close
Thursday February 29, 2024

Fourth day of demos against high electricity bills: Protesters surround IESCO

IESCO officials call in police for security amid fears of violence

By Web Desk
August 28, 2023
Protesters shout slogans against the surge in petrol and electricity prices during a rally in Karachi on August 18, 2023. — AFP
Protesters shout slogans against the surge in petrol and electricity prices during a rally in Karachi on August 18, 2023. — AFP

As protests triggered by inflated electricity bills continued in many parts of the country for the fourth day, hundreds of people surrounded the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) office in Rawalpindi on Monday.

As protesters shouted slogans against the electric utility company, demanding that the exorbitant charges be reduced or they would not pay their bills, the IESCO officials called in the police for extra security.

Incensed citizens already battered by skyrocketing inflation continue to take to the streets protesting against massive hikes in electricity tariffs and increased taxes in several cities.

These include Sargodha, Hafizabad, Vehari, Arifwala, Bahawalnagar, Hyderabad, Gujrat, Multan, Chichawatni, Mandi Bahauddin, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Pakpattan, Mansehra, Sahiwal, Rawalpindi, Lodhran and Sheikhupura.

Those attending these demonstrations include members of the civil society — both men and women — traders, farmers, and members of the legal and business fraternities.

Hyderabad, today, witnessed a shutter-down strike in various areas of the city, while shops remained closed in Market Tower, Sereghat, Shahi Bazar, Anaj Mandi, Masan Road, and Prince Road. The Chamber of Commerce announced a shutdown in a meeting of business organisations.

A similar situation was witnessed in Mansehra where all business centres across the district, including the city, remained closed.

In other cities, protestors blocked main arteries, leading to traffic jams and disruptions. They held up placards and banners protesting what they term a "cruel" increase in the utility bill.

The power hike comes amid back-breaking inflation and skyrocketing prices which have already left people reeling, unable to make ends meet.

"It was [already] difficult to afford two square meals a day, now where will we get money for extra electricity bill?" an elderly villager in Sargodha demanded during protests today.

A protestor in Bahawalpur lamented that his family had to sell their animals to pay off the bills last month, while women protesting in Multan asserted that they were already struggling to make ends meet without the additional burden of power tariffs.

Protesters in Muzzafargarh lashed out at the government saying that rocketing electricity bills have destroyed their businesses.

Emergency huddle

An emergency meeting chaired by caretaker Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar at the PM House in Islamabad yesterday ended with no concrete outcome on how to address the matter of inflated bills.

The Ministry of Energy (Power Division) officials briefed the premier on the electricity tariffs.

Another round of the huddle is expected later today as the situation worsens. This round will also be attended by provincial chief ministers and officials concerned.

"We will not take any decision in haste, which could damage the country’s interest and put the burden on the national exchequer," he said.

"While staying within its mandate, the caretaker government will try its best to provide maximum relief in minimum possible time to masses in their powers bills," promised the caretaker premier in a post on social media.

Meanwhile, political parties, including Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P), and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) have condemned the additional taxes on power bills, calling for protests against the hike.