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Power crisis triggers riots across Pakistan

world Updated: Oct 04, 2011 01:19 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
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Riots erupted in different towns and cities all over Pakistan as people came out on the streets to protest against widespread power cuts, for periods as long as 18 hours in a day.

In Lahore, young men attacked vehicles and in two instances stopped trains from proceeding to their destinations, as police tried to control the rising violence. The opposition Pakistan

Muslim League said it supported the protestors while the Prime Minister called for an emergency energy conference to deal with the situation.

"We are with the protestors. We will stage a long march to Islamabad to protest against the power cuts which are crippling the economy," said opposition leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, as he told party members in Islamabad on Monday.

Sharif said that President Zardari "was not fit to rule" and should "be removed from power."

On Sunday, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif had alleged that the centre was "discriminating against Punjab" and that the people of the province were being punished.

The Punjab province, which is seeing an dengue epidemic in Lahore and adjoining areas in which over 140 people have died in the past two months, says that frequent power cuts mean that people are suffering and dying unnecessarily.

"The machines are not working. The operation theaters are closed," said Shahbaz Sharif.

At the emergency energy summit held in Islamabad on Monday, Prime Minister Gilani ordered that billions of rupees owed to private power companies be paid immediately so that they in turn could pay the money owed to petroleum companies. A government spokesman also said that the matter was being "politicized at a very critical time for the country."

It is estimated the power shortfall in the country exceeds 7,000 megawatts. Vehicular traffic between Lahore and Islamabad remained blocked as protestors blocked the main GT Road.

Industrial activity in Faisalabad, the country's largest industrial city, was also suspended in protest against the power cuts.

The main road between Karachi and Hyderabad were also affected.

It is feared that more violence will be witnessed in the country in the coming days.