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Pakistani power workers beaten as Karachi boils

Written by: Staff
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KARACHI, June 29 (Reuters) Provincial authorities in Karachi have called on the Pakistan government to help end a prolonged power supply crisis that has sparked violent protests and attacks on electricity company workers.

The government for southern Sindh province wants Islamabad to order state-owned power utility WAPDA (Water and Power Development Authority) to divert more electricity to Karachi -- Pakistan's largest city and commercial hub.

''WAPDA can give more electricity to us to tackle this crisis urgently,'' Madad Ali, a spokesman for Sindh's chief minister, said today.

The recently privatised Karachi Electric Supply Co -- the sole electricity distributor in a city of 15 million people -- has called for police protection for its workers after more than a dozen attacks on service centres in the past week.

''A number of our workers were injured by emotional crowds,'' said Sultan Hasan, a spokesman of KESC. ''We have asked for police protection to carry out unhindered repair and distribution work.'' Summer temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) and demand from air conditioners and cooling systems has sent electricity demand soaring.

''Karachi's requirement is between 2,300 and 2,400 MW but we only have 2,100 MW of supplies,'' Hasan said.

''The situation would improve next year as KESC planned to increase its capacity by 500 MW later this year.'' Opposition lawmakers have seized on the issue and threatened large-scale demonstrations.

''The government privatised the KESC to improve the power distribution system. But it has only got worse,'' Liaquat Baloch, the secretary-general of the hardline Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal told Reuters.

In a bid to conserve electricity, the provincial government has ordered markets and shopkeepers to close by early evening.

''Why do we have these frequent breakdowns only in summer when you need a fan or aircon to manage?'' said businessman Ahmed Anwar, standing outside his apartment block because it was too hot inside.

''How can they expect us to go without power in this weather? Our children can't sleep at night.'' REUTERS CH RAI1839

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