RAWALPINDI: Residents of the twin cities were caught unaware on Sunday morning when district administrations – especially of Rawalpindi – started blocking major roads by placing heavy containers ahead of Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) chief Dr Tahirul Qadri’s arrival on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, reports have it that cellular services are set to be suspended for security reasons in the area, while Benazir Bhutto International Airport has been sealed off – and a shuttle service started for passengers from the various blockade points.
Leaves of all law enforcement agencies’ personnel were cancelled as the security of twin cities was tightened and deployment on checkpoints on all entry and exit routes of both cities was also increased.
Massive traffic jam in twin cities as roads
The closure of major roads sparked massive traffic jams in the scorching heat. Thousands of vehicles remained stranded on Airport Road, Peshawar Road and IJ Principal Road and Murree Road for hours.
Besides, Ammar Chowk, Sohan Chowk and Katchery Chowk were closed for traffic while containers were also placed on GT Road near Tarnol. The CDGR also blocked Rawal Road near Chandni Chowk and no one was allowed to cross the blockade.
Peshawar Road was blocked near Pirwadhai flyover by parking trucks on it while Airport Road near Jinnah Park was sealed-off with containers.
Citizens were stranded as they were caught by surprise by the sudden and unannounced lock-down. People had to walk on foot to their destinations due to the unavailability of public transport.
The Express Tribune has learned that shopkeepers and traders were asked to close down their businesses. However, traders expressed anger over closure of the markets.
“The citizens were not informed prior to the closure of roads. It completely taken all of us by surprise,” said Ibrar Ahmed, a rickshaw driver.
In cases of such lock-downs, a traffic plan is usually issued at least one day before – but on Sunday the police first blocked roads and then issues traffic plan several hours later.
“This is unjust. If Dr Qadri is coming let him come there is no need to block roads,” commented Zubair Zafar, a motorist who also exchanged harsh words with a policeman near Jinnah Park for not allowing him across the blockade.
Besides, those who were going to airport also remained stranded in the situation getting late to catch their flights.
“I am already late and may miss my flight if not allowed. Please let me reach the airport,” an irate passenger urged a police officer.
He protested if there is any security threats the administration should deploy extra personnel instead of blocking roads.
Roads leading to airport sealed
All roads leading to Benazir Bhutto International Airport were sealed and connecting streets were closed with the barriers manned by heavy contingents of police personnel.
People with confirmed tickets were allowed entry and later a shuttle service was started for them to take them to airport from points where roads were blocked.
Long queues of people were seen outside the airport, waiting for their turn to get their luggage checked and allowed entry.
City Police Officer Rawalpindi Humyun Bashir Tarar when contacted said roads leading to the airport were blocked due to security reasons. However, he said no supporter of Dr Qadri has been arrested.
“We have simply been asked to reach assigned spots of duty,” said Sadeeq Ahmad, a constable of Islamabad police.
The administration of Rawalpindi and Islamabad have reportedly decided to suspend mobile phone service on Monday citing the security reasons, while joint police patrolling along with contingents of Army and Rangers in Islamabad would also be conducted. Hospitals have been put on high alert and leaves of doctors and nurses have also been cancelled. Dr Asif Qadir Mir, medical superintendent of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Hospital, said the the hospital is ready to handle any kind of emergency.
City District Government Rawalpindi has also banned any kind of gathering in the city due to security reasons.
Amidst the lock-down, determined supporters of Dr Tahirul Qadri also started arriving in Rawalpindi. “We are here to receive our leader and will go to the airport no matter what,” said Amina Bibi, one of Dr Qadri’s supporters who came from Chakwal.
Nisar vows not to allow anyone to march in Islamabad
Vowing not to allow anyone to march in Islamabad, the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that armed forces have been deployed at the airport and the parking lot of the airport has been sealed as well.
He added that only people with tickets would be allowed to go to the airport and the passengers can only access the airport through the shuttle service or walk to it.
Capital police clashes with Qadri supporters
The supporters of Tahirul Qadri clashed with police near Pirwadhai area of Islamabad early Monday while trying to reach Benazir Bhutto International airport via IJ Principle Road.
The scuffle erupted when police tried to stop supporters of Qadri to airport.
After the clash, the supporters tried to stage a protest on the road which is the only road open for traffic. After which police fired tear gas and also use batons to disperse the protestors.
The supporters also used sticks and pelted stones.
Confirming the incident, PAT district leader Ghulam Ali revealed that some supporters are staying in Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran School in Bangash Colony Rawalpindi tonight.
The police also confiscated some banners and flags from the protesters.
An officer, requesting not to be named, said administrations of twin cities have imposed sec 144 and any kind of public gathering is not allowed.
“The supporters were trying to block the only road so far open for traffic so to keep the road open we asked them not to disturb flow of traffic,” he added.