AMRAIZ KHAN and Mian Anwar

LAHORE/FEROZWALA - Angry protesters took to the streets in different parts of the country on Sunday to express their anger against the unscheduled and prolonged power outages.

In various cities protesters burnt tyres, blocked traffic and damaged properties. Residents of Shamke, Kala Shah Kaku, and other adjoining localities attacked a 220KV Wapda grid station, blocked the GT Road and clashed with police, injuring six constables.

Power shortage in the country soared to 5,139MW on Sunday. Citizens in Lahore were facing over 14 hours of loadshedding, while in villages and far flung areas electricity was not available for 18 to 20 hours a day. Keeping in view the above said situation, President Asif Ali Zardari had called a meeting on the issue.

Charged protesters at various places chanted anti-government slogans. They also carried banners inscribed with catchphrase censuring the rulers and some of those urging the prime minister and the president to fulfil their promise of electricity provision.

Protesters said electricity was not available even at the time of Sehar, Iftar and prayer times which reflected the failure of rulers, who had promised to ensure smooth power supply at these times in Ramazan. “If they cannot run the country they should resign,” said a senior citizen, Abdullah.

Even in provincial capital Lahore electricity was being suspended after every other hour, causing problems to the people. A spokesman of the Energy Management Cell said that at present there was a demand of 81,414MW electricity while production was only 13,275MW.

Reports of demonstrations were also received from other parts of the country, including Multan, Nowshehra, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Jehlum.

Enraged people in Peshawar burnt tyres on the roads and suspended traffic in Dora area. They also pelted stones on the Wapda and other private vehicles. In Jhelum, protesters set on fire Xen and SDO offices. In Faisalabad, police baton-charged protesters and injured five of them when they tried to march towards a grid station.

However, the most violent protest on Sunday came in Kala Shah Kaku area where large number of people belonging to Shamke and other nearby localities along the GT Road ransacked a 220KV Wapda grid station office. They also damaged a van and 3 motorcycles.

Later, the protesters blocked traffic on the GT Road for four hours (10am to 2pm). Long queues of vehicles were witnessed on the road where hundreds of motorists were forced to remain seated in their vehicles amid scorching heat and suffocating humidity.

The Ferozewala and Muridke Sadar police arrived at the site and tried to restore the suspended traffic. But protesters refused to disperse and started pelting stones on the police party injuring six constables, two of them seriously.

Police used tear gas to disperse the angry mob but they retaliated and set a police van on fire. The police then opened aerial firing, injuring an unidentified passer-by woman. Later, heavy contingents of police from other police stations reached there and assured the protesters to communicate their demand to the authorities concerned.

The demonstrators then dispersed, issuing warning that they will again block the road if they were not provided smooth electricity supply. Police registered a case against 160 unidentified rioters however no arrest was made till filing of this report.

According to a private TV channel, President Asif Zardari has taken notice of loadshedding at Iftar and Sehri times. He has summoned a meeting in this regard.