PoK residents intensify protest against load shedding, inflated electricity bills


Muzaffarabad [PoK], January 9: People in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) have intensified protests as they have been facing load shedding of around 18 to 20 hours in the intense winter season.
Despite frequent load shedding, the local residents have to pay inflated electricity bills, which has added fuel to their anger.
Amid intensified protests against load shedding, a large number of people in the area have called for a boycott of bill payments until their grievances are addressed.
A local protester Syed Hafiz Hamdani said, “Today is the 43rd day of our protest. Our protests continue in different parts of PoK. There is complete load shedding in Muzaffarabad now. The government has resorted to cheap tactics.”
He added, “All the areas are facing 13 to 14 hours of load shedding with the rural areas having load shedding of around 20 hours. People have boycotted electricity bills. There is a tariff issue, people are not accepting this tariff.”
Last year in December, a complete shutter-down strike was observed and the locals called on the government to act quickly to stop load shedding.
Earlier in September, civil society activists were seen throwing thousands of electricity bills into a river in Muzaffarabad.
People’s cries, however, have failed to fall on the deaf ears of the government.
People of all ages and economic classes have been affected by the electricity crisis. Power outages during school hours disrupt the regular functioning of schools in PoK and students find it very difficult to do academic work.
Uncertainty about power availability and the pressure to perform better in schools are increasing the stress levels of young students.
Given this grave situation, the local government is adopting new tactics to end people’s protests.
In an attempt to put an end to protests by traders, the administration in Muzaffarabad has started an income tax survey.
The President of Anjuman Tajran, Shaukat Javed Mir, said, “I want to tell the Prime Minister (of PoK) that the survey you initiated suddenly was never conducted in the last 76 years. Suddenly, you realised this at a moment when traders are playing their important role in protests. When you noticed that the traders had gathered and there was a boycott of electricity bills, and people had come out for their rights, you suddenly started this survey”.
He added, “You are threatening the traders that if they don’t stop participating in the protest, then they have to pay tax. We have never denied paying taxes. We simply disagreed with your methods”.
The local residents in PoK claim that only the large government offices have access to amenities like heaters and generators.
They assert that the majority of the time, the bills for these facilities go unpaid.
Urging the government to discontinue the practice of VVIP culture, local residents in the region are insisting that their basic rights come first.
The residents of the area that produces a large amount of electricity are experiencing unwarranted financial hardship as a result of the spike in bills.
They are struggling for their rights ever since Pakistan’s illegitimate occupation began in the region.
They have been subjected to unfair treatment by Islamabad’s successive governments.


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