No stranger to untoward incidents, the area just outside the head office of the KESC witnessed another ugly situation on Monday afternoon when firing left 12 people injured.
The power utility’s surplus workers had gathered outside the KESC head office to press for the payment of their salaries for the last three months. However, the situation soon took a turn for the worse as gunfire reverberated through the area. The violence disrupted the law and order situation and caused panic among the residents of the area. In an effort to disperse the angry mob, the police resorted to aerial firing and also used tear-gas shells. As a result of the heavy use of tear gas, the mainly residential area was adversely affected. A number of vehicles were also damaged in the violence that ensued following the assembly of the protesting KESC staff.
The workers were anxious to receive their salaries ahead of Eid and had gathered outside the power utility’s office to press for their demands. As usual, the KESC management and Labour Union traded allegations and blamed the other for the violence that caused the injuries.
KESC Labour Union Chairman Mohammad Ikhlaq Khan said that nine workers of the KESC sustained bullet injuries as security staff and officials resorted to firing at the assembly of KESC workers, while the power utility’s management claimed that three of their security staff members also sustained injuries.
Khan said that the nine injured KESC workers were being treated at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and their medical examination had been conducted for legal action.
The labour union chairman said that there was no plan to stage a protest demonstration on Monday. He added that 25 workers had simply gone to the head office to inquire about the disbursement of their salaries before Eid, which is just around the corner.
A heated argument took place between the security staff of the KESC and the concerned workers. After the verbal exchange, the power utility’s security personnel resorted to firing at the assembled workers instead of negotiating the matter, said the leader of the KESC Labour Union.
Khan said that there was no question over the workers trying to forcibly gain entry to the head office. “Being employees of the KESC, it is our right to have access to any of the offices so there was no question of trespassing.”
He believed that there was no way the assembled KESC workers were carrying weapons and questioned how nine of them were injured while simply demanding the release of salaries.
He said that the assembled workers demanded the release of their salaries as the KESC management had already violated various provisions of the July 26 agreement signed at the Governor House. The Chairman of the KESC Labour Union even claimed that one of the two security officials got hold of a weapon from a guard and fired at the assembled KESC workers.
He also claimed that one of the guards was injured by the firing of one of his own fellow security staffers. The leader of KESC Labour Union said they would continue to assemble outside the head office in Gizri till the staff is paid their withheld salaries and legal action was taken against security officials who fired at the workers.
The labour union chairman demanded that legal action should be taken against the two security officials that were in-charge and under whose supervision and directions security guards opened fire on innocent workers. Khan also demanded that KESC chief Tabish Gauhar be removed and should face action for inflicting injuries to the protesting workers.
According to a statement from the KESC management, the armed union miscreants injured the KESC Head Offices’ security in-charge, two guards and three policemen.
“They disconnected the communication network of central control, the Load Dispatch Centre at Elandar Road and damaged the Gizri Grid Station transformer. Several attempts were made by the union mobsters to cut down optic fiber network of the central control which could have potentially caused a complete shutdown of power to the whole city,” the statement further alleged. The power utility alleged that armed union gangsters besieged the head office and fired gunshots the whole day, making the utility’s top management and visiting consumers, including women, hostage.
The statement added that the miscreants jumped inside the head office building and opened fire on security personnel and employees. Three security officials, including the Security Officer of KESC head offices, Col. Asif, were injured in the firing, the power utility added.
Subsequently, the Police was called in, but the armed union mobsters continued to exercise violence and sabotage throughout the day, the KESC statement further alleged, adding that the workers had also caused injuries to the law enforcers.
While strongly condemning Monday’s attack, the KESC statement demanded that the concerned authorities take stern measures and execute justice to prevent further violence by the Labour Union. The KESC statement recalled that on July 26, the provincial and city authorities guaranteed to pre-empt any violent action from the union, but this incident has taken place just over a month later.
“A large number of the assailants comprised of dismissed employees who had serious charges against them. Under the agreement signed between the management and the union through the mediation of Governor Sindh, the utility had already paid Ramzan Relief Package to non-core employees and a voluntary Eid Kifalat Package had been released on humanitarian grounds,” the power utility said.
The statement added that these packages were in line with the commitment made by the management at the Governor House meeting to provide some monetary consideration to the surplus non-core employees till their individual cases were decided by the Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC).
The management had already nominated the names of officials as members of the DRC, but the union had been causing delays and hindrances to the resolution of disputes, alleged the KESC.
The power utility said that certain elements within the union, with possible external support, had been trying to hijack the situation and disrupt law and order in the city.
The KESC said it had submitted a detailed report of Monday’s violent incident to NEPRA and the Federal Ministry of Water and Power. The utility demanded the immediate arrest of the miscreants that carried out planned attacks on various strategic installations to paralyse the entire power supply system. Late on Monday night, the police resorted to heavy teargas shelling to disperse the protesters in order to safely evacuate the besieged the KESC employees.