LAHORE: Traders in various cities of the Punjab observed a strike against power outages as violent protests continued unabated across the country. Meanwhile, the electricity shortfall continues to remain above 6,000 megawatts.
In Lahore, traders observed a partial strike as 10 to 15 hours loadshedding gave sleepless nights to the people. According to the Energy Management Cell, there is a shortfall of 265 megawatts from Gepco, 105MWs from Safe Power, 106 MWs from Orient, 209 from Sapphire, 207 MWs from Balmore due to the non-availability of fuel. The cell further explained that the water flow in the rivers in the coming weeks will rise, giving way to an upsurge in electricity generation to 15,000 megawatts.
In Chichawatni, protesters torched a villager Shahid’s carry van RNV-345 parked in the police station. Shahid said he was taking his son Arsal to Faisalabad for treatment when police stopped his vehicle at the overhead bridge and impounded it at the police station.
In Jhelum, traders pelted stones, blocked the GT Road and burst into the Wapda office. In Faisalabad, there were protests and a complete shutterdown under the Shabab-i-Milli.
Meanwhile, violent protests of traders and the general public blocked the Benazir Bhutto Road, Pirwadhai and other areas in Rawalpindi and pelted stones on motorists and police to vent their anger.
Police used teargas shelling to disperse the crowd on Benazir Bhutto Road, Rawal Road, Bangash Colony, Sir Syed Chowk, Waris Khan and Arya Mohallah at 5 pm.
The protesters attacked power grid stations, torched vehicles, electricity meters and tyres to block roads. They chanted slogans against President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Pervaiz Ashraf.
The traders’ representatives Taj Abbasi, Ikram Goshi and Suhail Abbas, addressing the protesters, said loadshedding has multiplied their miseries and destroyed their businesses.
Carrying bamboo sticks, more than 500 residents of Arya Mohalla, Chamanzar Colony and Tipu Road gathered on Benazir Bhutto Road and burnt tyres.
According to The News survey, the traders, under the leadership of the All Pakistan Trader Association Vice-President Shahid Ghafoor Paracha and Rawalpindi Traders Association President Sharjeel Mir, marched through Trunk Bazaar, Baara Bazaar, Dalgaran Bazaar, Narankari Bazaar, Sarafa Bazaar, Bohar Bazaar and City Saddar Road to monitor shutterdown strike.
Addressing the protesters, Paracha said all businesses were destroyed due to non-availability of electricity. Sharjeel said loadshedding is a national issue which should be resolved at the earliest.
In Burewala, traders observed a shutdown against 22-hour loadshedding Saturday. All markets, bazaars, shopping centres, plazas, fruit and vegetable markets and grain market remained closed. Vehari Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran President Jameel Bhatti, Anjuman-e-Sanatkaran President Saghir Ramay, PML-N city president Ghulam Rasool Zaidi, Grocers Association president Rana Zulfiqar Ahmad, trade bodies members Yasin Bhatti and PML-N’s Pervez Khilji set up a protest camp on College Road.
Speaking on the occasion, the traders alleged that the federal government had adopted stepmotherly attitude towards the Punjab.
Meanwhile, protesters and police played hide and seek in the streets. The police baton charged the protesters who had taken out a rally and burnt an effigy of the newly-elected prime minister.
Policemen had been deployed in front of Mepco Complex, Vehari Bazaar, PPP MNA Asghar Ali Jatt and MPA Khalid Saleem Bhatti offices to avert any untoward incident.
Some villagers blocked Multan Road near Chak 537/EB, Adda Faujianwala and staged a demonstration. The police baton-charged the protesters.
In Bahawalpur, traders staged a demonstration and blocked roads at Milad Chowk and Chakanwala Chowk. They also set up a protest camp at Chowk Bazaar and chanted slogans against the government. Traders also observed strike in Haroonabad tehsil.
In Khanewal, after days of riots due to killing of a boy by the guards of Ahmad Yar Hiraj and Hamid Yar Hiraj during a protest against loadshedding, Mepco has resumed up to 12-16 hours loadshedding in the city and adjoining areas.
Social and political circles have appealed to President Asif Zardari and PM Pervez Ashraf to look into the matter and reduce loadshedding.
Residents of Chak 32/SP in Pakpattan took out a demonstration against Wapda on Multan-Kasur Road.