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Power riots roil govt’s key ally

ISLAMABAD  – Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid (PML-Q) Secretary Information Senator Kamil Ali Agha on Thursday warned the government it would be difficult for his party to continue as a partner in the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led ruling coalition if the problem of loadshedding was not dealt properly dealt.
The vital alliance partner gave the warning after energy crisis sparked violent protests in Punjab, the most affected province.
Sensing the grave consequences in case the threat is materialised, President Zardari summoned a high-level where he reprimanded Water and Power Minister Naveed Qamar over his inability to tackle the issue.
President Asif Ali Zardari expressed his annoyance, saying the worsening crisis was unacceptable.
Speaking in the Upper House of the Parliament on the issue of power breakdown throughout the country and reacting especially to the long hours of power cuts in Punjab, Kamil Ali Agha said every citizen was suffering from loadshedding, which had forced the masses to launch protests against the government. During a heated debate, Senator Kamil Ali Agha said people had become sick of unending load shedding and it would be impossible for his party to stay in the coalition government anymore.
He said the government was not serious to resolve the serious crisis, which was apparent by the absence of the minister for water and power in every session of the Upper House.
He said loadshedding had multiplied the problems of the masses, who now hated the rulers because they were not paying attention to their issues.
Agha said if the government failed to resolve the issue of loadshedding and didn’t pay heed to lessen long hours power cuts in the searing heat then it would be difficult for Q-League to remain as part of the coalition government.
Leader of the Upper House, Senator Jahangir Badr, while responding to the speech of Kamil, advised Agha to make noise on TV channels and not to try spoiling house’s proceedings. He taunted that not even a single unit of electricity was added to the national grid during the Musharraf government, which drew political support from Agha’s party.
He said the minister for water and power would participate in today’s (Friday) session of the house and also answer questions pertaining to the power outages.
Meanwhile, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Khan Babar said the president had cancelled all of his engagements in the wake of emergency meeting.
He said the federal ministers for water and power and finance besides other top officials would attend the meeting.
And during the high-level meeting, Zardari ordered the government departments to ensure restoration of power supply and monitor the situation a daily basis.
He also instructed the relevant ministries to look into the situation and asked the authorities to redress the matter immediately.
Zardari ordered the Water and Power Ministry to establish a central control room to monitor the situation.
To eliminate the circular debt, instructions were also given to release TSE worth Rs82 billion rupees to be issued only after approval.
Meanwhile, people across Punjab came out on streets against the electricity crisis, as a result of which the economic and social life has come to a standstill.
Protests were reported from Sialkot, Faisalabad, Gujranwala, Multan, Wazirabad, Jhelum, Chakwal, Bhalwal, Lalamusa, Sheikhupura, Mianwali, Sargodha, Phalia, Mandi Bahauddin, Arifwala and other towns and cities of the province. But the fiercest reaction was seen in Vehari where angry mob ransacked and torched the Multan Electric Power Company (Mepco) office. Later on, they also set ablaze the party offices of PPP, PTI and PML-N.
In many other areas, the protesters blocked roads, burnt tyres and raised slogans against the government to express their resentment. They slammed the government for its failure to fulfil the promise of overcoming the energy crisis.
They said the circular debt was rising because of corruption in Pepco and the theft of electricity in Sindh, Balochistan and Fata. They said people in Punjab were paying their bills regularly with a minimum theft of electricity but they were being victimised by the PPP-led government.
They warned if the government failed to overcome the electricity crisis, they would be forced to stop the payment of bills and organise a march towards Islamabad.
The citizens said more than 18 hours of loadshedding was being carried out in cities and between 20 to 22 hours in the rural areas, making their lives miserable. The protestors said electricity was being supplied for a few minutes after two to three hours of breakdown and then again suspended. As a result they were not only made to suffer in the scorching hot weather, but water supply in many areas also remained suspended.
In Gujranwala, Various rallies were taken out against unscheduled loadshedding in various localities. The office-bearers of Gujranwala Chamber of Commerce and Industry flayed unscheduled loadshedding that had crippled economic activities.
The villagers in the Sarkal Myer area of Chakwal blocked the Chakwal-Sohawa Road. Similar reaction has been reported from Faisalabad and Multan.

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