Inflated bills: Nation braces for shutter down.

LAHORE/KARACHI -- With a staggering rise in petroleum products serving as the last nail in the coffin, the boiling frustration over inflated power bills and soaring living costs will explode into a countrywide strike on Saturday (today) with Jamaat-e-Islami, traders and lawyers declaring their protest against the financial burdens.

Protests against high electricity bills have grown after the caretaker government refused to slash energy prices without a nod from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

A massive increase in the price of electricity triggered protests across major cities last week, with people burning utility bills, blocking highways and attacking power companies' offices.

Read PM Kakar's stern message: pay the bills unfailingly

Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has promised relief, but on Tuesday, his cabinet had said slashing the bills would jeopardise a massive IMF loan.

The global lender had put Pakistan under tough conditions to end energy subsidies and meet revenue targets for a $3bn loan in July aimed at reviving the nuclear-armed nation's crumbling economy.

The government's inaction prompted more people to join rallies and protests all over the country, including in Islamabad.

JI chief Sirajul Haq made the announcement of the nationwide strike during a news conference in Lahore on Friday as a means to protest against the oppressive electricity bills. The party demanded the government to revoke its "draconian" decisions.

Secretary General Amirul Azeem bemoaned that the people of Pakistan were not free, but rather slaves to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Urging citizens to participate in the strike and not relent until their demands are met, Azeem lamented the lack of transparency surrounding the agreements with independent power producers (IPPs) and demanded their scrutiny in parliament. He stressed the need for the termination of these agreements altogether.

Read also Nationwide protests erupt against inflated electricity bills

With anger reaching breaking point, with preparations underway for the shutdown, residents and businesses in Lahore are bracing themselves for a day of disruption.

Meanwhile, in Karachi, JI Sindh and Karachi chiefs Muhammad Hussain Mehnati and Hafiz Naeemur Rehman warned the caretaker government of Karachi not to take unconstitutional measures to impede their protest.

They said the government would be solely responsible for any resulting consequences if it tried to block the...

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