Commuters and residents of Rawalpindi had another day of suffering on Friday as public transport stayed off the roads and major arteries were put under virtual closure by the administration to stop the supporters of the banned Tahreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) from entering Faizabad.
The TLP marchers were moving at a snail’s pace from Lahore, the Rawalpindi district administration, under security arrangements, has put the city under virtual siege, adding to the miseries of the citizens and disrupting the routine life.
Owing to the closure of roads and the public transport and the suspension of the metro bus service, people had to face a lot of hardships to reach workplaces, educational institutions and hospitals.
It has been almost a week, the citizens of Rawalpindi have been made to suffer by restricting their movement through excessive security arrangements and lack of planning of the administration.
To prevent the entry of TLP workers into the red zone, strict security measures had been put in place in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, which has left the citizens in a state of uncertainty for a week now and the closure of roads at every major point is severely affecting the daily life routine.
Major roads and highways in the garrison city remained closed for the third day in a row while the metro bus service and the public transport also remained off the roads.
Murree Road from Flashman’s Hotel Chowk to Faizabad has been closed with containers and barricades, while citizens are forced to travel on motorcycles underneath the containers. Roads adjacent to Murree Road including Murrir Chowk, Liaquat Bagh Road, Iqbal Road, Committee Chowk, Chandni Chowk, Rehmanabad, Sixth Road, Shamsabad and Double Road have been cordoned off and the citizens have remained confined to their homes. Major markets and shopping malls along and near Murree Road are also completely closed, which has cost traders millions of rupees. The closure of educational institutions in most areas has also taken a toll on the children.
According to Muhammad Haroon, a resident of Iqbal Road, his son was due to get married but the wedding date now had to be changed due to the closure of roads. He said that the arrival of guests from remote areas was also not possible because the GT Road had completely been closed to traffic.
He lamented that he had booked a wedding hall and after the postponement of the wedding, the owner has deducted 30 per cent of the upfront money.
He said that caterers have also held the money paid in advance for the wedding dish.
Yasir Butt, a resident of Bohar Bazaar, said that Murree Road was the lifeline of Rawalpindi which has been closed for the last three days or so.
He lamented that goods transporters were not being allowed to enter the city and there was a chance of the shortage of essential commodities in the city.
Usman Ghani, who frequently travels by metro bus from Rawalpindi to Islamabad, said that there was a lot of uncertainty in the city. He had to travel from Rawalpindi to Islamabad daily for work but he could not afford to hire a cab to reach the office.
Usman said that it was incomprehensible that the TLP marchers were present in Kamuki, the Rawalpindi administration has laid siege to the city. He said that the administration lacks planning and it was a dilemma.
The continuous closure of roads and businesses have severely impacted daily wagers and the people belonging to the low-income groups, who have to make ends meet from the daily work and earnings.
Taxi driver Saeed Ahmed said that he was struggling to find passengers but the roads were blocked in the city and he has not been able to earn a single penny in the last one week and his family has been starving.
He said that the situation during the coronavirus lockdown was not as severe as it has now become. He said that the government should provide ration to the low income and labourers as an immediate relief during this lockdown.
On the other hand, officials of the Rawalpindi administration remained missing from the scene amidst a state of uncertainty, confusion and chaos. Rawalpindi Division Commissioner Syed Gulzar Hussain Shah and Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Ali could not be reached on the mobile phone to take their version on the issue but they could not be reached despite several attempts.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2021.