Political parties, traders in Karachi up in arms against inflated electricity bills

Published August 26, 2023
Protesters set fire to KE bills at a demonstration near Jama Cloth Market on Friday. —PPI
Protesters set fire to KE bills at a demonstration near Jama Cloth Market on Friday. —PPI

KARACHI: Different segments of society took to the streets on Friday, protesting against frequent and skyrocketing increase in electricity tariffs and alleged overbilling by the K-Electric.

The Jamaat-i-Islami, Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan and city’s trader community strongly criticised the government for paying no heed towards the plight of the ordinary people.

The JI staged protests in different parts of the city where the party leaders demanded review of tariff from the federal government and asked the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) to stop “discount” with the power utility in Karachi and take action over its “poor performance.”

At a demonstration on main M. A. Jinnah Road, the JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman demanded the government to pull the strings of the white collar criminals in the K-Electric before people took law into their own hands.

He hailed the traders’ community for raising their voice at a time when very few people dared to raise their voice against injustice. He said the traders’ protest would open doors for further reaction across the city against the KE.

Criticising the caretaker government, he said that the regime, following the footprints of previous government, had dropped petrol and electricity bombshells on the masses.

On one hand, it had become next to impossible for the people to meet both ends, and on the other, the government was supporting mafias, including the KE, against them. He also criticised the government for increasing the prices of utilities despite the already skyrocketing inflation.

Sardar Abdul Rahim of the PML-F also condemned the recent inflated power bills, calling it a failure of the ruling elite that was forcing people to pay for their “criminal policies.”

He demanded the government and regulatory body to review the power tariff, otherwise, the anger among the people would react strong against them.

“The people are so angry and frustrated that they would take to the streets if government fails to pay heed on this genuine issue,” he said in a statement.

The TLP also held a press conference with traders and business leaders, demanding relief for power consumers amid growing inflation and food prices.

“We reject the excessive charges being collected by K-Electric in electricity bills,” said TLP’s Mufti Qasim Fakhri. “The situation is so serious that people are forced to starve while struggling to make ends meet, while the KE is sending electricity bills amounting to thousands and even in lacs. This must stop.”

The traders staged protest demonstrations near Memon Masjid and at Regal, Saddar followed by a rally towards KE Office, West Wharf against the inflated electricity bills and rising petroleum prices.

President of the All Karachi Tajir Itehad (AKTI) Atiq Mir said traders were demanding removal of various taxes and duties in the power bills, fuel cost adjustment, peak hour tariff, TV Licence Fee, additional surcharges, etc. which they felt were unjustified and a sheer burden on the already hard pressed consumers.

“There is no need for the general sales tax on residential power bills and there should also be a uniform tariff instead of tariff based on various slabs,” he said.

“Excessive billing has triggered burning of bills, suspension of bill payment, protests and rallies, thus signaling that the country is heading towards civil disobedience,” he said, urging the caretaker government to urgently resolve the issue of high power bills and rising petrol prices which were directly hitting the cost of living of low income group of people and small and medium sized traders.

General Secretary of the All City Tajir Itehad Mohammad Ahmed Shamsi said trade bodies would jointly decide future course of action in case the FIR was taken back in the next 48 hours.

“We may lodge an FIR against KE Lyari officials and the KE chief executive at Napier police station,” he added.

He said: “we need a huge participation of consumers so that our protests and rallies can yield positive results.”

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023

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