ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: With roadblocks restricting vehicular movement, the federal capital gave a deserted look throughout the day, whereas life in Rawalpindi continued as normal.
By the evening, however, the federal capital saw a trickling of people as supporters and workers of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) started entering the city from various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab.
Talking to Dawn, Member National Assembly (MNA) from Islamabad Ali Nawaz Awan said it was part of a strategy to reach D-Chowk by evening as workers wanted to match their timing with the arrival of rallies from other cities.
The capital’s streets remained deserted as educational institutions and a number of offices had declared holiday while traffic on roads remained thin. The metro bus service was suspended due to which people were not able to travel between the twin cities.
Although most roads in the city were open except for Red Zone and Srinagar Highway, some people preferred motorbikes instead of cars to reach their destinations.
Business as usual despite barricades in most parts of garrison city
By afternoon, a few hundred PTI supporters appeared on the roads, but by sunset, the situation totally changed as a reasonable number of residents of the capital came out of their houses. Party supporters also managed to enter the city.
Initially, they reached Srinagar Highway and then people started reaching Jinnah Avenue leading to D-Chowk.
On the other hand, tension in and around Islamabad and Attock did not affect normal life in the garrison city as people remained busy in their daily routine while businesses remained normal in the markets.
PTI’s long march and the clash between party workers and Punjab police were the main topics of discussion all over the city.
Despite placing of containers on the main arteries of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, situation remained normal in the city’s downtown and cantonment areas throughout the day.
Government, corporate offices, courts and markets also functioned as per routine though attendance was thin while inter-city transport was out of wheels due to road closures.
A senior official of the local administration told Dawn that containers had been placed at some entry points of the city as part of safety measures taken to avoid any untoward situation in the city.
He said police pickets had already been established while personnel were asked to remain vigilant to avoid any untoward situation.
“We heard reports of clash between PTI workers and police in Lahore but the situation was normal by evening,” Rawalpindi Traders Association President Sharjeel Mir said.
He said people were troubled with price hike and had no time to be part of such activities in the city.
“We suffered a lot during the last two years due to Covid-19 pandemic and it was not possible for us to allow any more wheel jams and strikes,” he said.
“Traders are against protests and rallies in the city from the opposition and ruling parties as it affected their business,” Mr Mir said, adding that, “we have already asked the government to allocate space for protesters so that they do not disturb routine business in the markets,” he said.
On the other hand, citizens of Rawalpindi faced hardships due to traffic diversions and sealing of roads at seven major points in the garrison city.
Hide and seek between the police and PTI workers continued with regular intervals in some parts of Murree Road, though all link roads and streets had been sealed with containers.
Police resorted to massive teargas shelling on protesters.
The city traffic police have advised commuters to avoid unnecessary travel and get assistance and traffic updates from 88.6 Radio Station before leaving home for work.
In Rawalpindi district, 150 freight shipping containers had been placed at different points.
It was seen for the first time that contingents of police were also deployed at the sealing points to prevent even a motorcycle from crossing. However, people were being allowed to walk through the narrow space left there.
The traffic police spokesman said that both sides of Soan Bridge were completely sealed with containers, while the road users were advised to use Bahria Town’s phase VII route to proceed to Saddar or Peshawar Road.
Both sides of Murree Road at Marrir Chowk to Faizabad was completely closed, while alternatively Gawalmandi, Kamran Chowk and Kutchery Chowk were open for traffic.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2022