Public holiday: Citizens irked by cell service suspension, pleased by day off

Less news-savvy citizens feared the worst when they found their phones offline; youngsters enjoy day in markets

Residents of Rawalpindi trying to catch a glimpse of aircraft flying overhead. PHOTO: WASEEM NAZIR/EXPRESS

ISLAMABAD: As the nation celebrated the 76th anniversary of the Pakistan Resolution, and the capital enjoyed a military parade showing off the prowess of the armed forces as well as the country’s rich cultural heritage, cell phone service suspensions irked those unfamiliar with the security measure.

Phones were offline in most of Islamabad and some parts of Rawalpindi near the Shakarparian parade ground from dawn till 3pm.

As part of the arrangements and to facilitate commuters, special traffic arrangements were made for March 21 (Monday) and March 23 (Wednesday).

Some people were inconvenienced by to the suspension of cell service, which was also done during the full dress rehearsal as well.

Meanwhile, comical scenes were seen in areas where people who were unaware of the scheduled suspensions thought that a coup may have taken place.

“Has a state of emergency been imposed in the country? My cell phone is not working and just says emergency on the screen,” a woman was seen asking a neighbour in a street in Ghauri Town.

“Calm down… it’s just the rehearsal for the March 23 parade,” the other woman replied while calming down her toddler, frightened by the sound of airplanes flying overhead.

At a local market in the same neighbourhood, a man was trying to get his SIM card replaced, thinking that it had stopped working. A shopkeeper managed to explain the situation to him. The customer, who asked not to be named, later told The Express Tribune that he felt happy that law enforcement agencies were showing their strength so that “no one could cast an evil eye on his homeland”.

College and university students from Rawalpindi were seen asking around on which routes to take to reach Islamabad and how to spend the public holiday.

But many had also opted to watch the parade live on television in an exercise of patriotism.

Streets and markets were bustling with the national anthem and patriotic songs playing in the background. Some areas had also been decorated with flags.

The pleasant weather also pulled out a number of homebodies soon after roadblocks were removed and markets in the twin cities came to life soon after.

In 2015, the Pakistan Day parade took place after a break of seven years at the newly constructed Parade Ground near Faizabad Interchange. Before that, the last military parade took place on March 23, 2008 during the Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf era.

Security was kept on high alert in Rawalpindi and Islamabad before the March 23 parade to avoid any untoward incident. Before the show of strength by the armed forces, security was beefed up by setting up checkpoints manned by law enforcement personnel at different places.

All major roads leading to the parade venue were closed for traffic for the duration of the parade.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2016.


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