ISLAMABAD, June 17: People in different parts of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad on Sunday took to the streets against prolonged power outages and unavailability of water in the sizzling heat.
The protesters blocked roads and chanted slogans against the government for its failure to resolve the crisis.
With temperature touching 43 degrees Celsius, power suspensions to over four hours at a stretch with a break of just one hour have put the residents in great troubles. The situation has also hit the business community, as hundreds of industrial units remained shut in the region.
Over 500 traders and residents of Sector I-10 observed a shutter-down strike against the prolonged outages and unavailability of water in their localities.
The traders of Rajput Market, Javed Market and other business centres closed their shops at 5pm and assembled on the main road at I-10 Markaz.
Addressing the gathering, the president of the local traders’ association, Kashif Chaudhry, said for the last over two weeks power outages had increased. Now electricity disappears for three hours after a short break, he added.
“Besides, most of the sector also remained without water for the last four days,” he said.
The protesting traders and residents later marched towards I.J. Principal Road and blocked it for over one hour.
Officials from the capital territory administration and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) reached the spot and after an assurance that the issue would be resolved by Tuesday (tomorrow), the protesters dispersed.
In Rawalpindi, hundreds of angry people, including women and children, also took to the streets against unscheduled and prolonged power outages.
About 300 people blocked traffic on I.J. Principal Road by setting old tryes on fire and putting stones on the road.
Eyewitnesses said the protesters were carrying sticks and shouting slogans against the government.
Long queues of vehicles were seen stuck on the road, creating problems for the commuters in the sizzling heat.
A senior citizen, Aftab Amin, said he had been facing problems in getting drinking water as there was no electricity at his home.
“I have not seen such difficult days even in my whole life. There is power outage after every hour. How can my children sleep at night in these summer days?”
Another resident, Azhar Mehmood, said: “I was quite happy after buying an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) machine last week but it has now stopped working due to the prolonged loadshedding.”
A large number of riot police from Rawalpindi and Islamabad were called in to handle the situation; however, after about two hours the protesters dispersed peacefully.
At Committee Chowk, Dhoke Syedan and Liaquat Bagh, angry residents also blocked roads against the power breakdowns.
They also chanted slogans against the government for its failure to handle the power crisis.
A university student, who was preparing in his MSc examination, said he had been unable to prepare for his papers due to the prolonged power breakdowns.
The business community lashed out at the federal government for failing to devise a policy to resolve the energy crisis which has rendered about 460 industrial units in the region non-functional. The daily wagers remained without salaries for the last a couple of days.
Niamatullah, a worker at a marble factory, said he spent the hot day at his workplace but the owner refused to pay him the wage as there was no work due to unavailability of electricity.
“I borrowed money from my friend to bring some food items for my family. I have decided to look for some other work as the loadshedding seems not ending in the near future.
Mohammad Safeer, a worker in a flour mill, said loadshedding had halted work at the factory and left the workers jobless. In several localities in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, unannounced power cuts have escalated after the heatwave gripped the twin cities.
The power crisis has also badly affected the smooth supply of water as 320 tubewells - 260 in the city and 60 tubewells in the cantonment areas - remained non-functional.
The president of the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), Javed Akhter Bhatti, claimed that all the 460 major industrial units in the region had been closed due to unavailability of electricity.
He demanded of the government to devise a proper power policy to save small and big industries in the country.
TAXILA: Drained by the scorching heat and continued prolonged spells of unannounced loadshedding, people from different residential areas blocked inter-provincial Taxila-Hattar Road late Saturday evening and G. T. Road near Saadat Colony in Wah Cantonment on Sunday.
The protests put the traffic out of gear for hours. People complained of facing as much as 18 hours of power outages that they said had crippled civic and public life.
The loadshedding continued to increase the harshness of summer, making life of the people pathetic. The situation also created problems for the traders. Women and children who were more vulnerable to heat-related diseases were the worst hit section of the society.
The protesters who were carrying sticks and rods blocked the main road and chanted slogans against unscheduled loadshedding. They said abrupt power suspension had damaged several of their electric appliances. Talking to this reporter, a number of protesting traders said the rate of unemployment had increased due to the closure of factories.
They demanded the government should control the situation by immediately releasing special funds for fuel supply to power plants and taking measures for long-term solution to the crisis.
On getting information of the road blockade, police contingents reached the spots and after holding successful negotiations dispersed the protestors to restore the flow of traffic.