Life in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad remained paralysed for the second consecutive day on Thursday as hundreds of people blocked Faizabad interchange to protest against the killing of 12 Hazaras in Mastung.
The ensuing traffic mess extended not only to the road, but the air as well. Due to the closure of the interchange — which link Islamabad with Rawalpindi and Benazir Bhutto International Airport — thousands of people suffered a lot as worst kind of traffic jam was witnessed at all the alternative roads.
Office workers and students could not reach their destinations on time, while hundreds of people failed to reach the airport in time for their flights, resulting in prolonged flight delays.
Protesters including women and children staged sit-ins at Faizabad Chowk and Faizabad Interchange against the recent killing of 12 members of Shia Hazara community in Quetta. They raised slogans against the government over its failure to control growing terrorism incidents in the country. The participants condemned the killing of Hazaras and demanded immediate and strict action against the culprits.
The sit in has been organised by Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen and Imamia Students Organisation.
The administration had blocked the road at various points in a bid to avoid clashes between motorists and protesters. The police closed Murree Road near Margalla Town, Faizabad and Dhok Kala Khan.
Mirza Yousuf Hussain, senior leader of Shia Action Committee Pakistan, said the sit-in would continue till the government provides serious assurances that it will take stern action against those involved in killing Hazaras.
To a query, he said that Shia leaders are well aware of problems being faced by the public due to sit-in, however, he said that they have no other platform to register their protest. “In future we will try not to disturb public life,” he elaborated.
Due to the closure of Faizabad Interchange, frequent traffic jams built up on IJ Principal Road, Peshawar Road, Golra Road, Airport Road, Raja Bazaar and Saddar. Traffic wardens were unable to manage the movement of hundreds of vehicles. In the morning, citizens and students used Taramri Chowk and Park Road to reach in Islamabad, while others tried their luck on Peshawar Road, Double Road and 9th Avenue.
Most transporters stopped plying their vehicles to avoid any untoward incident. As a result, helpless commuters faced shortage of public transport and dozens of people were seen walking for miles to get to work. Ambulances with blaring sirens could also be seen stuck in traffic mess. Due to the closure of Murree Road, Kashmir and Murree-bound public services buses and vans had to turn from Zero-point to use Kashmir Highway, whereas, other long-route passenger buses also used alternative routes.
“We also condemn terrorism in the country, but this is no way to stage a protest…only commoners are suffering,” said, Muhammad Shafiq, who came from 6th Road to Faizabad on foot. Another citizen, Asif Ali said that protest demonstrations should not be allowed on main roads, and should be designated with a specific place.
Talking to The Express Tribune, City Traffic Officer (CTO) Ishtiak Shah said the traffic mess was witnessed because traffic was diverted towards alternatives roads. “We are trying our best to ensure smooth flow of traffic, but, due to large number of vehicles on alternative roads we are facing difficulty,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2014.