Traders’ associations and general public and on Friday initiated large-scale protests against soaring electricity bills and heavy taxes, with major demonstrations being held in Karachi as well as other parts of the country, a private TV channel reported. The protest in Karachi, which was also supported by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), demanded a reduction in the ever-increasing electricity prices and additional taxes imposed through power bills. Speaking on the occasion, trade leaders and representatives of Jamaat-e-Islami expressed their concerns. “We reject the excessive charges being collected by K-Electric in our electricity bills,” stated a trade leader, saying that JI always takes a stand on the problems of the masses. “We are witnessing a situation where people are forced to starve and struggling to make ends meet while KE is sending electricity bills amounting to thousands and even in lacs,” he added. Addressing the protesters, JI’s Karachi Amir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, warned that if the government continues to burden the public, the situation could further deteriorate. “Our struggle is against the white-collar mafia in KE,” he affirmed, underscoring the commitment to represent the people’s interests. He said that when KE was being privatised, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) were in power. “We were told that electricity would become cheap but the opposite happened,” he added. Naeem said that people would rise and agitation would further rise if the government continued to protect the KE’s injustices. “If even a single trader is arrested, we will fill the jails. The government should realise that when traders take to the streets, it signifies the onset of an economic crisis,” cautioned Atiq Mir, Chairman of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad. He said that a movement has started in Karachi, urging everyone to join it. He further said that currently, no other political party was taking a stand with them apart from JI. In Rawalpindi, a demonstration took place against additional electricity charges, with citizens chanting slogans against Islamabad Electric Supply Company. Similar protests erupted in Azad Jammu Kashmir, where traders set electricity bills on fire and raised slogans against the government and administration. Moreover, protests were also staged in Lahore, Attock, Peshawar, Quetta, Taunsa, Hyderabad, Nawabshah, Rahim Yar Khan and Multan against the inflated electricity bills. A large number of people participated in the demonstrations. Meanwhile, the traders have decided to file a First Information Report (FIR) against CEO of K-Electric, Moonis Alvi. Trader leader Sharjeel Goplani remarked, “The incident that occurred yesterday, its responsibility lies with KE. For a year and a half, we have knocked on every door. Yesterday, a group of 50 KE personnel barged into the market and engaged in misbehaviour. We have always paid our bills on time.” Goplani highlighted that Timber Market alone generates revenue of $170 million annually and four timber markets are registered with the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR). “Is KE working for RAW? Threats are being directed towards me. We are going to file an FIR against K-Electric and Moonis Alvi at Napier police station. If the police do not register our FIR, we will file it under section 22-A.” The escalating situation has also led to concerns over the safety of the employees of power companies who have called for heightened security measures. The authorities have deployed over 500 police personnel to address potential public unrest in Rawalpindi. In the wake of growing public protests against soaring electricity bills, IESCO authorities have taken steps to secure their offices and installations. The Superintendent Engineer of Rawalpindi sent a communiqué to the Central Police Officer (CPO) Rawalpindi, seeking additional security measures. It stated that groups of consumers are visiting IESCO offices in an agitated manner. Amidst this scenario, consumers are storming IESCO offices and staging protests against electricity issues, putting the safety of IESCO employees at risk during their duty hours. Responding to IESCO’s request, Rawalpindi police have deployed over 500 personnel to provide security for electricity offices. A police spokesperson stated that 520 police officers and personnel have been assigned for the security of IESCO and WAPDA employees. He further said that the authorities are monitoring the law and order situation and police officials have been alerted.