MALAKAND/Peshawar/Islamabad - Violent protests erupted in Pakistan Monday as crippling electricity cuts left hundreds of thousands of people without power in soaring temperatures during the first two days of the holy fasting month of Ramazan.

At least one person died and 14 others injured on Monday in Dargai area of Malakand division as hundreds of protesters ransacked a Pesco office and clashed with levies officials.

“The protesters first tried to torch the electricity power station and then they attacked a police station,” Zafar Ali Shah, a senior government official in Malakand district said, adding that the demonstrators also attacked government buildings, offices and vehicles.

Protesters later blocked a main highway linking Malakand and the Swat valley to the rest of the country, Shah added, saying that authorities are negotiating with local leaders to defuse the demonstrations.

The man who died was identified as Javed Khan Tufan, an activist of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a former president of its youth wing. The injured included Assistant Commissioner Dargai Sardar Bahadar and two personnel of the Levies force.

Eyewitnesses said that thousands of residents from Wartair, Dobandi and Qadamkhel union councils took out a rally to record protest against prolonged and unscheduled power outages in their areas.

The enraged protesters attacked the office of Peshawar Electricity Supply Company (PESCO) Sub-Division-2 at Dargai, and set it on fire, destroying official record, furniture and parked vehicles.

The paramilitary force was called to disperse protesters. In a bid to control the situation, levies officials fired teargas shells and rubber bullets on the protesters, who pelted stones and sticks at the soldiers.

The Levies personnel allegedly also shot live ammunition at the protesters after sensing that the situation was getting out of control.

Both sides blamed each other for the bloodshed. Senior levies officials denied reports of any straight fire causing the death of the PTI official and instead alleged the shot that killed him came from the protesters.

The 14 injured included Shahab Khan, Niaz Ali, Ibrahim Said and Muhammad Shah. Those wounded critically were referred to Mardan.

The deceased Javed Khan Tufan was a son Bawar Khan. He was a PTI activist and a former president of Insaf Students Federation (ISF) at Government Degree College Dargai.

After reports of Tufan’s death, the protesters went more furious. They marched towards Dargai Chowk, damaging on the way telephone and cable wires, CCTV cameras installed on the main road and uprooting sign boards of different political parties.

The enraged protesters also pelted stones at vehicles and shops at Dargai Bazaar.

The body of Tufan was brought from hospital to Dargai Chowk, wherefrom it was taken to the Levies station, where the protesters once again staged a protest and chanted slogans against Pesco and Levies.

The protesters then took to attacking and setting on fire the Levies station, after which more contingents of security personnel were called out.

Traffic on Mardan-Malakand Road remained suspended for hours while the situation was still highly tense in the area. Till filing of this report, no FIR was registered against anyone.

PESCO spokesperson stated in a press release that miscreants attacked the office of the SDO1 and SDO2 in the early morning of the day and set ablaze the office records as well as shattering the doors and windows of the office. The statement also said that the protesters burned down the vehicles present at the premises.

He said Wapda was working on the Palai line and power had been cut off from the area due to the working of Wapda employees on the line. Whereas, local elders and members of the jirga were also taken into confidence in this regard.

Protests in Peshawar, Charsadda

People also took to streets in the provincial capital Peshawar on Monday against hours-long loadshedding of electricity.

Some 800 protesters took over two power stations, demanding government employees continue the electricity supply without interruption.

Led by PTI MPA Fazal Elahi, the protesters also staged a demonstration on Ring Road. As a result, traffic in the area was halted for almost two hours.

In his speech, the MPA said that if loadshedding was not eliminated, they would again come to streets. Moreover, he said that similar protests would be held in other parts of the province.

Residents in Peshawar said they face cuts for six to eight hours a day, while rural areas can receive electricity for as little as three to four hours a day.

In Charsadda, enraged power consumers staged a protest demonstration at Umerzai area, which led to blockade of traffic on Tangi-Charsadda Road. They warned authorities against carrying out loadshedding during Sehr and Iftar times.

Earlier on May 17, hundreds of enraged PTI activists broke down the gate of the Wapda House in Peshawar and stormed inside during their protest against persistent power outages in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Led by MPA Ayesha Gulalai, the protesters demanded that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led (PML-N) federal government and Wapda officials stop the hours-long spells of power outages in the province and fulfil their promise of a load-shedding-free Pakistan.

Deeping power crisis

The country has for years been struggling to provide enough power for its nearly 200 million citizens. Its chronic energy crisis sees daily power outages which are amplified in the summer heat.

Despite tall claims of authorities about minimising loadshedding, the situation of power supply has been far from unsatisfactory since the onset of summer. It has further worsened in the holy month Ramazan. The outages are particularly intense across the country during sehri and iftar, as temperatures in the country touched near-record highs over the weekend.

Most parts of Karachi, the biggest city of the country, were without electricity on the first sehar of Ramazan, which led to protests against K-Electric.

Water distribution - already unreliable in the megacity of some 25 million people - is reliant on the electricity supply, leaving thousands unable to drink, cook or wash ahead of the first day of fasting.

Authorities said the power outage extended to more than a dozen districts in the southern province of Sindh of which Karachi is the capital, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

The situation is no different in rural areas of Punjab, which is the power bastion of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to solve the crisis by 2018, when elections must be held.

PM expresses displeasure

The prime minister on Monday expressed displeasure over the loadshedding schedule currently being followed and directed that minimum loadshedding be carried out during the month of Ramazan.

He was chairing meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCE) in Islamabad. It was informed that by March 2018 a total of 9,107 MW power would be added to the transmission system, provided timelines are met.

Taking serious notice of the long hours of loadshedding and protests by the people across the country, the prime minister directed that proactive and solution oriented approach should be adopted by all line departments with the aim to provide maximum relief in summer season.

Nawaz Sharif  stated that the government is fully cognisant of the problems faced by masses due to power shortage and will not rest till a significant relief is provided. Keeping in view the urgency of the situation, he has called another meeting of the CCE today (Tuesday).

Water & Power secretary briefed the meeting on implementation status of previous decisions taken by CCE, current load management plan, circular debt, transmission and distribution of power from upcoming power projects and status of utilisation of idle power plants.

The CCE was informed that Bhikki and Haveli Bhadur Shah plants were facing normal mechanical problems in some of their turbines which are being resolved with the manufacturer. The prime minister directed to complete repairs at the earliest.

It was further informed that monitoring of power generation and distribution systems was being undertaken regularly with physical and field monitoring of 270 projects. Regular meetings were being held with CEOs of DISCOS to resolve operational issues.

It was informed that a special committee of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources is working on a balanced conversion plan from conventional fuels to LNG. The minister also briefed the CCE regarding new gas transmission pipelines being built for LNG from Karachi to Lahore. CCE expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on gas pipelines.

Led by PTI MPA Fazal Elahi, the protesters also staged a demonstration on Ring Road. As a result, traffic in the area was halted for almost two hours.

In his speech, the MPA said that if loadshedding was not eliminated, they would again come to streets. Moreover, he said that similar protests would be held in other parts of the province.

Residents in Peshawar said they face cuts for six to eight hours a day, while rural areas can receive electricity for as little as three to four hours a day.

In Charsadda, enraged power consumers staged a protest demonstration at Umerzai area, which led to blockade of traffic on Tangi-Charsadda Road. They warned authorities against carrying out loadshedding during Sehr and Iftar times.

Earlier on May 17, hundreds of enraged PTI activists broke down the gate of the Wapda House in Peshawar and stormed inside during their protest against persistent power outages in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Led by MPA Ayesha Gulalai, the protesters demanded that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led (PML-N) federal government and Wapda officials stop the hours-long spells of power outages in the province and fulfil their promise of a load-shedding-free Pakistan.

Deeping power crisis

The country has for years been struggling to provide enough power for its nearly 200 million citizens. Its chronic energy crisis sees daily power outages which are amplified in the summer heat.

Despite tall claims of authorities about minimising loadshedding, the situation of power supply has been far from unsatisfactory since the onset of summer. It has further worsened in the holy month Ramazan.

The outages are particularly intense across the country during sehri and iftar, as temperatures in the country touched near-record highs over the weekend.

Most parts of Karachi, the biggest city of the country, were without electricity on the first sehar of Ramazan, which led to protests against K-Electric.

Water distribution - already unreliable in the megacity of some 25 million people - is reliant on the electricity supply, leaving thousands unable to drink, cook or wash ahead of the first day of fasting.

Authorities said the power outage extended to more than a dozen districts in the southern province of Sindh of which Karachi is the capital, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

The situation is no different in rural areas of Punjab, which is the power bastion of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to solve the crisis by 2018, when elections must be held.

PM expresses displeasure

The prime minister on Monday expressed displeasure over the loadshedding schedule currently being followed and directed that minimum loadshedding be carried out during the month of Ramazan.

He was chairing meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCE) in Islamabad. It was informed that by March 2018 a total of 9,107 MW power would be added to the transmission system, provided timelines are met.

Taking serious notice of the long hours of loadshedding and protests by the people across the country, the prime minister directed that proactive and solution oriented approach should be adopted by all line departments with the aim to provide maximum relief in summer season.

Nawaz Sharif  stated that the government is fully cognisant of the problems faced by masses due to power shortage and will not rest till a significant relief is provided. Keeping in view the urgency of the situation, he has called another meeting of the CCE today (Tuesday).

Water & Power secretary briefed the meeting on implementation status of previous decisions taken by CCE, current load management plan, circular debt, transmission and distribution of power from upcoming power projects and status of utilisation of idle power plants.

The CCE was informed that Bhikki and Haveli Bhadur Shah plants were facing normal mechanical problems in some of their turbines which are being resolved with the manufacturer. The prime minister directed to complete repairs at the earliest.

It was further informed that monitoring of power generation and distribution systems was being undertaken regularly with physical and field monitoring of 270 projects. Regular meetings were being held with CEOs of DISCOS to resolve operational issues.

It was informed that a special committee of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Resources is working on a balanced conversion plan from conventional fuels to LNG. The minister also briefed the CCE regarding new gas transmission pipelines being built for LNG from Karachi to Lahore. CCE expressed satisfaction over the pace of work on gas pipelines.