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Pakistanis roam streets after midnight to escape heat

Pakistanis are plunged into darkness almost every night when power loadshedding occurs

Publication Date : 28-06-2013


Pakistanis live in darkness when power loadshedding occurs at night. With no alternative power sources, some go outdoors to escape the sweltering heat


Nine-month-old Huzaifa would not believe he was born in the 21st century when his mother Latifa would tell him of the times she had roamed the streets after midnight, searching for a cool area to escape the sweltering summer heat.

When power loadshedding occurs, the narrow streets of Rawalpindi, northern Punjab, echo with the cries of infants, which forces people to come out of their residence to nearby streets in an attempt to beat the humidity.

In downtown Dhoke Kashmirian, a congested residential area, every night is a sleepless night for the residents as electricity is unavailable for two hours (midnight to 2am).

The severe heat pushes people out of their houses, and most women carry their babies out too in an attempt to soothe them.

“Inside the house, one cannot sit for five minutes when there is no light. Huzaifa starts crying due to the heat and noise of nearby generators, so I take him outside for fresh air,” Latifa, 42, said.

“When he will grow up, I will tell him stories of how I took him outside and the pains I took for him in these sleepless nights. I have saved some money for buying an Uninterruptible Power Supply system (UPS) for my child,” the mother, who works in a beauty salon, said.

However, not all residents are fortunate to have alternative arrangements for electricity such as UPS and generators, and have to bear the brunt of loadshedding. For them, the only alternative is to leave their house.

Usually, the streets would become deserted by 11.30pm, and people would go to their homes, but this summer, the streets of Rawalpindi and Islamabad seem awake till late night, all thanks to the chronic shortfall in electricity.

A visit to the inner city of Rawalpindi, represented by Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, reveals vendors providing their services by fanning people in return for money.

“I take 10 Pakistani rupees (US$0.10) for refreshing a person for 20 minutes,” one vendor told this reporter when asked why he was holding a decorated traditional hand-held fan.

“People in Raja Bazaar sit till late night due to loadshedding, and this is a source of income for me,” he said.

On the road outside Sheikh Rashid’s grand Lal Haveli, labourers sleep on the footpath without a fan.

They would unload goods from trucks early in the morning in Raja Bazaar to earn money.

Similarly, residents of the I.J. Principal Road, running between Rawalpindi and Islamabad, prefer to gossip till 2am in order to wait for the electricity before returning home. They sleep till 6am, when the light again disappears.

“Whether the country is ruled by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) or Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), we have to spend sleepless nights and hot days.

"So far the rulers have not solved any problem by getting rid of the power cuts. We don’t need anything from the government except uninterrupted power supply,” Ghafoor Bangash, a resident, said.

“We know the country faces a shortfall of electricity, but the loadshedding timings are horrendous.

"There is no logic in cutting power till 2am and again at 6am. It does not matter if there is no light in the morning and evening, but at least restore power at night,” Rizwan Sanni, a local shopkeeper, said.


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