LAHORE: Violent demonstrations erupted in Lahore and Multan on Wednesday against longer hours of loadshedding in extremely sultry weather conditions.

The most violent protests were seen in Batapur area of Lahore where people blocked the Grand Trunk Road, set tyres on fire and also pelted private vehicles with stones. According to the protesters, they had been facing up to 18 hours of outages.

The most unfortunate part of the protests is the attitude of the Lahore Electric Power Company, which has chosen to keep quiet. None of its officials, including Chief Executive Rao Zameer and Director Operations Javed Iqbal, were available for comment. Repeated attempts to get their version failed.

Unfortunately, Batapur falls on Lesco’s category of rural feeder, and is treated as such. This is despite the fact that a new grid station on Burki Road was energised recently to ease the woes of suburban areas of the city, like Batapur. But, the situation failed to improve and the people living in the locality lost their nerves on Wednesday. Luckily, no loss of life or damage to Lesco property was reported.

Another gathering of people, which almost threatened to turn into a violent protest, was reported from the Link Road Model Town, but the situation was averted because Lesco had announced a shutdown and people, especially shopkeepers who had been forced to carry out their business on expensive generators, were informed that it was a planned and advertised switch-off.

Disturbances were also reported from the Baghbanpura area where people gathered to protest outages even during Sehr and Iftar.

“The problem with Lesco is the government of Punjab is ordering shutdowns almost on a daily basis because of its own development works,” says an official of Lesco. People can hardly distinguish between the planned shutdown and unscheduled loadshedding because they grossly overlap or follow each, with the same result: people being without power in hot, humid weather.

MULTAN: People staged demonstrations in various parts of the city against unscheduled loadshedding.

Protests were held in Muzaffarabad, Shershah Road, Nawabpur Road, Chowk Clock Tower and Hafiz Jamal Road areas.

The protesters blocked roads and chanted slogans against the Multan Electric Power Company and the Ministry of Water and Power. They said the duration of loadshedding in the city had increased up to 16 to 18 hours.

They said the government had claimed that there would be no loadshedding at the time of Sehr, Iftar and Taraveeh, but it failed to keep its promise.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2014

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