RAWALPINDI: In the garrison city, a boom in illegal infrastructural developments, right under the nose of municipal authorities, has made movement impossible for motorists and pedestrians alike.
Shopkeepers and auto mechanics in bustling markets have encroached upon one fourth of the roads, especially in Raja Bazaar. Stalls, rented out by adjoining shop owners, have been set up on the already narrow roads leaving zero space for commuters. “The shopkeeper charges Rs1,500 per month for space outside his shop,” said Muhammad Afzal, a vendor.
Residents complained that encroachers who had disappeared when a campaign was launched against them have come back to erect bigger structures, adding that instead of wasting money on flyovers, the government should remodel the existing roads.
While people get stuck in traffic, showroom owners, enjoying political backing, are not bothered about the municipal authorities or the police. At times, they even threaten the officials with a transfer to a far-flung area for using force.
“Because of the illegal stalls, it took me an hour to reach my office in Faizabad from Saddar, a distance otherwise covered in 15 minutes,” said Khalid Shehzad, a resident of Dhoke Kala Khan.
Most plazas on Murree Road and elsewhere are constructed in violation of building codes. The lack of parking areas force customers to park their vehicles on nearby streets.
“The traffic jams are mostly due to vehicles parked outside showrooms. If we ask the owners to remove them, we get a transfer notification the next day,” said a traffic warden requesting anonymity.
“How can authorities not notice these violations?” questioned Bashir Tanoli, a motorist in Commercial Market, saying “The municipal corporation and traffic police should immediately clear the roads to ensure smooth traffic flow.”
Rawalpindi Chief Traffic Officer SSP Ishtiaq Shah had given a week’s deadline to encroachers to remove their belongings from the roadside, saying strict action would be taken against offenders at a press conference held two weeks ago.
At the end of the deadline, the promised action has yet to be taken. In fact, two officials of the district government were injured by traders in Pirwadhai for asking them to make way for pedestrians a few days back.
“We are aware of the problem. Action is underway and areas of Rawal Town have been cleared,” said Rawalpindi District Coordination Officer Sajid Zafar, while talking to The Express Tribune. Tehsil municipal administrations are soon going to be converted into corporations with separate directorates for building control and clearing encroachments, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2013.