Government cites depreciating local currency and rising oil prices for sharp rise in rates
Thousands took to the streets across Pakistan on Sunday to protest rising power bills, some violently, forcing the power companies to seek police security.
Interim Prime Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar summoned an urgent meeting with power authorities to “review” the situation after angry protesters blocked roads and attacked power company representatives in several parts of the country on Saturday and Sunday.
The protesters burned old tires and blocked roads in the port city of Karachi as well as Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Sargodha, Multan, Hyderabad and other cities over the past two days.
The protests, unprecedented in recent history, broke out after consumers got July bills following a recent increase in rates and the addition of more taxes, a key demand of the International Monetary Fund for revival of a long-stalled financial assistance package.
The government, for its part, cites a continuing devaluation of local currency and rising petroleum prices for the latest increase in power rates.
Ever-increasing inflation, which reached 38% in May and later settled at 28% in July, has further eroded the purchasing power of a large section of the country’s over 240 million people.
The South Asian nuclear country came to the cusp of default before the IMF intervened and approved $3 billion in financial assistance to prop up Islamabad’s faltering economy.
A video aired on multiple local broadcasters showed a group of elderly people beating up a power company representative in Karachi during a protest.
Crowds attacked power stations in parts of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkwa province, forcing power authorities to seek security.
“(Electricity) bills take up half of my monthly income. How will I pay rent, feed my kids, and send them to school?” Jan Mohammad, a laborer, told Anadolu during a protest in Lyari, Karachi.
Mohammad earns around 40,000 Pakistani rupees ($133) monthly, and got an electricity bill of nearly 20,000 rupees ($67).
Many protesters burned their bills, refusing to pay them until the previous rates are restored.
Jamat-e-Islami, the country’s mainstream religiopolitical party, also issued a nationwide call for protests against power rate hikes on Sunday.