Protesters in Karachi set tyres ablaze on Tuesday after power cuts disrupted another Sehri during the holy month of Ramazan, police said, a day after two protesters were shot dead in Peshawar during a similar protest.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif came to power four years ago promising to end load shedding — that have plagued daily life for years, hobbling the economy and deterring foreign investment.
Protests erupted on Tuesday in Karachi after electricity was cut during the pre-dawn feast. Some protesters tried to attack and set fire to an office of the K-Electric (KE), said police officer Khadim Ali.
A transmission line had tripped due to high humidity, KE claimed, adding that the load shedding would persist for two to three weeks more. It is now back to eight to 10 hours a day in some parts of Karachi.
PM Sharif called an emergency meeting of a cabinet energy panel on Tuesday to discuss the power outages. In a statement, the prime minister's office said the meeting focused on “urgent measures” to reduce power cuts during Ramazan, which coincides this year with summer temperatures forecast in some regions at around 40 degrees Celsius.
On Monday, two demonstrators were killed in another protest against electricity shortages in Peshawar, reportedly when police fired to disperse crowds.
One of those killed was shot by police and later died in hospital in the Malakand district, said Humayun Khan, the provincial representative of the PPP. Both deaths were being investigated, said the district's deputy commissioner, Zafa Ali Shah.
Sindh CM criticises KE, other distribution companies
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has held K-Electric (KE) responsible for the sufferings of people in Karachi and criticised distribution companies for depriving people of electricity in this sizzling weather.
He was talking to journalists after inaugurating Paediatric Emergency Room established by Child Life Foundation at Sindh Government Hospital Korangi-5.
He said K-Electric has not only failed to upgrade its system but has done a little to include more electricity in its system. Now, the people of this city are facing serious hardships due to prolonged power failure and loadshedding.
He added that he had held a meeting with KE management and they had assured him that no loadshedding would be carried out to during Iftar and Saher and there would be an overall reduction in the loadshedding.
“But all these assurances proved to be a bubble of air,” he said and added that power failure in the city means failure of water supply as well.
The chief minister did not rule out the emergence of an untoward situation if power outage continued at the on-going alarming scale.
Talking about Hesco and Sesco, the chief minister said both the companies have completely failed to serve the people of rural Sindh.
“About three year ago, the Sindh government had offered to take over both the companies [Hesco, Sesco] for their smooth, efficient and effective performance but the federal government refused. Today they are in shambles and could not be made efficient, even if the Sindh government is allowed to take over,” he lamented.
“I know people of rural Sindh are leading a very miserable life by facing 21-hour long loadshedding,” he said and urged the federal government to take pity on the people of Sindh and improve its system.
“The tripping of 500 KV line is pathetic and unacceptable and still it has not been restored completely,” he said.
The chief minister recalled his meetings with federal water and power minister and the prime minister. He also talked about the letters he wrote to them calling for a reduction in loadshedding and improvement in the supply system, but “sorry to say nothing has improved and my repeated phone calls, letters and requests [for smooth supply of electricity] have fallen flat on the deaf ears,” he said.
Heatwave grips many areas of Pakistan amid long power cuts
The country has been hit by a heatwave amid lengthy power cuts in many parts of the country. The state-run Meteorological Department says daily highs on Monday reached 53 degrees Celsius in Turbat area of Balochistan, breaking a nearly 10-year-old record.
Its forecast on Tuesday says the hot and dry weather will continue throughout the week across the country, including in Sindh where 1,233 people died from the heat in 2015.