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Violent protests over prolonged load-shedding claimed 2 lives and left 14 others injured in Dargai, Malakand. The protest was carried out by workers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf on Monday.

The clash occurred after tensions in the province reached a pitch over extended power load-shedding in several districts throughout the week.

The two fatalities were confirmed by Malakand Deputy Commissioner Syed Zafar Ali Shah who added that Dargai assistant commissioner Sardar Bahadur Khan was among those injured in the clash.

To control the worsening situation, Malakand Levies shot at the protesters which resulted in the death of Javed Khan, a former president of the Insaf Students Federation at the Dargai College, and Latif, another PTI worker

Violence ensued after a large number of locals from the Wartair union council gathered to protest against power outages. According to eyewitness accounts, baton-wielding protesters stormed the Peshawar Electric Supply Company’s (Pesco) Dargai subdivision office and set the subdivision II offices on fire.

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The protestors then went on a rampage, smashing computers, doors, and windowpanes, tearing up office records and damaging the executive engineer’s vehicle.

To control the worsening situation, Malakand Levies shot at the protesters which resulted in the death of Javed Khan, a former president of the Insaf Students Federation at the Dargai College, and Latif, another PTI worker. Fourteen other protesters were also gravely injured.

The shooting further enraged the protesters gathered who then proceeded to the Dargai Chowk and closed Malakand Road to traffic. They threw stones at vehicles, shops, offices and billboards in Dargai Bazaar and torched the Dargai police station.

Due to the severity of the situation army troops were called in because the district administration failed to placate the angry crowd.

The Prime Minister’s Reaction

Amidst mass protests over the government’s inability to fulfill its promises regarding ending of load-shedding, The Prime Minister chaired a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCE) on Monday. He is said to have expressed his displeasure in no uncertain terms and came down hard on the parties responsible.

During the meeting officials from the Ministry of Water and Power briefed him on causes of load-shedding and steps taken to deal with it. Another CCE meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday (today).

“The prime minister expressed displeasure over the schedule of the load-shedding and directed that minimum load-shedding be carried out during the month of Ramazan,” said the statement issued after the CEC meeting.

“I was told that the situation would improve in the coming days. This looks to be far from happening and there isn’t much we have done. Why?”

The statement went on to say that the prime minister stressed that proactive and solution-oriented approach should be adopted by all line departments with the aim of providing maximum relief in the summer season.

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The PM is said to have expressed his displeasure over the continuation of power outages despite assurances by the water and power authorities in a CCE meeting last month that power outages would reduce in the days ahead.

“If I am not wrong… I was told last month in the same meeting that unexpected rise in temperature resulted in an instant increase in the demand for power while the required amount of water was not available in the dams that hindered power generation.”

“I was told that the situation would improve in the coming days. This looks to be far from happening and there isn’t much we have done. Why?” the PM reportedly asked the officials, including Water and Power Minister Khawaja Asif and Secretary Water and Power Younas Dhaga.

“This happens every year. The temperature goes up and so do the power outages. This shouldn’t continue. We have to materialize our promises to end load-shedding. It’s high time,” the premier said implying to the general election scheduled next year.

Well into the fourth year of PM Nawaz Sharif’s term, load shedding has still to be tackled and hours remain as bad as those seen in 2012 under the PPP government.

Interestingly, Khawaja has apologized to Cheif Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah for the power outages in Sindh after the former had called him and expressed concern over the electricity shortages.

Read More: Khawaja Asif expects India and Pakistan to respect Indus Water Treaty

“I am really sorry for the breakdown due to which people suffered immensely [on the first day of Ramazan],” Asif said. “Federal government is trying its best to reduce the power load shedding.”

However, the minister has not extended such sympathy to KP where violent protests over electricity shortages have claimed lives.

The cornerstone of Nawaz Sharif’s campaign in 2013 was the promise to eliminate load shedding of electricity in two years. With 10 hours of load shedding in Karachi and 12 on average in Lahore, rally after rally, the Sharif brothers took the stage and vigorously promised to alleviate the public of the crippling energy shortages, garnering passionate applause.

PML-N blamed the previous government of deliberately increasing power cuts in Punjab and they are being blamed for doing much the same in KP, a province which is considered to have surplus energy.

Well into the fourth year of PM Nawaz Sharif’s term, load shedding has still to be tackled and hours remain as bad as those seen in 2012 under the PPP government.

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