KARACHI: Hundreds of people were stuck in a traffic gridlock after rioting broke out in Liaquatabad when residents took the streets over disconnected power supplies because of unpaid bills. Eleven people were held by the Rangers and aerial firing resonated in the area.
Residents of Al Karam Square and Apsra Apartments started the protest after the Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) cut them off. The crowd swelled to hundreds of protestors who torched a public transport vehicle and stoned passing cars and motorcycles while others staged a sit-in in the middle of the road.
Fearing that the riot could fan out into widespread agitation, the police and Rangers cordoned off the area.
When the power supply was disconnected to Al Karam Square, located in FC Area near Liaquatabad No 10, life came to a standstill; people could not even pump water.
KESC deputy general manager public relations Ahmed Faraz told The Express Tribune that around 700 residential and 1,850 commercial consumers owed KESC Rs340 million in outstanding bills that had piled up over years. The commercial consumers in the project have been using heavy machinery to produce different commodities, but even they didn’t pay. KESC had urged them to pay many times and sent reminders and notices but to no effect. Nonetheless, it kept supplying the area.
According to Faraz, people who fail to pay their bills are considered involved in the theft of electricity. He said that the rate of recovery from the residential and commercial consumers of the project has been as low as 12 per cent and the line losses and revenue losses have been up to 70 per cent. “More than 70 per cent of the residential and commercial consumers of the project have been stealing electricity,” he said.
KESC’s action was also taken on another project, Apsra Apartments. These residents also took to the streets and participated in the agitation. But according to Faraz, these residential and commercial consumers had failed to pay an outstanding amount of Rs130 million over many years. The rate of recovery from Apsra Apartments was as low as 15 per cent per month while the rate of line losses and revenue losses was 65 per cent. He said that the defaulters of Apsra Apartments were also involved in the theft of electricity.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2010.