Protesters besiege Rawalpindi Iesco office, torch power bills

Published August 29, 2023
Citizens surround grid station in Bakra Mandi on Monday, set fire to their power bills in protest. — DawnNewsTV
Citizens surround grid station in Bakra Mandi on Monday, set fire to their power bills in protest. — DawnNewsTV

RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD: A day after police officials were deployed in the garrison city for the protection of Iesco installations, hundreds of demonstrators, including women and children, in Rawalpindi surrounded a grid station in Bakra Mandi and set fire to their power bills in a protest against increase in electricity tariff.

Due to the demonstration which remained peaceful, the grid station remained inaccessible for at least two hours, causing problems for the company employees.

As many as 300 protesters from Chungi No. 22, Tench Bhatta, Kalma Chowk, Harley Street, Dhamial, Dhoke Syedan and Mughalabad encircled the grid station at 11am.

The protesters set alight utility bills as well as tyres on the highway, causing disruptions in the traffic flow, and also chanted slogans against the government.

Another demo against exorbitant bills today;JI announces ‘shutter-down strike’

Due to the protest at the entrance of the office, Iesco employees faced “serious problems in reaching the office”.

During the demonstration, the traffic leading to Harley Street, Dhamial Camp and Chungi No. 22 was blocked due to which a large number of people going to schools to pick up children also faced difficulties.

As the office is located in the vicinity of the Combined Military Hospital and other military installations, a heavy contingent of the police also reached the spot and assured the protesters that their demands would be conveyed to the federal government.

After almost two hours, the protesters dispersed.

Iesco CEO Dr Mohammad Amjad Khan told Dawn that the distribution company facilitated the power consumers by converting their bills into easy instalments.

“The basic reason for the excessive bills was the increase in the price of electricity and taxes. As a distribution company, Iesco has to implement the decisions of Nepra and the government but we provided relief to the people by introducing easy instalments,” he said.

According to Mr Khan, the staff had been asked to “give respect to every consumer and facilitate them”.

“The consumers in Islamabad and Rawalpindi are not aggressive but for safety measures…we requested the local police [for protection],” he said. However, he said that no damage was reported so far as the protesters staged a peaceful demo.

On the other hand, the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce announced a demonstration against the excessive electricity bills today.

According to the plan, shopkeepers in all markets would shut down their outlets at 2pm and stage a demonstration at Kutchery Chowk where they will arrive in the form of rallies.

On the other hand, the Jamaat-i-Islami also jumped on the bandwagon and announced a ‘countrywide shutter-down strike’ on Sept 2.

‘Shutter-down strike’

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad on Monday, JI emir Sirajul Haq said the party will take out rallies and hold a public gathering on September 1 at Liaquat Bagh against inflation and the increase in electricity prices.

“There will be a nationwide shutter-down strike on September 2 over this issue, to pressurise the authorities so that some relief may be given to the people,” he said.

He said the only solution to the problems faced by the country was immediate elections and added that his party would approach the Supreme Court if the election were not held within three months.

In another development, the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) asked the Islamabad police to ensure that commercial installations as well as the protesters remained safe during the electricity-related protests.

ICCI President Ahsan Bakhtawari said that due to the inflated electricity bills, citizens and traders were protesting in Islamabad like the rest of the country and stressed that instead of being harsh with the protesters, police should deal with them with a “soft approach and try to keep them peaceful so that the situation in the federal capital remains undisturbed and business activities are not affected”.

He said this while talking to Sumbal police station (G-13) and Shams Colony police station SHOs (H-13) during their visit to the chamber of commerce.

The police officers said that the purpose of their visit to the ICCI was to consult with the leadership of the chamber to deal with the prevailing situation triggered by inflated electricity bills.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2023

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