Violent power protests rock Punjab cities

LAHORE: An unprecedented power shortage touching almost 70 per cent of the demand and the resulting outages and loadshedding triggered violent protests across Punjab on Sunday with angry people setting on fire public property, including police stations, and blocking roads and railway lines.

A number of cities witnessed violent protests when power outages stretching up to 22 hours forced people to take to the street. In some cities, including Lahore, demonstrations were led by PML-N leaders and supporters.

In Chichawatni, protesters set ablaze two police stations, Mepco’s offices, vehicles and motorcycles and attacked the residence and election office of a PPP MNA.

Reports said that an unruly mob was almost in control of Chichawatni for eight hours with police remaining silent spectators.

In Khanewal, protesters ransacked Mepco offices, residences and factories owned by politicians, damaged vehicles and clashed
with police.

There were massive protests in Gujranwala where enraged people blocked the Railway Line, GT Road, set ablaze tyres and smashed windows of a bus and an ambulance. The protesters also did not allow a PML-N MNA to take part in their rally.

In Toba Tek Singh, protesters blocked the rail track for about two hours. In Kamalia, people pelted private vehicles with stones and blocked the Kamalia-Chichawatni Road for two hours.

In Faisalabad, dozens of people pelted police with stones on Samundri Road during a demonstration against power outages. Police used teargas to disperse them.

The protesters, most of them power loom workers, converged on the Samundri Road and blocked the thoroughfare for more than two hours by placing burning tyres on the road.

According to the power planners, the generation dropped to a paltry 9,400MW against the total demand of 17,400MW. But of the 9,400MW, 600MW was diverted to the Karachi Electricity Supply Company (KESC).

Another 600MW went to transmission losses, bringing supplies for the common man down to only 8,200MW. Of that, around 2,200MW was supplied to 184 feeders which were exempted from loadshedding and to the industry where loadshedding was
limited to only six hours. It left only 6,000MW for general supplies against a demand of 17,400MW.

Power plants which are out of operation because of the fuel supply crisis include Orient Power (213MW), Halmore (207MW), Saif (210MW), AES Lal Pir and Pak-Gen (700MW) and Saphire (209MW). Hubco is producing 300MW less than its capacity and Kapco only 876MW against its capacity of 1,350MW. It is a simple fuel crisis.

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