PESHAWAR: Protest demonstrations were held in several areas of the provincial metropolis and other cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa against the ‘unprecedented’ hike in electricity tariff as the protest campaign entered the seventh day on Tuesday.
The main protest rally was taken out from Chowk Yadgar in the provincial capital, which was also joined by the people in processions from different parts. The rally turned into a big public meeting on the GT Road.
The people also marched on the Sher Shah Suri Road after burning the power bills at the Stadium Chowk.
Another big procession led by farmers’ leader, Arbab Jameel reached from Charsadda Road to join the main rally.
SCCI gives govt three days to withdraw ‘massive’ hike in power tariff
The main procession from the Chowk Yadgar was led by leaders of Anjuma-i-Tajiran Pakistan, Khyber Pakhtunkwha chapter, including Malik Meher Ilahi, Sharafat Ali Mubarak, Ghulam Bilal, Mohammad Atif and others. The participants carried black flags and banners inscribed with their demand to rectify the power bills.
The business leaders threatened if the government did not accept their demands immediately then a nationwide shutter down would be announced.
The speakers said people were forced to sell their household items and jewellery to pay the exorbitant bills.
In Lakki Marwat, residents and members of civil society held a demonstration against inflated electricity bills and loadshedding in the city on Tuesday.
Carrying placards and banners, they gathered at Qazi Ishfaq Chowk and raised slogans in favour of their demands.
In Haripur, the chairmen and councillors of various village and neighbourhood councils and political activists took to the streets against the bloated electricity bills.
The call for the protest was given by Chairman Itehad Haripur.
Led by the forum’s head Malik Faisal Khan, the local body members started a protest rally from Sheranwala Gate and reached the Chowk Siddique-i-Akbar. In Swabi, the consumers, including traders, blocked the Swabi-Jehangira Road at the Tordher Bus Stop against the bloated power bills.
They chanted slogans against Wapda and the Peshawar Electric Supply Company.
In Lower Dir, people from different walks of life took to the streets in Talash against the inflated power bills.
The Talash Dushkhel Qaumi Islahi Jirga and the local traders’ body jointly organised the rally.
In Batkhela, the traders’ union observed a shutter down strike against the increase in electricity bills and taxes.
They also threatened to divert water from powerhouses and to get direct connections from the main supply lines if the power bills were not rectified.
Protest demonstrations were also staged in Kohat, Charsadda and Dera Ismail Khan districts against the excessive power bills. Traders, civil society activists and other segments of society participated in the demonstrations.
In a separate development, the Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Industrialists Association Peshawar (IAP) on Tuesday set a three-day deadline for the government to withdraw the exorbitant increase in electricity tariff, or they would announce next line of action.
Speaking at joint press conference in Peshawar, SCCI acting president Ijaz Khan Afridi and IAP president Malik Imran Ishaq described the independent power producers (IPPs) as mother of all evils. They demanded public audit of IPPs, saying an organised mafia was behind these IPPs, which had caused rising circular debt and power crisis in the country.
“Businesses, industry, trade and exports have slowed down considerably, but the government is yet to take corrective measures and put the economy on the right track,” Mr Afridi deplored. He said the dollar rate had touched a new peak, and was not even available at such high prices in the open market.
He said massive increase in power tariff and petroleum products had brought a new wave of inflation, which had hit every segment of the society.
On the occasion, Malik Imran Khan, while sharing figures with the media, blamed the agreements with the IPPs for the increasing circular debt in the power sector and rising electricity tariff. He said outdated power transmission lines, distribution systems and poor recovery/thefts also contributed to the growing power crisis.
He claimed per unit electricity had been increased by 100 per cent, including 48 to 50 per cent taxes in power bills.
Malik Imran said KP was producing electricity at low cost, but power consumers here were faced with hours-long electricity loadshedding.
Former president of Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ghazanfar Bilour said an increase of Rs40 in the US dollar against the rupee had been witnessed since the caretaker government took office in Islamabad. He said in the open market, the dollar rate had surged to Rs320 and Rs330.
Ghazanfar Bilour said KP was the only province, which was producing electricity at cheap rate, but it had to buy electricity at the highest cost, which was sheer injustice.
Published in Dawn, August 30th, 2023