RAWALPINDI - Tens of thousands of people, mostly traders, went unruly on Tuesday at a protest rally, took out against unscheduled loadshedding and price hike on Benazir Bhutto Road (BBR), by torching grid station, electricity polls, damaging public property, uprooting mediators, billboards and plants making the city’s major road a no-go zone for traffic.

The protest call was given by Markazi Anjuman-e-Tajran (MAT) acting upon which all the traders in Cantonment and other parts of the city shut down their businesses and proceeded towards Teli Mohalla on BBR where they staged a sit-in.

At various places, the traders and general public staged protest demonstrations against loadshedding by torching tyres and wooden sticks. The irate protestors burnt tyres and chanted slogans against the government.

The areas where traders closed their business and protested including Saddar, Kashmir Road, Haider Road, Bank Road, Railway Road, Kamran Market, Mareer Chowk, Tench Bhatta, Misrial Road, Range Road, City Saddar Road, Ganjmandi, Gawalmandi, Raja Bazaar, Fawara Chowk, Iqbal Road, Dingi Khoe, Jamia Masjid Road, Bhabra Bazaar, Narnakari Bazaar, Urdu Bazaar, Sarafa Market, Mareer Chowk, Moti Mehal, Committee Chowk, Waris Khan, Teeli Mohala, Naz Cinema, Kuri Road, Sadiqabad Chowk, Khanna Road, Chandni Chowk and Commercial.

The protestors were carrying sticks, bamboos, iron rods, placards and banners mentioning slogans against the government. They were also chanting slogans against the rulers and demanding immediate end to loadshedding.

The BBR was blocked at several points by the protestors by burning tyres, throwing stones, big flower pots established by Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA), dragging barriers and roads signs of traffic police as well as uprooting iron fences into the middle of the road. Public transport remained off the roads because of which commuters suffered a lot.

As precautionary measures, all the banks, petrol pumps and CNG stations and other outlets have also been closed down by the owners.

Heavy contingents of police were also present on the occasion but, astonishingly, they had not barred any protestor to damage public property. However, City Traffic Police (CTP) converted traffic on some alternative routes in a bid to save the vehicles from the violent protestors. Thick clouds of black smoke caused because of burnt tyres, wooden sticks and electricity poles could be witnessed on the sky.

On various roads, gigantic traffic snag also occurred posing hardships for commuters and pedestrians. A number of ambulances carrying patients to hospitals also got stuck in mob or somewhere in traffic jam.  

The traders of city’s many markets on the call of MTA President Malik Shahid Ghafoor Paracha and other office-bearers Zahid Bakhtawari, Sheikh Siddique, Sharjel Mir and Sheikh Hafeez closed down their businesses and staged protest demonstrations against loadshedding, besides blocking roads for traffic.

Earlier, the traders and public reached at Teeli Mohala in convoys and shapes of rallies where they had to stage a sit in against the intensive power outage.

But, the mad mob preferred to register their protest by dividing in groups and burning tyres in different places instead of staging a sit in for which the trade unions also led red carpets on the road. All the efforts of trade unions to sooth the angry protestors were futile as the protestors damaged the public property. 

Addressing the protestors, the leaders said that the government has destroyed the back bone of the traders by observing 18 hours loadshedding. They said that in absence of electricity, neither they could sleep peacefully nor run their businesses.

They said that no concrete step was being taken on the part of the government to overwhelm energy crises. They demanded resignations from president of Pakistan and federal minister for water and power.

A mob staged a protest demonstration at Waris Khan by burning tyres in the middle of the road. Carrying sticks and bamboo sticks the charged protestors bellowed slogans against the government and blocked BBR for traffic.

Similarly, a large number of protestors gathered at Committee Chowk and agitated against electricity non-availability. Some infuriated protestors set to fire a huge board of N league installed at Underpass to fire besides a number of electricity poles. The images and monuments of various animals and other vehicles, pasted by RDA to beautify the underpass, were also broken by the protestors.

The gypsy children were busy in filling their sacks with broken iron pieces of billboards, traffic signals and barriers to sale them out. On the other hand, a group of very angry protestors pulled up the iron fences at Shah ki Tahlian and dragged them into the middle of road. In the middle of Moti Mehal and Mareer Chowk, huge flower pots were also broken.

Reportedly, the violent protestors also ransacked WAPDA office in Chandni Chowk during a protestor demonstration against loadsheeding. The protestors burnt the official record of the WAPDA office.

DSNG of a private TV channel was also attacked by protestors on BBR. There were also some unconfirmed reports that the protestors pelted the police and vehicles with stones.

Till the filing of this report, violent protests against loadshedding were continuing of BBR.