LAHORE: The ferocity of power riots eased in Lahore on Tuesday after the Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) boosted supplies to the city, but other cities and towns in Punjab continued to suffer prolonged outages and, consequently, violence.
Lahore virtually escaped loadshedding on Tuesday as Pepco heaved a sigh of relief after fuel supplies to two major power plants -- Hubco (1,200MW) and Kapco (1,342MW) – was restored on Monday after the intervention of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Pepco directed a major portion of its additional supplies to Lahore in a move apparently aimed at deflating PML-N’s plans to capitalise on the power crisis. The move appeared to have paid off.
Around half a dozen small protests were reported from different parts of the city, but no major loss of property was reported till the filing of this report.
On Monday, the PML-N made things complicated for itself when it asked its workers to join power protests, but subsequently failed to protect public and private property, creating an impression of “turning a blind eye to people’s plight who were caught in the protests and ended up getting their vehicles and property damaged” in Lahore and other parts of the province.
On Tuesday, the party appeared to have realised that protecting property was also a government job, thus a change of tactics was necessary.
Relative peace with additional electricity supplies to Lahore meant that other cities faced additional cuts and the situation worsened there.
Ralwalpindi, Okara, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Mianwali, Khushab, Sahiwal and Faisalabad continued to suffer varying degrees of violence, but not like that of Monday. However, there was a sense of insecurity among commuters and shopkeepers in these cities.
Gujranwala saw some violence on Tuesday when protesters torched two shops, burnt tyres and tried to storm offices of the Gujranwala Electric Power Company. They threw stones at police who restored to tear-gas, aerially firing and charging the crowd with their batons.
In Faisalabad, people burnt electricity bills, reminding the riots in 2008 when people had refused to pay bills and the prime minister had to withdraw an increase in tariff.
A complete strike was observed in Sialkot on the call of traders who took out rallies, wearing black armbands. Mianwali, which has been smouldering for a few months after two deaths during protests against loadshedding this summer, again turned violent.
Although Pepco described the persistent violence as “unjustified because the situation is continuously improving”, it hardly found any supporter among the public.
With 2,500MW additional supplies, Pepco changed distribution tactics: after Lahore, it tried to shift a part of additional supplies to main cities. The strategy, however, had its own limitation. By afternoon, the riots moved to rural areas because they were left without power as supplies were diverted to the cities.
Pepco Managing Director Rasul Khan Mahsud promised to “take care” of loadshedding over the next 48 to 72 hours. “We had a very hard brainstorming session at the ministry, where the entire range of solutions were discussed and thrashed out,” he told Dawn.
He said things had started improving and would fully improve in two to three days.