KARACHI: Hundreds of charged residents of Liaquatabad and adjoining areas took to the streets on Thursday in protest against power outages.
They blocked the main Sir Shah Suleman Road and tried to set a traffic police post on fire. The agitation paralysed the traffic system for several hours. The protesters, however, dispersed when electricity supply was restored to their localities by the Karachi Electricity Supply Company, officials and witnesses said.
The KESC officials seemed to have learned no lesson from the violent protest of last week by residents of Al-Karam Square and Apsara Apartment against power supply cut that lasted for two days before the utility restored power supply to the buildings allegedly defaulting on bills.
The police officials said the protest by “a few dozen residents of Gharibabad” remained peaceful for the first hour. The protesters preferred to stay along the road, chanting slogans against the KESC management and demanding power supply restoration. However, they added that a number of charged men later joined them, airing the same grievances. By sunset the number of the people on the road had swelled to their hundreds.
“The protesters then burnt tyres and blocked the roads after hurling stones at moving vehicles,” said DSP Taufiq Khan, the area’s supervisory police officer. “We managed to contain the protest and tried our best to mediate between the KESC officials and area elders to end it peacefully.”
He said the police also foiled an attempt of some miscreants who tried to set the traffic police post in the area near the Lyari Expressway on fire. He, however, denied that there had been any arrests on a charge of creating a law-and-order situation.
More than 100 policemen, called from different police stations of the town, however, failed to control the violent situation that allowed the protesters to stretch to Essa Nagri, causing a breakdown of the traffic system on the main Sir Shah Suleman Road.
The traffic flow was hit on the stretch between the National Stadium Road and Liaquatabad 10 connecting the areas with several arteries, including Shahrah-i-Pakistan and University Road. Hundreds of vehicles started piling up on these roads and after a couple of hours the entire central district of the city was gridlocked as a large number of commuters walked towards their destinations instead of waiting for the snarl-up to ease.
Though residents accused the KESC of testing their patience for their last week’s protest, a spokesman for the power utility came with a plea that due to the closure of the company office in Liaquatabad as a result of the last week’s attack, their performance in the area had been affected badly.
“Due to the closure of the KESC centre in Liaquatabad following petrol bomb attacks, we cannot perform our duties in this area as lives of our staff are in grave danger,” he said.
He said the petrol bomb attacks had destroyed the KESC office last week from where the staff escaped unhurt. He added: “Unless we are assured of safety of our people and assets in this area, it will be difficult for the KESC to perform its duties.”
The protest ended when some ‘area elders’ intervened between the protesters and the KESC management, which led to the restoration of power supply to the localities and helped resumption of the traffic flow.
“Due to the intervention of respected elders of the affected areas of Liaquatabad, steps are being taken by the power utility to restore supply. These elders have also condemned the attack and ransacking of the KESC centre in the area,” said the KESC spokesman.