ISLAMABAD, Jan 18: The “revolution” is over, its proponents have left but the filth they left behind was a great equaliser.
The mess on Jinnah Avenue ensured that there was one road in Islamabad that was now as dirty as the rest of Pakistan. A civic agency worker said that “We have never seen such litter in our lives.”
“We removed over 100 tons of garbage,” the spokesman for the civic agency told Dawn. A small crowd of CDA workers were busy removing the waste left on the avenue over four days. By 11am, they were visible everywhere, sweeping, picking up litter and tending to the poor trampled greenbelts.
Three men cleaned up and hoed a cluster of cactus. “They even broke these,” one of them said as he removed the crushed plant from the soil. There were little signs of the enthusiasm and the euphoria that was witnessed on Thursday night as people danced to celebrate the accord signing.
Plastic bags of food, empty candy wrapped, cigarette and fruit juice cartons covered the road and the grass. The bags which had split open were providing a rice feast for the crows that were busy eating, impervious to the people passing by.
Young Pukhtoon boys picked through the littler as well, unaware that their poverty had led to the four-day dharna and serious negotiations for their future welfare. Small trucks full of the waste drove away as cranes lifted the containers blocking Embassy Road from Jinnah Avenue.
Shops – some of them – had put up their shutter, as the roads welcomed back their regular inhabitants. Shopkeepers, tradesmen and other who had stayed away for days were back, gazing indifferently at the operation clean up.
Men were everywhere. Now that the middle class women eager for a change had left, Pakistani had reclaimed public space. No women were visible except for a television journalist and the few young women who had turned up with other youngsters to help clean up.
A few groups of young students were helping clean up. Some of them wore ISF headbands while the other group walked on to the Avenue from Embassy Road, holding a banner announcing their intentions to clean up Islamabad.
Both the groups were surrounded by television cameras and journalists, still hungry for the latest story of the morning after.
In fact, the media was perhaps the only sign of a ‘change’ in society visible on the road – even those who come to clean up afterwards are ready to provide a sound bite and a visual shot.
“I want to see a clean Islamabad,” maintained Abdul Ahad, a student of 10th grade, adding that “all of my friends decided to pick up the garbage once the marchers left.
For Faryal Raza, a civil society activist, the road looked like a dumping site.
“Litter is everywhere and an offal site around the corner was stinking,” Ms Raza, 23, told Dawn. CDA worked quickly. By evening they had cleaned the place up.
“There was massive garbage around my shop and thanks to the authority’s quick action, the garbage was removed from the site,” maintained Raja Tahir Abbasi, a shop owner at Blue Area.
The spokesman maintained: “We are assessing the cost to the environment, especially the grass planted in the greenbelt, the plants and the grills along the Jinnah Avenue.”
The CDA officials took more than six hours to remove the garbage from the avenue. The verandas of a number of plazas along the boulevard were stinking because of the leftover.
“At the entrance of my bank, the CDA is using a tractor to remove the garbage which is in tons,” said Zeeshan Chaudhry, the operation manager of a multinational bank. “Nothing was damaged at our bank but a few flowerpots were broken. We have to carry out a cleanliness operation in the veranda of the building since it is stinking with the smell of rotten food,” he added.