A worker welds containers together at D-Chowk in Islamabad on Wednesday. Capital police officials look on. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
A worker welds containers together at D-Chowk in Islamabad on Wednesday. Capital police officials look on. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

Islamabad: On the eve of the arrival of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl’s Azadi March, Islamabad and Rawalpindi’s administrations and traffic police have planned extensive traffic diversions and routes that the marchers will take on the way to their venue in H-9.

Half of the capital appeared to have been sealed using shipping containers and barbed wire on Wednesday, deepening confusion among capital residents when they saw a number of the city’s main arteries partially closed.

The march is likely to enter the capital today (Thursday) evening, but the administration and police began sealing the city a day prior. They placed containers on various roads, including around the Red Zone and the Faizabad and Zero Point interchanges.

The police said: “Roads leading towards the Red Zone are blocked as a precaution to counter any moves by JUI-F’s Azadi March to reach sensitive areas.”

The roads so far have been partially sealed, with little space left open for traffic. Vehicle can move through the space one at a time, but the placement may cause congestion during routine traffic.

The Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) on Wednesday also issued a plan for participants of the march as well as the diversions in place for citizens.

The main gathering will be at the H-9 Metro Ground, and the parking area has been specified for the march participants.

Rallies coming from Peshawar via the motorway or the G.T. Road will come from Chungi No.26 via Kashmir Highway, and will park their vehicles on both sides of the Peshawar Mor and G-9 turn.

Rallies coming from Lahore via the G.T. Road will use the Islamabad Expressway, and those coming from Murree or Bhara Kahu will reach Faizabad via the Dhoke Kala Khan flyover and approach 9th Avenue Chowk, from where they will reach the venue. Their vehicles will be parked on the 9th Avenue Service Road (West).

The ITP has said there will be a traffic diversion from Chungi No.26 to Islamabad, and people coming to Islamabad from the motorway may take the Chungi No.26 flyover to Mehrabad Pirwadhai, I.J. Principal Road, Faizabad flyover, Murree Road, Expressway and Faisal Avenue.

There will also be a diversion on Kashmir Highway in G-11 towards Islamabad. Traffic will be diverted towards Mehrabad I.J. Principal Road at Haji Camp Chowk.

Those heading to the Peshawar motorway or Islamabad International Airport from G-9, G-10 and G-11 can use service road near their sectors and use Kashmir Highway through the G-11 traffic signal.

Those going to the Expressway, Bhara Kahu, Murree and Rawalpindi may use the route of Margalla Road, 9th Avenue, I.J. Principal Road or Faisal Avenue Chowk, Faizabad, the Expressway, Murree Road and I.J. Principal Road.

The traffic plan issued by Islamabad Traffic Police shows the route people can follow today.
The traffic plan issued by Islamabad Traffic Police shows the route people can follow today.

Those going to the motorway, Peshawar or the airport from Murree or Bhara Kahu will use Murree Road, Rawal Dam Chowk and I.J. Principal Road.

There will be a traffic diversion from Golra Sharif to Islamabad Chowk, and traffic coming from G-11 or Golra may use the G-11 service and Margalla roads.

Another diversion will be in place from Zero Point to the G-11 traffic signal on Kashmir Highway. Those going from G-5, G-6, G-7, G-8, F-6, F-7 and F-8 to Rawalpindi will use Faisal Avenue and Faizabad, Murree Road and I.J. Principal Road.

Those moving from G-9, G-10, G-11, F-8, F-10 and E-9 to Rawalpindi may use Margalla Road and 9th Avenue.

There will be a diversion on Faqir Aipee Road for people coming from Nescom Chowk in I-10 to Police Lines Chowk, and they can use the I-10 outer road (Bairuni Road) for 9th Avenue or I.J. Principal Road.

A diversion will also be set up from 7up Chowk towards Education Chowk on Bazaar Service Road. Residents of H-8/3, H-8/4 and I-9 may reach 7up Chowk from 9th Avenue or I.J. Principal Road.

ITP’s FM radio 92.4 will air special transmissions to keep citizens up to date on the traffic situation.

The police has also devised a plan for any untoward incident, and issued instructions to all superintendents of police, sub-divisional police officers and station house officers.

Instructions were also issued to the Counter-Terrorism Force to deal with such incidents. Directives were issued to set up a control room at the office of the senior superintendent of police (SSP), and the Safe City director was asked to monitor the situation through CCTV.

The SSP headquarters and Anti-Riot Unit superintendent of police have been made responsible for mobilising forces and vehicles for transportation.

Rawalpindi

Despite confusion regarding the route in place for the Azadi March, the Rawalpindi police have planned traffic diversions and security arrangements, including the deployment of 4,000 police and 360 Rangers, in the city.

There is a district control room set up to deal with any emergencies and coordinate with the relevant authorities, headed by the assistant commissioner (headquarters). Another control room has been set up at Parade Ground in Islamabad to monitor the march.

According to sources, negotiations between JUI-F leaders and provincial authorities were underway to decide what route rallies will take; the JUI-F has been insisting on Murree Road instead of the Expressway, but the latter do not want to grant permission for them to use Murree Road.

The situation has led to confusion for police planning final traffic diversions. Sources said the City Traffic Police (CTP) have planned traffic diversions for either decision.

If the rally takes the Expressway to Peshawar Mor, traffic from Murree Road will be diverted to Cricket Stadium Road towards 9th Avenue, and traffic from Marrir Chowk to Islamabad will be diverted to Commercial Market via Chandni Chowk and Saidpur Road.

If protesters gather at Liaquat Bagh, traffic from Kutchery Chowk and Saddar will be diverted back to Saddar and T.M. Chowk. If Kutchery Chowk is blocked by protesters, traffic from Lahore will be diverted to C.O.D. Chowk and Chungi No.22.

If there is a protest at Kural Chowk, traffic towards Islamabad will be diverted from Chohan Chowk to Rawal Road, and traffic from Charing Cross will be diverted towards Westridge Road.

If protesters block Soan Bridge, traffic moving from Rawalpindi towards Jhelum will be diverted to Kak Bridge. Traffic from Gujar Khan and Rawat will be diverted to Islamabad Expressway.

The police have planned various points where they will narrow passages for the march at various points of entry as part of their security strategy, which will likely cause traffic congestion and inconvenience the public.

Chief Traffic Officer Mohammad Bin Ashraf told Dawn he doesn’t expect any major problems in the flow of traffic in the city as the march is not supposed to pass through the city (via Murree Road). He said there will be congestion on the roads due to the procession in Islamabad and the sealing of roads in the capital.

He said the marchers are expected to enter Rawalpindi district Thursday night.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2019