spots. However, after the sunset a handful of riot police personnel were seen marching towards Chandni Chowk – the most troubled area to control the mob. Some of the protesters were also arrested by the police but it was too late.
Hundreds of angry people also blocked Grand Trunk Road near Rawat for more than four hours from 6am to 10am that caused long queues of vehicles on roads leading to Rawalpindi-Islamabad from Lahore.
The loadshedding-hit people started marching from T-Chowk to Islamabad Expressway that caused traffic blockade on the road. They set old tyres on fire at Kural Chowk, Khanna Bridge and Shakrial and continued heading towards Faizabad.
Several hundred vehicles on G.T. Road were stuck in the worst-ever traffic jam that caused hardships for commuters who waited for the police to come to their rescue in the hot summer day.
Traders and residents of federal capital also continued their protest against loadshedding and unavailability of water in different sectors of city on Tuesday.
At Peshawar Mor, on the intersection of Kashmir and 9th Avenues, around 200 citizens gathered around 6:30pm and setting ablaze used tyres started their protest.
Traffic on both avenues was stopped and people had to turn back to use alternate routes. A large number of police officials headed by ASP Sadar, Mustansar Feroze reached the place to ensure that mob did not go violent.
Trader leader Choudhry Rizwan while addressing the participants alleged that feeder of Sector G-9 was connected to the grid station of Zero Point but the same had been connected to Pirwadhai grid station making loadshedding in the sector to increase enormously.
Dr Tehzibul Hasan said it seemed government wanted to force people to get electricity from main line and start kunda system (hooks that are attached to live power cables to secure supply without having to pay for it) in the federal capital just like Karachi. “If loadshedding continues, we will have no choice but to get electricity through kunda,” he warned.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amer Ahmed Ali held a meeting with the representatives of traders in order to resolve their issues. The traders informed him that residents of sectors I-10, I-8 and G-8 were facing out-of-proportion loadshedding and acute water shortage. “There was discrepancy in the distribution of water supply and electricity in some sectors as compared to others,” they complained.
On this the deputy commissioner directed the officials to take immediate corrective measures and ensure equal distribution of water supply and load management to all areas of the city.