LAHORE: Life went as per routine in the city on Wednesday, except on The Mall and its adjoining areas, despite much-trumpeted protest by the opposition parties against the PML-N government.
Offices, educational institutions and business places remained open in other parts of the city, while traffic on the roads was also running uninterrupted.
The markets lining The Mall remained shut throughout the day in anticipation of the “Dharna” (sit-in) led by combined opposition parties.
Most traders were of the view that the court had earlier banned the protest on The Mall but the law enforcement agencies were unable to stop the protesters.
They said protests caused them huge losses, demanding the government must facilitate them in keeping their businesses open during protests. Those using The Mall for their daily commutes to their workplaces were also annoyed.
A commuter, Arif, who had been stuck at a barricade for almost half an hour on the Davies Road ranted that the protesters had demonstrated no sense of responsibility towards their fellow citizens, who had to suffer immense trouble to get to work.
He said he had to cross more than six barricades to reach the Davies Road and was apprehending more on his way to the city canal.
“Workers of all political parties participating in the rally must also go through the same difficulties that other citizens had to face due to their protest so that they could realise their plight,” he added.
Meanwhile, all the schools, colleges and varsities around The Mall were closed for one day by the Punjab Higher Education Department (PHED) due to the protest.
The PHED had issued a notification in this regards two days ago. The Government College University, University of the Punjab (Old Campus) and National College of Arts, besides six public schools, remained close. All the private schools in the vicinity were also closed due to protest.
The traffic police had erected barricades on different spots on The Mall and its connecting arteries to divert the traffic to alternative routes due to the protest.
The police had blocked The Mall up to the Governor House by placing barricades, and were only allowing pedestrians to go to the venue.
The traffic police had also established several parking lots around The Mall, including in Nasir Bagh, Awain-i-Tijarat Road, Bagh-i-Jinnah and on Lawrence Road.
Through diversions at several points, the traffic coming from Canal Road was diverted to Davies Road or towards China Chowk, Jail Road and Shadman. PMG Chowk traffic was diverted towards Anarkali Chowk and Egerton Road’s traffic was diverted towards Lakshami Chowk.
The vehicles of the protesters parked along the main roads in the area also added to traffic congestion.
Security SP Ammara Ather said 6,000 policemen had been deputed for the security of the protest and all the roads leading to VVIP buildings were also closed.
She said additional force had also been deployed at entry and exit points of 27 “vulnerable” government buildings to stop the protestors if they tried to enter or damage them.
She said the situation on The Mall was also monitored through drones with surveillance cameras throughout the day.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2018