Residents of localities near Benazir Bhutto International Airport on Sunday blocked the Airport Road in protest against gas outages, causing long queues of traffic and delaying the departure of flights.
Though the protesters, which included women and children, remained peaceful, they kept the busy road blocked for over three hours, leading to long traffic jams and making entry into the airport an ordeal unto itself.
Islamabad Expressway and Rawal Road, both of which merge with Airport Road, saw similar bottleneck jams, with many motorists describing the situation with some choice words.
Shaista Bibi, one of the protesters, said, “We have had low gas pressure in the Railway Colony and Hafiz Colony areas for many days now. We can’t even cook.”
Ali Ahmed, another protester, said the only alternate fuels are either LPG or dry wood. “As far as LPG is concerned, it is too costly for the middle class, and wood fires are not easy to use in urban areas,” he saud.
The protesters chanted slogans against the government and President Asif Ali Zardari while demanding that uninterrupted gas supply be provided to the areas soon.
The protests led to a three-hour delay in the departure of PK-701 to Manchester, while PK-369 to Karachi was delayed for over two hours as the flight crews were stuck in traffic.
Civil Lines Deputy Superintendent of Police Malik Tariq said the traffic on Airport Road was diverted to other roads during the protest.
The protestors only left after a Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) official pacified them by claiming that low gas pressure in their areas was due to technical reasons.
SNGPL Deputy Chief Engineer Farrukh Habib said the pipeline in the Railway Colony area is not wide enough to meet the demand. He added that on Sunday mornings, pressure becomes even more low after CNG stations resume supply after three days of gas loadshedding.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.
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