The public took to the streets while thousands of traders in different parts of the country shuttered their shops on Saturday to register protests against soaring energy and fuel bills. Last month, the power regulator raised the national average tariff by around Rs5 per unit, pushing the base unit power tariff from Rs24.82 to Rs29.78. On Aug 22, the government once again sought to raise the power rate by Rs3.55 per unit. Earlier this week, Jamaat-i-Islami also called on traders and citizens to participate in Saturday’s strike in Karachi in protest against the escalating inflation. JI spokesperson Zahid Askari said that the strike was being conducted “peacefully” today. He mentioned that transporters had voluntarily suspended their operations. Askari also claimed that none of the party workers were resorting to violence in any part of the city to force the closure of businesses, adding that transport on the roads was also thin in response to the strike call. Likewise, Atiq Mir, the chairman of All Karachi Tajir Ittehad (AKTI), stated that the organisation had issued a call for a two-day shutter-down strike to protest against the inflated electricity bills and the overall surge in inflation. “We also conveyed to the shopkeepers that participation in the strike was voluntary, recognising the financial challenges faced by all of us during these trying times,” he said. Mir disclosed that markets were currently closed, and the full extent of the strike’s impact would become evident in the afternoon, which is when businesses typically reopen in accordance with the city’s cultural norms. Caretaker Sindh Chief Minister, retired Justice Maqbool Baqar, acknowledged the challenges faced by the citizens and affirmed that staging a protest was a fundamental democratic right. In a statement, the chief minister noted that those participating in the protest should also be mindful of not causing inconvenience to fellow citizens. He further pointed out that both the federal and provincial governments were actively working to alleviate the burden of the public. “The authorities should also take proactive measures to maintain a peaceful atmosphere during the protest,” stated the provincial chief executive. In a separate statement, Karachi’s Deputy Mayor, Salman Abdullah Murad, affirmed that the right to protest is a fundamental aspect of democracy. However, he highlighted that any act resulting in harm to public property during such protests would not be tolerated. He issued a stern warning, stating, “Law enforcement agencies will take decisive action against those who engage in anarchic behavior.” Furthermore, the deputy mayor called upon the police to prioritise the safety of both the public and their property. Meanwhile, in the Malakand and Hazara divisions, traders and transporters called for a closure of markets and a freeze in transport in protest against the mounting electricity bills. Throughout the morning, traders have closed their businesses in multiple locations, including Shangla, Bisham, Alpuri, Puran, Swat, Mingora, Khwazakhela, Barikot, Dir Timergara, Warai, as well as in Malakand, Butkhela, and Dargai. The strike has also affected parts of Hazara division, Kohistan, Battagram, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Haripur, and other regions, where traders have shuttered their shops and transporters have parked their vehicles. Despite business closures in various parts of KP, the response in Peshawar appeared to be mixed. While some shops remained closed, others chose to keep their businesses open. According to the visuals shared by the JI on its account on X (formerly Twitter), traders in various cities of Punjab also observed a shutter-down strike.