PESHAWAR: People took to the streets against exorbitant power bills in several districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa complaining the increase in electricity tariff amid record inflation has added to their misery.
They blocked roads, set fire to power bills and announced they would challenge the “injustice” by the public utility in the court of law.
Members of the business community in Peshawar demonstrated in Gulbahar, Kohati Gate, Shaheen Muslim Town, Paharipura and Warsak Road areas for the fourth consecutive day.
People from other walks of life joined them and demanded immediate withdrawal of fuel price adjustment from power bills and refund of that amount.
People block roads, say will move court for relief
They said food inflation had hit all-time high to the misery of the common man, who was struggling to make ends meet.
The protesters complained that the people were troubled as the rates of power, oil, gas and essential items had gone through the roof amid the nonstop depreciation of Pakistani rupee.
Meanwhile, Awami National Party, Pakistan Peoples Party, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Jamaat-i-Islami urged the government to address “inflated” power bills and control prices and said they supported the people’s street protests.
Maulana Abdul Jalil Jan of the JUI-F, Ikhtiar Wali Khan of the PML-N and Tahir Abbas of the PPP told Dawn that they supported the people’s fight against price hike.
In a statement, ANP provincial president Aimal Wali Khan said the sale of “expensive” electricity to KP residents was an unconstitutional and a very cruel act on part of the government.
He said under Article 157 of the Constitution, the provinces had the power to determine the method and rate of distribution of electricity generated by them.
“Electricity produced at Rs2 is sold to people for Rs27-Rs30,” he said.
Mr Khan said “unconstitutional” measures were being taken regarding electric supply.
“On one hand, we don’t get the electricity to meet our needs and on the other, federal tariff has been unconstitutionally imposed on us,” he said.
The ANP leader also insisted that the centre was denying net hydel profit to the province.
He said the party would raise its voice against that unconstitutional act at available forums and would take corrective measures after coming to power.
Mr Ikhtiar of the PML-N said the rulers were forcing the people to rise up.
He said his party would support the people in their struggle against price hike while calling for the immediate correction of inflated bills.
Mr Jalil of the JUI-F said “additional taxes” in power bills were illegal, so the federal government should ensure their immediate withdrawal.
He said his party would stand with power consumers in their struggle for rights.
PPP leader Tahir Abbas said his party’s workers would be present in all demonstrations against price hike.
He urged authorities to address the people’s basic problems, including high inflation.
Also in the day, scores of people took to the streets in Swat district against exorbitant power bills.
A protest was staged by the civil society in Mingora, while the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party demonstrated in Matta. People from all walks showed up there in large numbers.
Shouting slogans and carrying electricity bills, they blamed the Wapda, government and the International Monetary Fund for their misery and demanded an immediate relief from inflation. Protesters later burned down their electricity bills.
Also, members of the All Swat Class IV Employees Association staged a rally against the rising power tariff.
Led by association president Syed Khittab, scores of protesters gathered outside the Swat Press Club building and said high in electricity tariffs was tantamount to their financial devastation amid high inflation.
Mardan district, too, witnessed street protests against the exorbitant power bills.
The residents of Gulibagh area blocked the Shamsi Road for several hours suspending traffic.
Shouting slogans against Wapda and raising electricity bills in their hands, they insisted that they’re charged 300-400 extra electricity units for last month.
The protesters criticised the government over power tariff hike complaining they’re already struggling to make ends meet amid record inflation.
They demanded an immediate withdrawal of the increase in electricity rate and measures to contain inflation. City mayor Himayatullah Mayar met top Wapda officials and discussed the issue with them.
Meanwhile, a jirga in Mansehra district announced that people won’t pay exorbitant electricity bills, while traders would observe a complete shutter-down strike next Monday.
It also set up a committee to meet trader bodies in Abbottabad, Haripur, Battagram and Kohistan districts to persuade them to join their strike.
The meeting was held at the central mosque of Mansehra city with traders, lawyers, local body members, clerics and civil society activists being in attendance.
“We [jirga] condemn the issuance of inflated power bills and have unanimously decided that people won’t pay bills and will close businesses against this injustice on Monday besides staging a rally,” head of a committee formed by the jirga Mohammad Arif Inqalabi told reporters.
Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023