Public movement came to a standstill in most of the capital on Saturday after the closure of major arteries in connection with the Pakistan Day parade on March 23.
The armed forces held a dress rehearsal at the newly-built parade avenue along the Islamabad Expressway from Faizabad to Lok Virsa. The expressway has been closed from Faizabad to Zero Point, while Murree Road-Club Road has been closed from Faizabad to Rawal Dam Chowk for three days.
Commuters faced difficulties due to the road closures and unavailability of public transport. Traffic diversions were placed at Double Road, Shamsabad, Sixth Road, Shakrial, Kuri Road, Iqbal Town, Dhok Kala Khan, Chak Shahzad roundabout and Zero Point.
Police and army personnel were not even allowing pedestrians past some points. Employees of the military’s Ojhri Camp facility were also among those stopped at barriers, despite showing their service IDs to the guards. One of them said he had walked from Khanna Pul to get to work on time, but was not allowed to pass. He said he eventually decided to go back home.
All traffic has been restrained from entering a six-kilometre zone around Parade Avenue.
Thousands of people commute daily from Rawalpindi to Islamabad for work. However, roads, markets and workplaces in Islamabad and Rawalpindi wore a deserted look, more reminiscent of a national holiday.
Traffic bound for Murree, Kotli Sattian, Kahota and Azad Jammu and Kashmir was diverted to Lehtrar Road.
Due to the lockdown, attendance in private offices was also low in Islamabad.
Anila, a receptionist at a private publication company, said she had to walk for kilometres to reach Islamabad from Satellite Town in Rawalpindi as the few transporters available were only running short routes.
The lockdown was most intense during rehearsal hours. The situation, however, had normalised by the evening.
Suspension of cellular service in Islamabad also added to public frustration.
Hospitals on high alert
Major public hospitals in Islamabad have been put on high alert for three days up till March 23 as a precautionary measure.
The outpatient departments saw fewer patients coming in, largely due to their inability to get to hospitals due to road closures .
Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) officials on Saturday gave a day-long training to medical teams that will be deputed at the parade venue and at the Presidency on the 23rd.
Leave for all hospital staff has also been cancelled. Doctors have been told to remain on standby, and extra beds and wards have been set up in case of an emergency.
PIMS spokesperson Dr Ayesha Ishani said that a control room has been set up at the hospital to coordinate with the medical teams and the ICT Administration.
She said two medical teams and ambulances have been deputed at the Presidency and the parade avenue.
Dr Saifur Rehman has been appointed focal person and deputed at the parade avenue.
Polyclinic spokesperson Dr Tanveer Malik said around 1,000 beds have been designated for the day.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 22nd, 2015.