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PTI lawmakers lead Peshawar protest against crackdown

August 30, 2013
Leaders and activists of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chant slogans against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) department during protest demonstration at Peshawar Press Club. — Photo by PPI
Leaders and activists of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chant slogans against Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) department during protest demonstration at Peshawar Press Club. — Photo by PPI

PESHAWAR: Some members of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Thursday blocked roads in the provincial capital against the law-enforcement agencies over the ongoing campaign against illegal gas and electric supply connections.

Hundreds of people from rural localities and led by MPAs Fazal Ilahi (PK-6) and Arif Yousaf (PK-4) staged a demonstration outside Peshawar Press Club and observed a sit-in on the busy Sher Shah Suri Road for many hours.

The protest led to traffic jams on Saddar Road prompting police to divert vehicles to other roads.

The people coming in from Saddar were not allowed to use Sher Shah Suri Road.

Protesters, who were shouting slogans against the federal government for not ensuring smooth power and gas supply to them, said they faced worst kind of loadshedding in the current hot and humid weather but Peshawar Electric Supply Company and Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited were indifferent to their misery.

They said SNGPL and Pesco teams accompanied by police and FIA personnel had disconnected supply of gas and electricity to them and thus, forcing them to take to the streets.

The protest stressed out the road users as police facilitated the demonstrators by stretching barbed wire at different places of one lane to restrict movement of vehicle and pedestrians.

The public had to use one lane of the road which led to long queues from the press club building to Shoba Bazaar and Peshawar High Court building.

Speaking on the occasion PTI leader Fazal Ilahi said the federal government instead of arresting the corrupt people in Wapda and SNGPL was bent on creating problems for the provincial government by observing prolonged gas and power loadshedding.

“The government has tasked FIA with disconnecting power and gas supply to consumers instead of coordinating with the relevant elected representatives for the issue settlement. In such a situation when the federal government has begun harassing the poor people, we’re left with no choice but to step out and agitate,” he said.

Mr Ilahi said both the Sui gas and Pesco had sent inflated bills to the consumers to recover their line losses despite regular payment of bills and that the officials of the departments themselves were involved in gas and power theft.

“No one can get illegal connection without support of the relevant linemen, operators and SDOs,” he said, adding that first, the government should hold its officials accountable and then, all elected representatives were ready to extend full cooperation to recovery teams.

The MPA said the federal government should stop FIA from raiding houses of the poor people and correct the inflated bills and if that happened, then the people would pay bills on a regular basis otherwise they would continue protest.

“We have convinced the people to stay peaceful otherwise the prolonged loadshedding in such hot and humid weather would have forced them to turn violent,” he said asking SNGPL and Pesco to ensure smooth gas and electric supply to the people.

However, SNGPL and Pesco officials insisted that they had initiated a campaign against illegal gas and power connections but the elected representatives were supporting the wrongdoers.

They said the people paying bills regularly had been suffering due to the defaulters and illegal gas users.

3,000 ILLEGAL GAS CONNECTIONS CUT OFF: SNGPL general manager Saqib Arbab on Thursday said around 3,000 illegal gas connections had been severed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the last two months, while cases against the relevant consumers had been referred to police for registration of FIRs.

He told reporters that of the illegal gas users, 44 were stated to be industrialists, mainly from southern districts of the province.

Mr Arbab said local police, FIA and SNGPL had constituted joint raiding parties to check illegal gas use and arrest the consumers.

“We have begun a one-window operation for provision of new connections, bill correction and problem resolution,” he said.

The SNGPL general manager said the new gas connections were given on merit and no out-of-turn connections would be given even to the influential people.

He said in the past, some organised groups remained involved in gas theft and eight such groups had been busted.

Mr Arbab said those groups provided illegal connections to the people and collected monthly bills from them but did not give a single penny to SNGPL.

“We have begun giving new connections and decided to install around 14,000 gas meters in the province by the end of this year,” he said, adding that all those who had applied for gas connections in 2009 and 2010 should contact the nearest SNGPL offices to check serial number for connections.

Mr Arbab asked the people to avoid paying money to the ‘touts’ for new connections as they had no role in this respect.