Shutter down across country after electric bill shock

Main markets, bazaars remain closed in major cities including Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan n Protesters block several roads, highways by setting tyres on fire n Transgender people surround Islamabad Electric Supply Company offices in Rawalpindi.

KARACHI/LAHORE/RAWALPINDI/PESHAWAR/QUETTA  -  Shocked by inflated electricity bills, traders and shopkeepers ob­served shutter-down strike across the coun­try including Lahore, Karachi, Quetta, Pesha­war, Rawalpindi, Fais­alabad, Multan and Gu­jranwala on Saturday, demanding the govern­ment to immediately announce relief for the inflation hit people. 

The shutter-down strike was observed by traders in parts of the country and different religious and political parties also supported the strike call. The strike was part of the protest campaign launched last month against inflated bills and huge taxes. Angry protesters took to the streets in recent days against unbear­able price hikes and in­flated bills.

Jamaat-i-Islami has also called on trad­ers and citizens to par­ticipate in Saturday’s strike in Karachi in pro­test against the escalat­ing inflation. 

In Lahore, the busi­ness activities re­mained suspended as main markets includ­ing Liberty Market, Ha­feez centre, MM Alam Road, Jail Road, Anarka­li bazaar, The Mall, Hall Road, Abid Market and other commercial cen­ters were seen closed throughout the day. The flow of the traffic also remained very thin on the city roads as there was less activity due to shutter down strike. The Punjab Bar Council also observed strike against in­flation. The lawyers’ communi­ty also responded to the protest call as they boycotted the court proceedings in protest against surging inflation in the country.

On the other hand on the call of Jamaat-e-Islami, there was a shutter down strike in many cit­ies across the province includ­ing Lahore. Important arteries of the province were blocked by the protestors causing traffic congestion on highways.

The strike call against high electricity bills and inflation from trader’s Union, Jamat Isla­mi and lawyers evoked a great response from the massed as the major markets and com­mercial centers remained closed in Lahore. According to reports, protests were also staged in Faisalabad against high electricity bills. Shops and markets remained closed in many cities of Punjab includ­ing Gujranwala, Multan, Jhang, Shakrgarh, Jahania, Sialkot, Faisalabad and Jhelum.

Amir Jamaat-e-Islami Sirajul Haq while addressing the pro­testors in Lahore demanded a relief package in electricity bills from the caretaker government.

Addressing the protestors on Mall Road in Lahore, Sir­ajul Haq said that the govern­ment should give relief on elec­tricity bills by midnight and the government does not give relief to the masses by the end of the deadline then he will give the next action plan to the people on Sunday in Mansoora.

Addressing the Caretak­er Prime Minister, Sirajul Haq mockingly asked the PM “is he the Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan or the IMF?” He said, “The prime minister said that the electricity bills have not increased enough to call for a strike. We do not believe that these rulers will have to with­draw the increase in electrici­ty prices.”

In Karachi, citizens protested against inflation in Shah Latif Town, blocking the flow of traf­fic on the National Highway. The lawyers of the district bar in Faisalabad announced a strike, too, with protests in the city re­corded by citizens at Canal Road and Digikot demanding abolish­ing taxes by burning tires and blocking the road for traffic.

Transgender people in Rawal­pindi surrounded the Islam­abad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) office, holding banners and placards, and demanding the government to immediate­ly roll back the hike in petrol and electricity prices. In Mandi Bahauddin, traders observed a shutter-down strike against an increase in electricity bills, and all small and major markets as well as commercial centers in the city remained closed.

The All Pakistan Traders Com­munity did a strike in Peshawar with most markets and centers shut. Food outlets and medical stores, however, remained open in the city. Traders in Arifwa­la announced a shutter-down with trade organisations sup­porting and announcing to keep shops and businesses closed across the city. In Chichawatni, the strike was also supported by lawyers due to which people showing up to attend hearings have remained affected too. Shops are also closed in Kaso­wal, Iqbal Nagar and Ghaziabad.

There was a complete strike in different cities across Sindh with all business centers and petrol pumps in Thatta, Gharo, Makli, Dhabeji and other cities shut down, while the traffic on the roads is less than normal.

Caretaker Sindh Chief Min­ister, retired Justice Maqbool Baqar, acknowledged the chal­lenges faced by the citizens and affirmed that staging a protest was a fundamental democratic right. In a statement, the chief minister noted that those par­ticipating in the protest should also be mindful of not caus­ing inconvenience to fellow cit­izens. He further pointed out that both the federal and pro­vincial governments were ac­tively working to alleviate the burden of the public.

Meanwhile, in the Malakand and Hazara divisions, traders and transporters called for a closure of markets and a freeze in transport in protest against the mounting electricity bills.

Throughout the morning, traders have closed their busi­nesses in multiple locations, including Shangla, Bisham, Alpuri, Puran, Swat, Mingo­ra, Khwazakhela, Barikot, Dir Timergara, Warai, as well as in Malakand, Butkhela, and Dar­gai. The strike has also affect­ed parts of Hazara division, Kohistan, Battagram, Manseh­ra, Abbottabad, Haripur, and other regions, where traders have shuttered their shops and transporters have parked their vehicles.

Shujat Ali, President of the Shangla trade union, lamented that their businesses had been continuously harmed by rulers in all eras. He expressed frus­tration over promises made to international organisations like the IMF, claiming that such commitments were now en­dangering the lives of impov­erished individuals who were driven to the brink of suicide.

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