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Pakistan lawmakers rally against energy crisis

Last Updated: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 22:45

Islamabad: Pakistani opposition lawmakers and
activists staged a sit-in outside the president`s house on Friday
in protest at perceived government inaction over the nation`s
crippling energy crisis.

Opposition leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan led a march
from parliament to the presidency of some 150 lawmakers and
activists from Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and other
opposition groups, a reporter at the scene said.

The protesting MPs staged a sit-in at the main gate of
the President Asif Ali Zardari`s carrying placards demanding
his resignation.

The nuclear-armed Muslim nation, with a population of 167
million, produces only 80 per cent of its electricity needs,
starving industry that has slumped in the face of recession
and over three years of Taliban-linked bombings.

The severe energy crisis has triggered rolling power cuts
of between six to 10 hours in urban and rural Pakistan.
Shouting slogans "no to corruption" and "no to Zardari
government" the lawmakers condemned the routine electricity
load-shedding or power cuts.

"We have come here because of the growing public hue and
cry over load- shedding" said Khan, who is a senior member of
PML(N).

He added that the government has failed to tackle the
crisis with President Zardari silently watching the situation
instead of ordering swift remedial measures.

Pakistan plans to produce 8,000 megawatts of electricity
by 2025 to address energy shortfalls which trigger violent
protests each summer.

The government is under huge pressure from the opposition
to implement a raft of reforms, in order to head off any
possible threat of a call for early elections from opposition
leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

All major markets in Lahore were open till noon, when
activists of religious parties carrying batons and sticks
forced traders to shut their shops.

They also warned transporters to keep their vehicles off
the road.

"I closed my shop when there was word in the market that
the maulvis (clerics) were coming," furniture trader Rana
Qasim said.

He said the issue was so sensitive that nobody dared to
oppose the clerics.

Rallies were also held in several cities, including
Karachi, Quetta, Multan and Rawalpindi, and protesters blocked
key roads by burning tires.

During sermons at Friday prayers, clerics and hardline
leaders like Hafiz Saeed glorified the act of Qadri and
criticised the judge who gave him the death sentence.
They demanded the removal of the judge, saying he had
gone against Islamic laws.

They claimed the verdict was aimed at pleasing the US at
the cost of creating unrest among Muslims.

The clerics justified the killing of Taseer, saying he
was liable to be killed after supporting a Christian woman
accused of blasphemy and for criticising the blasphemy law.

PTI



First Published: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 22:45

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