ISLAMABAD: Since the Azadi March took over its allotted protest site in H-9, residents and visitors to the area and around Kashmir Highway have been forced to deal with chaotic traffic, shipping containers, the deployment of law enforcement personnel and various other issues.
Although this area typically saw a lot of traffic from Islamabad and Rawalpindi residents shopping at the weekly market or visiting nearby government institutions, their day-to-day movement has been restricted because of protesters who have been camped out in the area for more than a week.
The metro bus depot there has also been closed, and the service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad has been suspended indefinitely. Students have had difficulty reaching their institutions, while government offices such as the Federal Directorate of Education, Excise and Taxation Office, Higher Education Commission and others have seen low attendance and few visitors.
People living near protest site face host of problems, including restricted movement and insecurity
Some universities, including the National University of Modern Languages, have even altered their mid-semester examination plans because of tensions in the area.
Meanwhile, residents of G-9, Peshawar Mor and Saryia Chowk have faced a host of problems as well.
They have demanded the government resolve the issue, saying that they have been confined to their homes and the movement of women and children in particular has been restricted.
Residents in the area said they felt insecure because of an expected clash between the government and protesters, and are now also facing several problems caused by the presence of a large number of people in the area.
Some even said they were thinking of moving elsewhere, or moving in with relatives who live in neighbouring Rawalpindi. They said that the area used to feel safe, but since the arrival of the Azadi March, people have been roam the streets and public parks and taking shelter in markets at night.
“When the Azadi March arrived, we feared that there would be clash between police and the participants in the streets so we kept our doors closed for two to three days so nobody would enter the house,” G-9/4 resident Mohammad Tanveer said.
He said that women were avoiding going to the market, adding that his wife, who works at a college, had avoided going to work for a week because of the uncertainty.
Mohammad Azmat, who lives in G-9/1, said there was a foul smell coming from the protest site that had entered his home on the main road after it rained.
He said that when he picked up his children from school in F-7 on Thursday he did not get home until 4pm because of the traffic, explaining that traffic has been chaotic because of the movement of Azadi March participants and the media on Kashmir Highway.
Bilal Ahmed, who also lives in G-9/1, said he moved his family to his in-laws’ home in Rawalpindi because of reports of a clash between the government and the protesters.
“I had to go to Rawalpindi from my office in F-8 Markaz every day but they were safe,” he said.
Another resident, Umer Asghar from G-8/1, said he had been renting a house behind the main market for the last 10 years but was planning to move near Shamsabad in Rawalpindi as it was not safe to remain in the area because of repeated long marches.
“I can manage to come to work on a motorcycle but living in the capital is a risk,” he said.
Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2019