Encroachments, traffic jams, private parking lots at public places, and helpless traffic police wardens welcome the visitors to Raja Bazaar and the surrounding old city markets.
‘Contractors’ running private parkings have encroached upon the roads at a number of places in the bazaars, while the Rawal Town Municipal Administration (RTMA) denies that it has extended contracts of the private parking spaces.
As the public suffers because of routine traffic jams and encroached footpaths, the authorities continue blaming each other. RTMA says it is traffic police’s responsibility to clear the roads of encroachments, while traffic police say the administration should take action against violators.
A private contractor, Raja Zahid Latif, operates a parking on the road in front of the Imperial Market, a few yards from the government parking plaza. He charges Rs10 for a bike and Rs20 for a car. The receipt, however, says that the contractor bears no responsibility for theft or damages.
The situation is worse in the Sarhad Maket where carts and makeshift stalls have left little space for the motorists and pedestrians to move. Traffic jam is a routine now.
Apart from illegal contractors, vehicles and bikes parked along the roads in violation of the rules has also become a nuisance for the public.
Muhammad Adnan, a shopper in the Imperial Market, said the RTMA officials get kickbacks and turn a blind eye to encroachments on sidewalks and roads.
Another visitor said every cart pusher or the stall holder pays Rs1000 in monthly bribe to the RTMA officials.
A traffic warden, who did not want to be named, said, “We are here for formality. No one can do anything about this mess.” He agreed that the municipal administration and the traffic police are not doing enough to bring a modicum of order to the markets.
Muhammad Imran, another warden, said that the lifter was coming to clear the road blocks but it has got stuck in the traffic. He said that it is not responsibility of the traffic police to clear the roads of encroachments and illegal parking. “It is RTMA’s work.”
A District Headquarters Hospital ambulance carrying a patient had to wait for almost half an hour in the traffic jam in the Sarhad Market.
Saqib Imran, a shopkeeper, told The Express Tribune that the shopkeepers allow stalls in front of their shops for Rs6000 per month, which they share with the RTMA officials.
“Most shopkeepers have allowed two stalls outside their shops and are making Rs12,000 per month. They should be taxed for this.”
Rawalpindi City Traffic Officer (CTO) Shoaib Khurram Janbaz said all parking stands other than official ones are illegal and RTMA is responsible for this. He claimed that the municipal administration had extended these contracts despite traffic police’s request to cancel them.
However, Town Municipal Officer, Rawal Town, Sardar Tashfeen said that city traffic police were responsible for illegal parking. He also denied that the administration has extended contracts of private parking lots.
“We will launch an operation against encroachment in markets soon,” he said.
An RTMA official said that many municipal officials receive kickbacks from encroachers. “They [municipal and traffic officials] fast and say prayers five times a day, but at the same time are involved in corruption and embezzlement of public money,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 3rd, 2014.