- High energy and fuel bills are making a lot of people upset.
- Many people, including businesses, are backing a strike proposed by a group called JI.
- PM Kakar says consumers have to pay their bills, with no other option.
On Saturday, a wave of discontent swept across the nation as citizens and shopkeepers joined hands to protest against the steep rise in electricity bills and surging fuel prices. These demonstrations have taken center stage in the lead-up to the national elections, reflecting the growing frustration among the populace.
Rising Electricity Bills and Inflation Woes
The recent spike in electricity bills has added to the woes of consumers and traders already grappling with the burden of skyrocketing inflation. Families and businesses have been struggling to make ends meet as the cost of living continues to soar.
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar, however, has made it clear that immediate relief is not on the horizon. He emphasized that consumers have no option but to pay their bills as the interim government engages in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding this pressing issue. “The electricity bills must be paid, and IMF conditions will be adhered to,” Kakar stated firmly.
In a show of unity, the public and traders have rallied behind the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) in their call for a nationwide strike. This strike has seen both small and large commercial establishments closing their doors in cities such as Karachi, Peshawar, Sargodha, and Sheikhupura. The Punjab Bar Council has also thrown its weight behind the cause, with lawyers abstaining from court proceedings.
Protests and Disruptions
In Karachi, citizens expressed their frustration by protesting against inflation in Shah Latif Town, causing traffic disruptions along the National Highway. In Sargodha, traders found themselves divided on the JI’s call for a shutter-down strike. While President Anjuman-e-Tajiran Sheikh Nadeem Khawar pledged his support for the strike, its general secretary expressed reservations, promising support if announced by Anjuman-e-Tajiran itself.
Faisalabad witnessed lawyers from the district bar announcing a strike, leading to protests by citizens at Canal Road and Digikot. They demanded the abolition of taxes, symbolically burning tires and blocking traffic in their quest for relief. Transgenders in Rawalpindi gathered at the Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) office, demanding an immediate rollback of petrol and electricity price hikes.
Read more: Electricity Prices Surge by Rs5.40 per Unit
Traders in Mandi Bahauddin participated in a shutter-down strike against the surge in electricity bills, leaving small and major markets as well as commercial centers deserted. The All Pakistan Traders Community organized a strike in Peshawar, with most markets and centers shuttered. Food outlets and medical stores, however, remained open to cater to essential needs.
Arifwala also experienced a shutter-down strike led by traders, garnering support from various trade organizations. In Chichawatni, lawyers joined the strike, affecting individuals attempting to attend court hearings. Similar scenes unfolded in Kasowal, Iqbal Nagar, and Ghaziabad.
In Sindh, a complete strike paralyzed different cities, causing business centers and petrol pumps to close their doors in Thatta, Gharo, Makli, Dhabeji, and others. Road traffic has been noticeably lighter than usual, underscoring the extent of the public’s participation in the strike.
As the nation grapples with the economic challenges posed by soaring electricity bills and inflation, the collective voice of the public and traders grows louder. With nationwide strikes and protests gaining momentum, the government faces mounting pressure to address these pressing concerns. As the country approaches the national elections, the outcomes of these demonstrations will likely play a significant role in shaping the political landscape.