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CHARSADDA, July 29: Enraged over prolonged power outages, protesters ransacked offices of Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco) and a grid station and set on fire record and equipment in Charsadda and Swabi districts, while people in Lakki Marwat and Karak blocked highways during protest demonstrations.

In Charsadda, protesters gathered at main bazaar and turned violent while chanting slogans against the government and Pesco.

They damaged public and private properties and pulled down signboards besides pelting stones to vent their anger at the ruthless loadshedding. Later, they marched and ransacked the Pesco offices. The protesters did not stop there and set fire to the office equipment and record, which were reduced to ashes.

The Charsadda district administration called the fire brigade to the Pesco office, but protesters attacked the fire tenders and pelted stones to prevent them from extinguishing fire.

Later, the police resorted to intense tear gas shelling and baton charge to disperse the protesters. The police also fired shots in the air to prevent the people from causing further damage to the properties. The police also arrested 11 protesters and shifted them to the lock-up.

The police have registered cases against the detained protesters. Charsadda police station SHO said in a report that the protesters were armed with sticks and batons and were bent upon damaging the public and private properties.

He said that the police fired tear gas and resorted to baton charge to disperse the protesters. He said that the protesters also damaged the fire brigade vehicles.

People of Rajjar also blocked the Peshawar-Charsadda road for traffic to protest against power outages.

Meanwhile, elected representatives from Charsadda, the district administration and Wapda authorities held an emergency meeting to find out a solution to end the loadshedding.

DCO Ajmal Khan, who chaired the meeting, directed the Wapda officials to take measures to reduce duration of loadshedding during Ramazan, otherwise they would be transferred from the district. The meeting was informed that the main transformer at Rajjar grid station would be replaced in 24 hours, which would help reduce loadshedding in the area.

In Swabi, the situation was not much different. People protesting against prolonged power outages ransacked Swabi grid station on Saturday night following taraveeh prayers, while police fired teargas shells to disperse them.

Announcements were made on loudspeakers in different areas, especially in Maneri, asking people to join the protest march against massive loadshedding, as there was no electricity for the entire day on Saturday and at iftar and taraveeh time.

The protesters said that out of 11 electricity feeders in the district only Tordher and Marghuz feeders were supplying electricity, while the remaining were without power for the whole day. When contacted, Pesco officials claimed that the electricity was topped from the centre.

The protesters gathered at Karnal Sher Khan Chowk and marched to the gird station. On way to the grid the protesters smashed the Awami National Party district office and signboards of provincial minister Zar Shaid Khan. Mr Zar Shaid belongs to Maneri and majority of protesters were from his home village.

As they reached the grid station the protesters started smashing and destroying the offices and electricity instruments. Later, they also torched the gate area of the grid, but soon the police reached there and opened firing in the air and used teargas shells to disperse them. Residents said that about six protesters received minor injuries while fleeing during the use of teargas.

Shah Wali, Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf district leader, told this correspondent that Pesco officials should take steps for ensuring smooth power supply to the affected areas.

Sources said that Hayat Khan, in-charge of the grid station and foreman Gufran Khan had registered an FIR against the protesters for damaging the gird.

Police confirmed that an FIR had been registered against the protesters, including Shah Wali, Jahaz Khan, Sher Rehman, Ahmad Ali, Javid Zaman, Waheed Khan, Yusuf Ali, Zar Dost Khan, Wasim Shah, Gul Bahar, Sharafat Khan and Murad Ali of Maneri.

The police have arrested Shah Wali’s father, Khair Wali, and Murad Ali.

Asad Qaisar and other local leaders have demanded withdrawal of FIR against the protesters.

In Lakki Marwat, people held a demonstration at Michenkhel Adda on Sunday to protest against routine, prolonged power outages.

People and activists of political parties gathered at Michenkhel Adda after announcements were made on loudspeakers, asking them to join the protest demonstration against loadshedding.

The protesters blocked Lakki-Mianwali road for some time and raised slogans against government and Pesco.

“The government could not fulfill its promise of stopping loadshedding during sehr, iftar and taraveeh timings,” they said. They made it clear that residents of the area could not bear unfair loadshedding anymore and they would be compelled to launch a protest campaign if power outages were not stopped immediately.

Hafiz Asif Salim of JUI-F, Sabz Ali Naveed of Jamaat-i-Islami, Humayun Marwat of ANP and Asif Iqbal of district bar association spoke on the occasion.

Meanwhile, residents and traders of Serai Gambila town also took out a rally on Sunday in favour of district police officer who got power supply restored to the town the other day following a protest.

They said that the elders and traders would extend support to the police and Pesco in removing illegal connections and eliminating the menace of kunda culture.

On the other hand, elders of Abakhel and Dallokhel warned on Sunday that the villagers would have no option but to stop paying electricity bills if uninterrupted power supply to the villages was not ensured.

In Karak, the residents of Khurram Mohammadzai and adjacent areas blocked Karak-Bannu road on Sunday against power suspension to the areas for last two weeks and demanded that faulty power transformers should be replaced within two days to restore electricity to the areas. The enraged residents led by Rizwanullah, Shamsur Rahman and former councilor Rafiullah blocked the Karak-Bannu road and chanted slogans against MNA from Karak Mufti Mohammad Ajmal, provincial minister Mian Nisar Gul and Pesco officials in Karak for not solving the loadshedding problem.

The speakers said that due to 20-hour daily loadshedding people were not getting drinking water from the supply system, but the public representatives and district administration continued to ignore their problems. They said that they had repaired the power transformers several times with their own money in past, but they would not tolerate the inefficiency of Pesco anymore.