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pakistan
Monday May 29 2017
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Load shedding protest takes violent turn in Malakand as one killed, several injured

PESHAWAR: Relentless power cuts forced people to take to the streets across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Monday.

The worst scenes were reported from Malakand Agency's Dargai area, where protesters first ransacked a WAPDA office and later turned their anger towards law enforcement agencies called in to control the situation. The ensuing clashes led to the death of at least one protester and caused injuries to several others, including officials of the local administration. 

Protesters burning furniture at the WAPDA office in Dargai. Photo: Geo News screen grab

Protesters assaulted the WAPDA office early morning, setting fire to computers and furniture inside the office. 

A PESCO spokesperson said protesters also burnt records stored in the office of the XEN (executive engineer) and SDOs (sub-divisional officers) and also broke windows of the officials’ cars.

The flow of traffic was also disrupted as the thousands of protesters blocked the main Mardan Road. 

Consequently, levies officials reached the site to control the situation. Sources said officials resorted to aerial fire to disperse the protesters, which led to the death of one protester and caused injuries to four others.

Protesters in Dargai, Malakand. Photo: Geo News 

This sparked further anger among the demonstrators, who then turned their fury towards the authorities and burnt down the nearby police station. In the ongoing clashes, an assistant commissioner was also injured. 

Law enforcers were struggling to control the situation till this report was filed.

The PESCO spokesperson added that a jirga has been formed to discuss the main issues regarding electricity load shedding in the area. 

Peshawar protest ends 

In Peshawar, protesters, led by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MPA Fazal Elahi, staged a demonstration on Peshawar’s Ring Road. As a result, the traffic flow in area was halted for almost two hours. Earlier, for the past several days, the MPA has been leading protesters into grid stations in Peshawar and forcefully turning back on supply of power to their areas. 

A heavy contingent of police also reached the site but no major incident of violence was reported.

“Leaders don’t care about people’s problems,” remarked Elahi. If load shedding does not end, then we will again come out on the streets, he added, while speaking to Geo News.

"The protests will be held wherever load shedding occurs. For this purpose, all the MPAs of the province will be called for help," he shared.

The protest was called off after Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) officials assured the demonstrators that their problems will be solved. Elahi also met with PESCO officials and made them aware of the protesters’ demands.

The meeting ended with Pesco officials agreeing that load shedding will be held for 14 hours, as opposed to the usual 18 to 20 hours, and that electricity will be provided to people during Seher and Iftar time.

Protest in Charsadda 

A similar protest was also staged in Umarzai area of Charsadda. The protesters blocked the Tangi-Charsadda Road, which affected traffic flow.

The protesters warned that they will storm into the WAPDA office if electricity is not restored within an hour.