RAWALPINDI: On the third day of protests, life in Rawalpindi remained paralysed as supporters of the provincial ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), choked multiple roads in the city to protest the murder attempt on party chief Imran Khan near Wazirabad last week.
As the public and business community suffered on log-jammed roads, law minister Raja Basharat alongside other party members chose to enjoy the T20 cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand on blocked IJP Road. “Today is the third day of [the] sit-in at the entry & exit points of Islamabad. I am enjoying #PakvsNz cricket match at IJP road along with @PTIofficial workers,” the minister said in a tweet.
On Old Airport Road, the public was not allowed to pass by the protesters as the road had been blocked near Gulzar-i-Quaid. However, for PTI leader and President Arif Alvi, the party supporters opened one track of the road to allow the motorcade to pass on its way to Nur Khan Airbase. The road was blockaded again. At 4pm, the road was finally opened for traffic, according to the traffic police.
Pindi’s business artery Murree Road was blocked near Iqbal Park for traffic where protesters had set up chairs to block the flow of traffic. Most intercity roads, including Peshawar Road and Mall Road, were open for traffic barring the roadblock near Iqbal Park, as per the police.
Punjab law minister ‘enjoys’ cricket match on blocked IJP Road
Jhelum Road blockade
On Jhelum Road near Soan bridge, a small group of PTI supporters which had blocked the entry of vehicles in Rawalpindi on Tuesday at 10pm continued to obstruct traffic throughout the day, putting the supply of fuel and other goods to the garrison city at risk. However, one track of the road was open for two-way traffic on Soan Bridge near the Lahore High Court allowing small vehicles and motorcycles to enter and exit the city.
Due to the blockade, a large number of oil tankers and trucks loaded with edible items were stuck in traffic. Long queues of oil tankers, trucks and containers were seen on the road hardly leaving any room for motorcycles or other small vehicles to pass through. A handful of PTI supporters carrying batons were patrolling the road while a squad of the district police remained helpless to clear the road for the heavy traffic.
Some goods transporters were seen shifting their goods in smaller vehicles to circumvent the obstructions since heavy traffic was not allowed to enter the city. An oil tanker driver told Dawn that he had been stuck there since last night. He said he did not know when the “siege would end” and that he would be able to move forward.
Similarly, a majority of residents of the housing societies along Jhelum Road preferred to stay at home, fearing traffic congestion. Due to a public holiday and continuing PTI protests, most of the commercial areas in the city remained deserted.
On normal days, the city traffic police promptly move and clear the road to facilitate the public in case of road blockades, but its response to the PTI protests and blockade of roads causing immense problems to the public has remained lacklustre. The traffic police didn’t proceed to get the roads cleared; in fact, even the district police were seen “giving protection to the protesters instead of the public”.
The City Traffic police said in a press release that IJP Road towards Pirwadhai Mor and Rawalpindi Road towards Slip Turn was closed for traffic due to the protest. The city traffic police said that the GT Road was closed on both sides at Margalla and Sarai Kala Chowk is also closed due to the protest.
Highway Police to protect march
As many as 1,542 personnel of the Punjab Highway Patrol (PHP) along with officers have been sent to multiple districts of Punjab, including Gujrat, Jhelum, and Attock, to ensure foolproof security arrangements during the long march.
Of the 1,542 PHP personnel, 500 personnel shall be kept at Gujrat Police Lines as IGP Reserve to tackle any emergency situation during the march. Afterward, the force shall be rolled over to Jhelum and Rawalpindi to assist the local police for the long march. Similarly, 242 have been allocated to Gujarat, 500 to Jhelum, and 300 to Attock.
The accommodation, food, and other welfare arrangements for standby personnel shall be made by the districts concerned.
Educational institutions closed
The local administration has announced that the educational institutions in the garrison citywill remain closed for another day on Thursday.
Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2022