Stalls selling various items set up at the venue of the Azadi March. — White Star
Stalls selling various items set up at the venue of the Azadi March. — White Star

ISLAMABAD: The Azadi March is disrupting routine life in the capital city but the marchers and the government seem least bothered about the suffering of the citizens.

Contrary to the past when such protests were held at D-Chowk, the participants of JUI-F’s sit-in are camped on Kashmir Highway at H-9 and G-9 in the middle of the city.

This has resulted in the blockade of a portion of the highway which also leads to the Islamabad International Airport. Sector H-9 houses a large number of schools as well.

Meanwhile, from Zero Point to Peshawar Mor traffic is diverted to service roads and the motorists have to face gridlocks, particularly early in the morning.

Residents say protesters should not have been allowed to camp on a busy road in middle of city

Similarly, from Peshawar Mor, the traffic is further diverted to a narrow road of Peshawar Mor market whose half portion is already encroached.

“Our life is badly disrupted because of the closure of Kashmir Highway as the traffic load is shifted on small roads,” said Mohammad Shah, a resident of G-10.

“The road connecting G-10 and F-10 is worst affected as because of heavy load. It’s now very difficult for us to drive on this road.” He said people living in G-9 were also facing internet problems due to the protest.

Chairman Union Council G-9/2 Malik Rafiq, who belongs to the ruling PTI, said because of the closure of Kashmir Highway people were suffering.

“Almost on all traffic signals in G-9 and adjoining sectors, you will see long queues of vehicles and routine life is badly disrupted,” he said and added that Kashmir Highway was the major artery of the city and its closure had shifted the load to all small roads.

Organisers of the JUI-F sit-in have placed large water tanks for ablution and to meet the rest of the participants’ requirements. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Organisers of the JUI-F sit-in have placed large water tanks for ablution and to meet the rest of the participants’ requirements. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

“Secondly, because of the sit-in business in Islamabad is also affected,” he said.

Asked about the government’s decision to allow the sit-in in the middle of the city, he said: “This sit-in should not have been allowed on Kashmir Highway rather should have been held at a relatively less busy place.”

Other citizens and motorists said both the government and protesters were responsible for causing inconvenience to the residents of Islamabad.

“It’s the responsibility of the government to hold talks with the protesters and convince them to call off their protest. In case the protesters are rigid the government should launch an operation to clear the roads. What is our fault, why we are suffering,” said Ali Ahmed, a taxi driver.

He said the sit-in had also disrupted the metro bus service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad.

Meanwhile, during a visit to the protest site the participants, who were camping on Kashmir Highway in H-9 and its adjoining greenbelts, seemed determined to continue the protest till acceptance of their demands.

Mohammad Baqi, who came from Sahiwal, said they were committed to “get rid of the selected government of Imran Khan.”

Another protester, Maulana Roman from South Waziristan, said they were participating in Azadi March for a big cause.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2019