Screen grab of protest in Karachi on Tuesday. Image Credit - Twitter.-1656427186239
Screen grab of protest in Karachi on Tuesday. Image Credit: Twitter

Islamabad: Citizens of Pakistan’s biggest city of Karachi, frustrated by prolonged power cuts, took to the streets to demand the restoration of electricity. But they were met with excessive use of force by the police.

At least one woman was reported dead during the protests, local media reported. However, the police said that the 60-year-old woman died of natural causes and not due to the use of police force, adding that they are still investigating her death.

The residents, who have been at the Mauripur Road for over a day, had to endure tear gas shelling and baton beating by the police on Tuesday. The use of force led to clashes as protestors resorted to throwing stones at the police and refused to end protests before the authorities restore electricity. The protestors chanted slogans against the K-Electric, complaining that they are facing the worst 12 to 14 hours of power outages in sizzling hot weather which also disrupts the water supply, adding to their miseries.

The police said they used batons to disperse protesters after the demonstration caused one of the worst traffic jams and blocked the road linking the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) and SITE industrial areas. Karachi-based exporter and chairman of fruit and vegetable exporters and import association Aslam Pakhali said that more than 100 shipping containers carrying perishable products worth an estimated Rs250 million were stuck in traffic since Monday evening due to the protests.

On late Tuesday evening, the officials claimed that the Mauripur Road protest ended after police and power company officials assured the residents that their grievances would be addressed. The South police chief said Karachi Commissioner Mohammad Iqbal Memon had called a high-level meeting about the power outages tomorrow.

Protests in several parts of Karachi

Protests also broke out in several parts of the metropolis on Monday when residents took to the streets and blocked main roads over frequent breakdowns and unannounced and prolonged loadshedding by the K-Electric, the Karachi-based power utility. With no relief in sight from the government or power utility company, the Karachi residents finally took to the streets to protest, demanding restoration of power and water supply.

In Karachi city, protests against power cuts and water shortage were reported in Shahrah-e-Faisal, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Safari Park, and Nazimabad. The citizens complained that the unannounced loadshedding continues for several hours with no response from K-Electric on the nature of the fault or the timeline for restoration.

Farrukh Nasim, a resident of the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighbourhood of Karachi, said that the people of Karachi are “facing the worst water shortage and power outages in the scorching heat” despite paying high bills. The power utility companies say they are forced to implement power cuts as the electricity supply fell short of massive demand in summer.

The power crisis has intensified in Pakistan during the last two months. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has warned that the country is likely to experience extra hours of power cuts in the month of July as the country failed to agree on a deal for natural gas supply next month. However, the prime minister has approved the import of coal from Afghanistan to generate produce cheap electricity.