Angry protesters seen after setting the electrical company office on fire in Gujranwala, October 3, 2011. — Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: Protesters upset over severe electricity shortages clashed with police for a second day in eastern Pakistan on Tuesday, as the country's main opposition leader used the issue to pressure the US-allied government.

Parts of Pakistan face power cuts of up to 18 hours per day, undermining the country's weak economy and increasing hardship for citizens already facing a rampant Taliban insurgency. Anger periodically boils over into violent protests.

Demonstrators threw stones at police Tuesday in Gujranwala, a major industrial city of some four million people in Punjab province. Local television footage showed the police throwing some of the rocks back, lobbing tear gas, and charging the crowd with their batons.

Angry mobs had burned six electricity company offices in the city on the first day of rioting on Monday and set fire to several rooms in a police station, said Gujranwala police chief Ahsan Tufail. Fourteen policemen were injured in Monday's clashes and 20 people were arrested, he said.

Demonstrators took to the streets in mostly peaceful protests in several other parts of Pakistan on Tuesday, including Faisalabad in Punjab and Peshawar, the main city in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

The country's main opposition leader, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, lashed out at the government over the electricity shortages.

''The country is facing a severe power crisis, but the government is sleeping and doing nothing for the last 15 months over this issue,'' Sharif told reporters in Bahawalpur.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to deflect blame away from his government in an address to parliament on Monday, pointing his finger at the United States. He said that the US should help Pakistan solve its energy crisis if it wanted better ties.

Analysts say Pakistan's chronic electricity shortages are largely the result of the government not charging consumers enough and of customers, including the government, not paying their bills. There are also problems with outdated transmission systems and bureaucratic infighting that has stalled power generation projects.

Many analysts say a lasting solution to the country's power crisis must involve politically painful increases in electricity prices and forcing customers to pay their bills.

Opinion

Editorial

A new operation
Updated 25 Jun, 2024

A new operation

Clear deterrent action is needed against terrorist groups, but without upending the lives of people in the affected areas.
Power theft
25 Jun, 2024

Power theft

FEDERAL Energy Minister Awais Leghari’s statement during a TV interview that electricity theft amounts to Rs600bn ...
Fatal air
25 Jun, 2024

Fatal air

TOXIC air can cost us our children. It causes life-threatening illnesses, inflicts lifelong damage and leads to ...
Time for dialogue
Updated 24 Jun, 2024

Time for dialogue

If the PML-N and PTI remain mired in mutual acrimony, an ever-widening gap will continue to allow non-political forces to assert themselves.
Property taxes
24 Jun, 2024

Property taxes

ACCORDING to reports in the local media, along with the higher taxes imposed on real estate in the recent budget, ...
Fierce heat
24 Jun, 2024

Fierce heat

CLIMATE change is unfolding as predicted by experts: savage heat, melting glaciers, extreme rainfall, drought, ...