BATKHELA: Two activists of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf were killed and 14 others wounded in a violent protest against prolonged power loadshedding in the Dargai tehsil of Malakand on Monday.
The army was called in to quell the violence.
The clash occurred following tensions in the province as protests against extended power load-shedding erupted in several districts throughout the week.
Last Friday, Malakand Levies arrested a member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet and a PTI MNA, along with seven others, for ransacking an SDO’s office in the Batkhela area.
Dargai assistant commissioner among 14 injured in clash
Malakand Deputy Commissioner Syed Zafar Ali Shah confirmed the two fatalities, adding that Dargai assistant commissioner Sardar Bahadur Khan was among those injured in the clash.
The violence erupted as a large number of residents from the Wartair union council gathered to protest against power outages. According to eyewitnesses, baton-wielding protesters stormed the Peshawar Electric Supply Company’s (Pesco) Dargai subdivision office and set the subdivision II offices on fire.
They then went on a rampage, smashing computers, doors and windowpanes, tearing up office records and damaging the executive engineer’s vehicle.
As the situation spiralled out of control, Malakand Levies shot at the protesters killing Javed Khan, a former president of the Insaf Students Federation at the Dargai College, and Latif, another PTI worker. Fourteen others were injured.
Following the shooting, the protesters gathered at 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.
Army troops were called in after the district administration failed to control the situation.
PTI MNA Junaid Akbar blamed senior Pesco officials for the riots.
“Had the executive engineer come out of his office to talk to the people, this would not have happened,” he said.
Deputy Commissioner Shah told Dawn that district administration would register a case against those involved in the incident, which included some elected representatives. He said the district administration would also act against those who had egged on the protesters.
Demonstrations across the province
In Charsadda, residents of Umarzai set up a protest camp at Umarzai Chowk on Monday against excessive power outages and low voltage in their area.
The protesters shouted slogans against the Umarzai SDO and demanded that his services be terminated. They alleged that the SDO had been flouting the Pesco chief’s directives regarding power supply to their area.
They turned away Hidayatullah, a local district council member, and Dr Altaf, the tehsil naib nazim, when they visited the camp, but later dispersed after MPA Arshad Umarzai, an adviser to the chief minister, assured them that the loadshedding would soon end.
Separately, PTI MPA Muhammad Arif Ahmedzai, accompanied by Shabqadar tehsil nazim Ghaffarullah Shiekh, district council member Haji Shahidullah, Awami National Party’s district council member Asghar Abbas Khan and Muzammil Khan, among others, staged a sit-in in front of the grid station in Shabqadar Bazaar. Several residents of the area also joined the sit-in.
They alleged that the XEN had promised them to give them relief during Ramazan but had reneged on his promise. They threatened to storm the grid station and take matters into their own hands if uninterrupted power supply was not restored in the next 24 hours.
In the provincial capital on Monday, a group of protesters led by a PTI MPA blocked the Ring Road to register their gripes against loadshedding.
Earlier last week, MPA Fazal Elahi from PK-6 and his supporters had stormed three grid stations on the outskirts of the city and restored power supply to adjoining areas. Mr Elahi had also tried to force entry into the Pesco headquarters but a heavy police contingent had stopped him.
Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq, in a statement following Monday’s violent clashes, demanded the arrest of those who had shot dead the former ISF president. He also appealed to the people to remain calm and not attack Pesco offices.