RAWALPINDI, June 23: The city saw another widespread and violent protest and strike against prolonged power outages on Saturday.
In response to a strike call given by the Punjab Traders Association, the businessmen in the city kept their shutters down.
The protest demonstrations started in the afternoon during which some miscreants also damaged public property and vehicles. The Committee Chowk area also witnessed clashes between the angry protesters and the police.
The police baton-charged and lobbed teargas on the stick-wielding protesters after they came out of narrow lanes and started damaging public and private property. The protesters retaliated with pelting the police with stones.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the strike, a charged mob carrying sticks and iron rods attacked a petrol-CNG filling station at Ghazni Road and ransacked the filling machines and offices besides smashing windowpanes of eight vehicles filling fuel there.
Some protesters looted cash and other valuables from the petrol pump owned by a multinational company. Police, which arrived there very late, fired teargas shells to disperse them. Reportedly, the angry protesters also damaged traffic signals, public property, transport and private vehicles and hotels.
The residents of nearby localities complained that the teargas shells fired by the police landed at their courtyards causing huge suffocation and panic among their family members.
After damaging the petrol pump, the protesters marched towards Khyaban-i-Sir Syed via Dhoke Dalal and on the way some of them snatched mangoes from stallholders.
The angry mob after reaching Khyaban-i-Sir Syed threw stones at the house of PML-N MPA Ziaullah Shah. As a result, the windowpanes and lights of the house were damaged. The MPA was not present in the house.
The family of the MPA called the police who arrived at the spot and fired teargas shells to disperse the mob. “I was not in the city when some miscreants attacked my house,” said the MPA while talking to Dawn on telephone.
Business activities came to a standstill in the city and cantonment areas due to the shutter-down strike. However, restaurants, bakeries and medical stores across the city remained open.
Some shopkeepers told Dawn that they did not want to open their outlets to invite the miscreants to loot their goods under the garb of holding protest.
However, the city’s senior district officer said they had visited various markets to assure the traders that security cover would be in place if they wanted to open their businesses.
Shahid Ghafoor Paracha, the president of Rawalpindi Traders Association, said: “The traders did not stage any protest in the city and they observed complete shutter down to express their anger over wrong policies of the government which have created energy crisis in the city.”
He said the protesters were local residents who took advantage of the strike and vent their anger against 18 hours long electricity loadshedding.
He said the traders observed a complete shutter-down strike in about 250 bazaars and markets from Faizabad to Chur Chowk.
“If the forced electricity loadshedding did not end within a week, the traders will start a civil disobedience movement and stage sit-in in front of President House,” he said and added that Raja Pervaiz Ashraf was a dummy prime minister and the president’s assurance to end the energy crisis was required.