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Hikers grounded due to anti-govt protests

Updated September 08, 2014

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A view of the Trail 5 on Margalla Road in Islamabad. — Photo by Irfan Haider
A view of the Trail 5 on Margalla Road in Islamabad. — Photo by Irfan Haider

ISLAMABAD: Michael Edward is bound to stay at home after 5 pm for the last three weeks. The 39-year-old is a resident of Sector F-6 and is working with an international non-governmental organisation (INGO) in Islamabad for two years.

“I used to go for hiking on daily basis after returning from my office, but I am unable to visit Trail 5 due to the security concerns while the PTI and the PAT sit-in continue in the Red Zone,” he said.

He said that he tried to go to Trail 5, but the police personnel performing their duties on Margalla Road told him that he should stay at home due to the security situation in the Red Zone.

“It is unfortunate that the government is unable to deal with the leaders of the political parties that are protesting against the government, keeping the women and children in difficult circumstances under the open sky,” Edward added. He said that it was difficult to stay in F-6 sector on August 30, due to the teargas shelling on the protesters.

“I am feeling uncomfortable since a few days; my routine has been disturbed due to the sit-in. It will be difficult for me to restart hiking after such a long break,” the expat added.

Similarly, Aaeema Syed, 21, a resident of Sector G-10, likes to go for hiking with her friends every weekend.

“I reached Margalla Road, along with my friends, to go for hiking as usual, 20 days ago, but the police personnel refused to allow us to go ahead due to the security issues in the Red Zone and the adjoining Margalla Hills,” she said.

“Although, I now walk in a nearby park, but it had become a routine for me to go on weekly hiking trips,” Aaeema claimed, adding, “It is quite irritating for me and my friends to stay at home.”

Another resident of Sector E-7, Shahnawaz Malik, said that he used to go for hiking, at least three days a week, but it seems that he will be unable to go for the hiking until the end of the sit-ins in the Red Zone.

He said that he feels very comfortable and healthy after hiking on Margalla Hills, adding that it helps him sleep well after the exhausting exercise.

Mir Daad, 35, a shopkeeper on Trail 5, said that hundreds of people like to use Trails 3 and 5 for hiking. But because of the sit-in in the Red Zone, the number of the hikers and visitors has reduced drastically during the last three weeks.

He said that the local and foreigners like to come for hiking. The numbers used to inflate during the afternoons on daily basis, especially on the weekends.

The shopkeeper said that he also likes to for the hiking, once a week.Aslam Khan, a policeman who is performing his duty on a check post at Margalla Road, told Dawn that it is the responsibility of the police to inform the hikers to avoid hiking trails due to the ongoing security situation of the Red Zone.

He said that that the interior ministry had already informed the administrations of INGOs, embassies and the foreigners to steer clear of the area, in order to avoid any mishap in light of the situation within the Red Zone.

Medical Specialist at Polyclinic Dr Sharif Astori told Dawn that hiking is an excellent way to go outdoors and get some exercise. Hiking offers a multitude of overall health benefits, he said, adding that this activity can help prolong the life span.

He said that regular exercise, such as hiking, reduces the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure and strokes. “Regular hiking also helps control, or even prevent, diabetes by lowering your blood sugar levels,” he added.

The doctor said that the hike through the beautiful wooded area of Margalla Hills can calm the nerves and lift spirits of the hikers, while a scenic hike can also help relieve stress and forget worries for a while.

The medical specialist said that if anyone has trouble sleeping, he or she should hike regularly to reduce insomnia, get to sleep faster and enjoy a more refreshing sleep.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2014