WHILE there were protests in a number of cities all over the country against power outages on Tuesday, in Punjab they took a violent turn, which is highly perturbing. The widespread resentment against loadshedding is quite understandable but the direction it is gradually taking is ominous. Among the targets of the mobs were WAPDA offices and railway trains. Trains were stopped at a number of stations and subjected to brick batting resulting in the death of a rickshaw driver in Faisalabad. In Jhang protestors torched three bogies at the railway station. At a number of places, WAPDA records were put on fire. The traders who have suffered losses due to outages also joined the protests. There was however a lack of unanimity in the business community, which remained divided on political lines. Consequently the call for markets shutdown led to complete or partial closures in central and northern districts while it had lesser impact in southern districts of the province. In Lahore most markets brought down shutters while a few remained only partially closed. At places attempts to force dissenting traders to close business met with resistance. Prime Minister Gilani is right when he observes that setting up of power plants takes time. What the government has however failed to do is to take measures to provide a modicum of immediate relief. This could have been done by setting up coal-based projects for the production of electricity and through measures like rationalising the prices of furnace oil, which is used in power production. Similarly, there is a need to evolve a consensus on Kalabagh dam and hasten the completion of undisputed reservoirs. While one welcomes the move to set up a cabinet committee to formulate short and long term strategies to overcome the crisis, the government must not deprive itself of inputs from the opposition parties. Instead it should take recourse to a bipartisan approach by taking the opposition on board. The power issue is too volatile to be used to settle political scores. While no political party issued the call for protests, there are media reports about the activists of some of the smaller opposition parties being in the forefront. The crisis has been caused in the main by the neglect of the Musharraf era. Using it as a lever to overthrow the federal government is likely to generate chaos, as there is no immediate solution to the problem. There is a need on the part of all provincial governments, particularly the coalition in Punjab where violence is on the rise, to stop the handful of irresponsible elements, who are trying to introduce the element of violence into peaceful protests.