It looks like the monkeys have come out to play, said Akbar Ali upon seeing a rally of motorcyclists on Jinnah Avenue, all driving on one wheel with the silencers removed from their bikes to increase the noise.
Strolling along the walkway in Blue Area with his family, Ali and many others stopped to witness a “pathetic” behavior as youngsters came out on Independence Day, some on four-wheels, some on two, and many others on one.
Hundreds of motorbikes, painted with national flag patterns and stabbing at shoppers’ ears with painful exhaust noise, started appearing on the city’s boulevards minutes after Iftar. They were joined by young girls and boys packed in vehicles — some hanging out of the windows, others throwing projectiles including firecrackers, and a few misplaced ones gently waving national flags.
More than thirty of the freedom lovers were nabbed by the city police and put behind bars. They spent August 14 in the lock ups of Kohsar and Aabpara police stations for endangering people’s lives and creating public nuisance.
Police said the arrested bikers could not be produced before a court on Tuesday because of the public holiday. “Due to the holiday, they have to stay in the lock up till Wednesday and cannot be released on bail before then,” said an official at Kohsar Police Station. While a few were arrested from the Jinnah Super Market, most were nabbed on Jinnah Avenue.
Dozens of injured bikers and aspiring stuntmen wound up in hospital after falling from their bikes during failed wheelies — a dangerous stunt involving revving and releasing to lift the bike onto the rear wheel, which also greatly limits the ability of the driver to navigate.
A Rescue 15 police official said Jinnah Avenue was blocked for normal traffic by midnight. It served as a centre stage for hundreds of youth who freely attempted motorcycle and car races amid loud music. Some also staged their own fireworks ‘shows’ when the clock struck midnight.
By this time, policemen exhausted by their largely unsuccessful efforts to disperse the more rowdy youngsters, just gave up and become spectators to the show. “Look at them, there are hundreds of charged up kids. I don’t know how we should stop them,” said a Rescue 15 police official who stood by watching with a baton in hand.
However, the city police did make initial attempts to dissuade the youth from gathering on the busy avenue when they baton-charged some self-styled rappers who were dancing to loud music playing on their car stereos while blocking the road behind them.
The youth defied every attempt by the police to control them and continued hitting the roads in large numbers. The police could only arrest those who broke away from their groups.
Prevention is better than cure
The city police was aware beforetime of what to expect on the night of August 13 and what most innocent people would have to go through unwillingly. Arrangements to stop hooliganism were in place but did not work.
The police and city administration could have gone to motorbike workshops in the city to help preempt and avoid some of the chaos.
“They insist on getting their bikes to produce the shrillest sound,” said a mechanic at a motorbike workshop in Peshawar Mor, noting that hundreds of bikers visited him with such requests on Monday and long queues formed.
From dozens of such workshops across the city, hundreds of bikes sans silencers were prepared.
While police officials were deployed at every trouble spot across the city, no attention was given to check the production of the shriek devils.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2012.