ISLAMABAD: Weary of the rising tensions between the political government, the military and the judiciary, the citizens of Islamabad feared for the worse when they saw extra police and paramilitary forces deployed in the city on Wednesday.
Their ominous thoughts grew darker in the afternoon when the government sacked the defence secretary after the army decried the prime minister for his remarks against its chief, and the army changed the commander of the 111 Brigade.
To everyone's relief the extra security personnel were withdrawn by late evening and the fears and rumours vanished in the light fog that covers Islamabad at dusk.
A source in the Security Wing of the city police explained that more police had to be called in for providing security at three important functions involving the prime minister and the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Still the presence of some 600 extra security personnel in the city, particularly in the Red Zone area where the Presidency, the Prime Minister's House and the Supreme Court are located, looked ominous to the common citizens and even hospital and emergency services.
'I decided to take additional grocery while going home from my office, just in case the situation became serious,' said Abid Hussain, a corporate employee in federal capital.
There is no history of serious disruption of daily life in the twin cities because of political turmoil, but in the present scenario many people fear a shutdown, like the onethat followed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
'At that time, we had spent days without vegetables, even milk,' recalled another resident of Rawalpindi.
Wednesday's events frightened not just the people of the twin cities but people in other parts also called to know 'what is going on in Islamabad and Rawalpindi?' Most callers solicited information about the appointment of a new commander of 111 Brigade.
Friends and relatives of the local residents called from other cities including Lahore and Karachi and they were mainly worried about the deployment of extra paramilitary forces and police in Rawalpindi or Islamabad.
'Things look serious from here. I just want to know if a 1999-like situation is developing, said Shakeel Salawat, a Karachi-based journalist who called the National Press Club to know the situation.
Not only the general public but the emergency services also felt to be prepared in case the war of nerves pushes the government and the army to open hostility.
Though no alert was sounded officially, hospitals, the firefighting services and police did not want to be caught unawares.
'No special directive has been issued but we are keeping an eye on the situation,' an officer of the Capital Development Authority's fire department said.
Incidentally the telephone lines of the CDA's main fire station at Zero Point are disconnected due to non-payment of bills.