Encroachments clog Rawalpindi streets

Main markets are overwhelmed with traffic, exacerbating the situation in Ramazan

Imran Asghar March 19, 2024
Traffic snarls on roads in Rawalpindi have become a common sight due to encroachments. PHOTO: EXPRESS


As the operations against the encroachment mafia in Rawalpindi effectively came to a halt during the holy month of Ramazan, the entire city succumbed to the grip of the encroachment mafia.

Ever-increasing encroachment in different areas, especially the cantonment, of the city remains one of the core civic problems being faced by the residents who have shown their concerns over the poor response by the authorities concerned.

Main thoroughfares, footpaths, and residential areas were not spared from encroachment. Consequently, traffic congestion has become a common sight on crucial roads like Murree Road.

Despite written appeals to the tehsil administration by traffic authorities, efforts to engage anti-encroachment personnel proved futile. Demands arose from citizens urging the Punjab chief minister to eradicate the encroachment mafia from the city.

Cantonment areas including Octri 22, Tench Bhatta, People’s Colony, Kalma Chowk and adjacent areas are facing consistent mess, particularly in the evenings when a considerable number of vehicles enter these areas.

Tahir Taj Bhatti, a trader in Moti Bazaar, emphasised that encroachment lies at the heart of Rawalpindi’s myriad issues. From major commercial hubs to everyday streets, encroachments abound, rendering pedestrian movement near impossible.

The pervasive encroachment around Moti Bazaar deters buyers, as the area remains congested throughout the day. Iconic areas such as Fawara Chowk, Kashmiri Bazaar, Ganj Mandi, Dal Gran Bazar, Old Qala, and Urdu Bazar have become inaccessible. Despite erecting towering structures to boost commerce and faithfully paying all government dues, these buildings find their entry and exit routes encroached upon.

Businessman Yasir Butt highlighted the mafia’s stronghold over major commercial centres like Bara Market, Commercial Market, Murree Road, Syedpur Road, Circular Road, Bani Bazaar, Murghi Mandi, and Bagh Sardaran. Even prominent businessmen are unable to dislodge them. Traders, having invested millions, find themselves waiting in vain for customers, primarily due to encroachment and round-the-clock traffic congestion plaguing Raja Bazaar and its adjacent markets.

“Shopkeepers extend their stalls on main roads, which create hurdles even for pedestrians,” said Amir, a resident of Tench Bhatta. He said that hawkers continuously move on roads, creating hurdles in the smooth running of vehicles. 

Despite occasional area visits by the encroachment teams of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (RCB), the situation remains unchanged, Amir said and recommended a licencing system for vegetable/fruit hawkers for selling their items on roads.

“The visits of the RCB team before the opening of businesses even make no difference,” he said and suggested the team should hold surprise visits during working hours.

The same situation also prevails on Mughalabad-Abid Majid Road and Peoples Colony localities. “Tench Bhatta is not only densely populated but also as a whole locality it serves as a corridor between Sadar, Dhoke Syedan and Dhamial areas,” said another resident Raja Babar.

He said that a systematic market management plan is required to overcome the problem of encroachments. “The encroachments have also badly affected human behaviour and are accelerating psychological aggression among the locals,” Babar maintained.

Addressing the escalating issues of encroachment and traffic congestion, traffic police officials clarified that removing encroachments falls outside the purview of traffic duties. Nonetheless, traffic wardens persist in their efforts, aided by lifters, to ensure smooth traffic flow. However, the encroachment mafia has entrenched itself deeply within the city.

Encroachments are temporarily removed only to resurface once authorities withdraw. Officials noted that footpaths along Murree Road have been cleared, yet shopkeepers have unlawfully seized these spaces.

Despite numerous appeals to the commissioner, deputy commissioner, and tehsil municipal officer regarding the encroachment mafia and its associated problems, no department has taken decisive action against them.

Tehsil Municipal Office officials disclosed that actions against the encroachment mafia are sporadically carried out without prior notification. Millions worth of seized equipment from the encroachment mafia have been confiscated and transferred to the tehsil office.

The primary responsibility for establishing encroachments on main highways and footpaths lies with the local business community. If every shopkeeper assumes responsibility and confines their goods to their shops, rather than encroaching on footpaths, no issues would arise.

The anti-encroachment cell also conducts operations during sehri and iftar hours in response to citizen complaints, which will now be intensified.


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