Dozens of people were injured and arrested as violent protests over unscheduled blackouts continued for the second day all across the KPK province. At least 16 protesters were injured and 54 others were put behind bars, including four under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
During the course of the day, the protests – which initially started in tiny pockets in Swabi, Charsadda, Kohat and Bannu yesterday, also took hold in Peshawar and other parts of the province. Mobs in several places were about to get violent but the interference of police and assurances of Wapda officials brought the situation under control – for now.
According to a Shabqadar police officer, 16 people were injured in clashes between protesters and the police.
“We were informed by Wapda officials that a large number of protesters were approaching their main office and grid station via Mardan Road,” he said. “We rushed to the site and tried to block protesters from entering the premises.”
The official added protesters threw stones at the main gate but stopped when the police fired tear gas shells at them. Around 50 protesters were arrested and cases were filed against them for damaging government property.
In a separate incident, protesters torched Wapda’s main control room. Shabqadar SHO Aijaz Khan said an FIR was registered under the Anti-Terrorism Act and four people have been arrested.
Nearly 300 Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf activists took to the streets of Peshawar, along with residents of Urmar, over prolonged power outages.
They attacked the house of a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leader, Nasir Khan Musazai, on Inqilab Road. Subsequently, members of both parties exchanged fire. A police official said PTI activists led by MPA Ishtiaq Urmar accused guards deployed at Musazai’s residence of opening fire on the procession when it was passing through the area.
“On the other hand, Musazai said PTI activists attacked his house and destroyed its gate,” the official said. “According to the PTI, the PML-N government at the Centre is responsible for power breakdowns.”
Protesters also gathered outside Wapda House and shouted slogans against the federal government and Pesco officials for three hours.
Although the protests turned violent, no serious damage was reported as the main gate of the premises was closed and security officials had been deployed.
Addressing protesters, Ishtiaq said residents of Urmar have faced 22-hour-long blackouts.
“We will continue to protest if the problem is not solved,” he added.
Protesters dispersed when Wapda officials started negotiations.
In Bannu district, businessmen and politicians also participated in demonstrations against Wapda.
Several newly-elected councillors, members of the chamber of commerce and PML-N leaders took to the streets against long power cuts. Protesters threatened to torch Wapda offices in Bannu if the matter was not immediately addressed. Furthermore, they demanded the immediate transfer of Wapda’s sub-divisional officer for Bannu.
Residents of Risalpur held protests outside Risalpur Press Club against protracted load-shedding.
“There is electricity only for ten minutes and then more hours without,” said Zakir Muhammad, a member of Anjuman-e-Tajaran. “If there is theft of electricity, Wapda officials should take action against those responsible instead of placing the burden on the poor.”
Protests were also held in Mardan, DI Khan and Tank
A large number of residents from DI Khan also took to the streets over prolonged power outages in Ramazan. They shouted slogans against Pesco, Wapda and the provincial government.
Noorul Amin, a resident of Zafarabad who participated in the protest, told The Express Tribune, “Even the UPS system cannot work for so many hours, making our lives so difficult while we fast.”
Locals also took to the streets in Tank. Many of them complained load-shedding coupled with water shortages has created countless challenges for them.
Speaking about the power outages, Pesco Chief Executive Hassan Fazil said he was briefed about losses to Pesco feeders during his visit to feeders across the province.
“Over 250 feeders have tripped due to an excessive load,” he said. “Some of the feeders are sustaining losses between 70% to 90%.”