Pakistan sees violent protests over power cuts during Ramadan

At least one protester died and eight more were wounded after police opened fire on anti-loadshedding demonstrators. Temperatures hit record highs in Pakistan as people observed fasts in the holy month of Ramadan.

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Pakistan's chronic energy crisis sees daily power outages which are amplified in the summer heat.

At least one person is dead and eight were wounded on Monday after countrywide protests over power outages turned violent in Pakistan amid soaring temperatures in the holy month of Ramadan.

A local TV channel said two people were killed after police opened fire on protesters in Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

"The protesters first tried to torch the electricity power station and then they attacked a police station," said Zafar Ali Shah, a senior government official in Malakand district.

Protesters later blocked a main highway linking Malakand and the Swat valley to the rest of the country, Shah added.

He said authorities are negotiating with local leaders to defuse the demonstrations.

In the provincial capital Peshawar some 800 protesters took over two power stations, demanding government employees continue the electricity supply without interruption.

Pakistan has for years been struggling to provide enough power for its nearly 200 million citizens. Its chronic energy crisis sees daily power outages which are amplified in the summer heat. 

Residents in Peshawar said they face cuts for six to eight hours a day, while rural areas can receive electricity for as little as three to four hours a day.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has vowed to solve the crisis by 2018, the year of general elections in Pakistan.

On Monday, he said that "minimum load-shedding" should be carried out during the fasting month of Ramadan, during which millions of devout Pakistanis abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset.

Temperatures in Pakistan touched near-record highs over the weekend.

Protest in Karachi

On Sunday, angry residents burned tyres in the roads in the sweltering port city of Karachi after a massive power outage in southern Pakistan.

Water distribution in the megacity of some 25 million people is reliant on the electricity supply, leaving thousands unable to drink, cook or wash ahead of the first day of fasting.

The power outage extended to more than a dozen districts in the southern province of Sindh of which Karachi is the capital, where temperatures topped 40 degrees Celsius.

TRTWorld and agencies