Politics, Asia - Pacific

Nationwide protests against inflated power bills continue in Pakistan

Interim government promises to give 'maximum' relief to consumers that economists believe is unlikely

Aamir Latif  | 28.08.2023 - Update : 29.08.2023
Nationwide protests against inflated power bills continue in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan

Protesters blocked roads and staged rallies across Pakistan on Monday against the latest increase in power tariffs, with the country's caretaker government mulling over giving some relief to inflation-hit citizens.

Tens of thousands took to the streets in dozens of major cities and remote towns, blocked roads, burned electricity bills, and staged sit-ins outside the power companies' offices.

Police booked and arrested dozens of protesters in several districts, including the capital Islamabad, and Peshawar on the charges of blocking roads and inciting violence.

The unprecedented protests in recent history, some of them violent, broke out on Friday after consumers received inflated utility bills.

The government, for its part, cites a continuing devaluation of local currency and rising petroleum prices for the latest increase in power rates.

Angry mobs in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, blocked the main Indus Highway for several hours to protest the recent power tariff hike.

Shops, markets, and business centers remained shut in Hyderabad, the second largest city of southern Sindh province, as traders refused to pay the electricity bills until the recent hike was reversed.

Protest demonstrations were also reported from the commercial capital Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Multan, Gujranwala, and parts of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Jamat-e-Islami, the country's mainstream religiopolitical party, has given a nationwide strike call for Sep. 2 against the inflated utility bills.

Interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar has summoned another meeting with power companies' heads on Monday to formulate a strategy aimed at giving "maximum relief" to the consumers.

Economists, however, see slim chances of significant relief due to a colossal circular debt of the country's under-pressure power sector.

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.

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