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APTMA threatens to stage protest against power, gas outages

All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) and the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) have strongly protested suspension of electricity in Punjab with the APTMA threatens to take workers to streets if power situation is not restored within a week, according to a statement on Saturday.

Addressing a press conference after an emergent general body meeting of APTMA, Shahzad Ali Khan, chairman of APTMA Punjab Chapter, said that he was shocked by the abrupt and threatening power shut down by the Lahore Electric Supply Company on Friday that continued today, as well.

The Lahore region was already facing gas suspension for three days and the power cut brought the entire industrial sector to a halt.

“We tolerated six hours power outages in Punjab since May because there is genuine power shortage as against the supply of 15,000MW the demand was over 17,000MW,” he said, adding that with dependable power production capacity of 14,000MW, Pakistan Electric Power Company (PEPCO) is producing only 11,000MW.

“This is not tolerable,” he said, and threatened to take extreme measures if power supply is not restored within a week.

Khan said till now the industry has retained the workforce, despite closures due to electricity outages. “We are not in a position to continue paying our workers, while our industries remain closed,” he said, and warned that it would be nightmare for the federal government if 1.5 million workers agitated on the streets.

“The situation would be worse than what the government is facing in Karachi,” he said, adding that the textile workers in the age group of 18-25 years and drawing Rs9,000 per month would go out of control if they are deprived of even this meager income. The APTMA central chairman wondered as to why the Punjab industries are being targeted.

Gohar Ejaz, group leader of APTMA, said that the power crisis is due to the incompetence of the ministry of water and power. “There is gas shortage, as well in Punjab but Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) has taken the industry into confidence and provided gas in the best possible way, keeping the interests of all consumers in mind,” he added.

Farooq Iftikhar, president of the LCCI, feared a surge in unemployment graph and crime rate in case of complete closure of steel mills that employ millions of workers.

The business community is foreseeing some betterment in the electricity supply after the assurance of the secretary water and power during her visit to Lahore a few days back but unfortunately the electricity situation has further aggravated. No schedule of restoration of power has been spelled out by Lesco, he said.

Iftikhar said that at a time when furnaces and re-rolling mills have already laid off workers and are operating with the skeleton staff because of non-supply of gas, the sudden suspension of electricity has sent a wave of shock to the workers and owners alike.

“How would the government be able to control crimes when a large number of people would be without jobs due to thoughtless decisions,” he wondered.

He said that it would have been wiser on the part of the government, if it had devised some foolproof strategy to stop power and gas pilferages that is one of the major causes of the shortage of these utilities.

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