Anger and frustration spilled onto the streets of Battagram as residents took a stand against the crackdown on illegal electricity connections and defaulters. Gathering near the Khatm-i-Nabuwat Chowk, protesters blocked a section of the Karakoram Highway in a demonstration that echoed the nationwide outcry against rising electricity bills and theft.
Last week, the interim government announced its intention to clamp down on electricity theft, citing massive financial losses and burdened consumers. This decision came amidst public discontent over inflated electricity bills in August.
Battagram, particularly the areas of Ajmera and Chappargram, witnessed protests against local administration officials. Demonstrators voiced their rejection of the tactics employed by Battagram’s Deputy Commissioner Tanveerur Rehman and the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA).
Protesters demanded the immediate transfer of the Deputy Commissioner, accusing him of incompetence and biased decision-making. They also called for the restoration of electricity and voiced their grievances about disconnections affecting even those who regularly paid their bills and had legal connections.
Chappargram Village Council Chairman Shaukat Hayat denounced the abrupt suspension of electricity supply and called for a more capable district leader. He warned that if their demands went unanswered, protesters would target the Allai Khwar Hydropower Project transmission line.
Social and political activist Iqbal Ulasyar criticized the Deputy Commissioner, alleging favoritism toward a contractor from his native village, which hindered a vital micro hydel power project’s operation.
Khalid Khan Ajmera, affiliated with the Jamaat-i-Islami, claimed that over 20,000 residents saw their electricity connections severed, including regular bill payers.
Advocate Iqbal Khan accused local and Wapda officials of violating privacy norms during crackdowns, asserting that officials entered homes against Pakhtun customs and norms.
Despite multiple attempts to contact Deputy Commissioner Tanveerur Rehman for a response, there has been no comment from his office.
Residents’ frustrations have been mounting for some time, with complaints dating back to the aftermath of the 2005 earthquake. They argue that despite promises of waived electricity charges, inflated bills persist, prompting this vocal demonstration of discontent. If these grievances remain unaddressed, residents have warned they may escalate their protests further, potentially targeting government offices in Islamabad.