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Tempers flare over outages

July 31, 2012

PESHAWAR, July 30: There is no end to protests against prolonged loadshedding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and adjoining tribal areas as locals vent their frustration by blocking roads, burning tyres and pelting vehicles with stones.

In Peshawar, power protesters and police fire gunshots at each other on Ring Road over the latter’s bid to clear part of the road leading to Hayatabad.

However, no damage to public life was reported.

Agitation suspended traffic on major city roads, especially Ring Road, Motorway, Charsadda Road, Namak Mandi Road and Dalazak Road, for hours.

Shouting slogans against the government and electric supply companies, protesters, especially residents of Achini Bala, Achini Payan, Haji Banda, Sango, Landi Bala, Sarband and Shaikhan localities, placed boulders on the roads in the morning and stayed put until the afternoon. Requests were made to them to show up on loudspeakers.

Later, the speakers, including ex-nazim Waheed Khalil, Haji Nazar Khan, Haji Saeed, Haji Abid, Haji Masoom Shinwari and Arbab Imdad said electric supply to their areas remained suspended for 18 to 20 hours a day bringing their life to a halt.

They said power cuts had also caused water shortage forcing locals into fetching water from faraway places, where people had generators run on electricity.

Haji Waheed said nobody wanted to take out a rally in the scorching heat but people had stepped out only after the authorities had refused to attend to their misery triggered by prolonged power cuts.

“We repeatedly met the Peshawar Electric Supply Company officials but got only false assurances about smooth electric supply,” he said.

Jan Mohammad of Warsak Road complained of power cuts in sehr and iftar hours and said if the situation continued, locals would besiege Pesco chief’s office.

Protesters later dispersed peacefully after the relevant Pesco officials stepped in and requested them to clear roads.

Also in the day, blockade of roads was also reported in Sikandara, Namak Mandi, Charsadda Road, Daudzai and Dalazak Road areas.

Protesters blocked roads and burnt tyres leading to long queues of vehicles for hours.

In Naurang town of Lakki Marwat district, traders observed a shutter-down strike and took out a rally against power cuts.

Holding placards and shouting slogans against the government and Wapda, protesters marched through the city from Kakki Road to old railway crossing. They later blocked Bannu-Mianwali Road suspending vehicular traffic.

Speakers, including Maulana Bashir Haqqani of JUI-F, Malik Jehanzeb Hassan of Jamaat-i-Islami and trader leader Younas Khan, warned that they would besiege local Pesco offices if unscheduled loadshedding didn’t stop in a week.

In Landi Kotal area of Khyber Agency, scores of tribesmen on Monday took to the streets against excessive loadshedding and water shortage caused by it.

Also in the day, Sultankhel and Nekkikhel tribesmen blocked Peshawar-Torkham highway, while students, including Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf activists, staged a demonstration in Landi Kotal Bazaar.

Doctors at the Agency Headquarters Hospital boycotted duty for a few hours to protest the unscheduled loadshedding on the premises.

They, however, ended the strike after the local political administration assured them of smooth electric supply to the hospital.

Meanwhile, PTI leaders and Maneri jirga members on Monday met in Swabi and demanded withdrawal of FIR registered against 26 power protesters over the grid station ransacking.

They met district police officer Abdul Rashid and apprised him of their demand.

The DCO, however, said the FIR was registered at the complaint of Pesco employees and therefore, only they could withdraw it.