Increased loadshedding, outages spark violent protest

KARACHI, July 17: Riots broke out in several localities of the city`s central district on Sunday as power supply to many towns remained suspended for seven to eight hours and people faced an acute shortage of water, resulting from similar breakdowns at the pumping stations.

Increased loadshedding and Karachi Electric Supply Company`s failure to attend to most faults owing to the ongoing agitation by its workers disrupted the power utility`s distribution and maintenance system.

At Karimabad, Federal B Area, residents of the Moosa Colony and several adjoining localities took to street and burnt tyres after staging a protest against the hours-long outages for the second day running. They blocked the vehicular traffic on the main Shahrah-i-Pakistan and some of them attacked traffic signals and other public properties.

Police moved in and used teargas shells to disperse them. Initially the protesters — men, women and youths — ran for shelter but when the police intensified the action they retaliated with stone pelting and were chased by the police into the nearby streets .

Several vehicles were damaged in the violent reaction during the hide and seek.

As the violence spread to other localities, some elderly people of the area intervened to urging the agitators and the police to let saner elements take up the issue with the authorities concerned. They also managed to get the vehicular traffic restored.

Some of the protestors told the media later that KESC was not responding to their complaints about the faults responsible for outages. They said the utility staff was deliberately not addressing their complaints. They alleged that because of the KESC`s indifferent attitude, their areas were without water for several days which had compounded their problems.

A KESC spokesperson, when asked about the power generation, appeared not ready to accept that if it increased its own generation, the loadshedding could be minimized. The spokesperson claimed the main reason for the current situation was a delay in the removal the faults, and gave the reason that over two dozen of MTLs (repair trucks) had been hijacked by the protesting labour union. They had parked the vehicles outside the Governor`s House where protesting workers had been staging a sit-in since Friday, the spokesperson said. He alleged that the vehicles were being used by union employees for their personal interests.

The power utility also blamed a short supply of gas for the increased loadshedding. He said the KESC was facing a shortage of 116 MMCFD which was much below the ECC-endorsed quantum of 276 MMCFD.

Although the KESC`s own generation is hardly over 500MW, the spokesperson claimed the power utility was purchasing furnace oil in hard cash, over and above the standard defined limit.

Meanwhile the protesting KESC workers who have occupied the roads and other public spaces around Fawwara Chowk near the Governor`s House have vowed to continue their protest until their demands were met.

Perched on a strategic location, they have become a source of security concern for petrol pumps, a church and commercial outlets in the Saddar area, besides obstructing road traffic.

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