Roads in Pindi begin to open as TLP & govt reach agreement

Life in the city began returning to normality on Sunday night when the City Traffic Police started removing containers, concrete blocks and barricades from Murree Road and its arteries after the government and the proscribed Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) reached an agreement.

The traffic police in a press statement said containers were being removed from roads that were blocked. The district administration of the twin cities on Tuesday had blocked Faizabad intersection while law enforcement agencies began sealing areas and roads with containers to prevent TLP protesters from entering the federal capital territory.

“All the containers from Murree Road are being removed with the help of heavy cranes and diversions from Saddar to adjoining roads are also being removed,” the statement said, adding the road from 9th Avenue signal is being opened to traffic on Stadium Road.

Not only residents of the city but also police personnel, who had been called from other districts for duty, had been facing problems due to the tense situation.

Police personnel deployed in different parts of the city, especially those declared sensitive, were directed to remain on the duty point for 12 hours a day. In some of these spots, they had no access to a place for sleeping or toilets besides not having any food or tea.

“Yes, a cup of tea was given to the police on Friday but we have no blanket or any other thing to cover us especially when it is cold at night,” a police official said.

Snapshots on social media showed a police squad stationed at the metro bus station lying on the ground whereas some could be seen sleeping on chairs and so on.

On the other hand, a spokesman for the district police disputed the claims of police officials that they were not given food or accommodation.

He said: “The police officials called for special duty are given paratha with egg (tortilla with fried egg) with a cup of tea in the morning, refreshment in the afternoon and rice (pulao) at night.”

The inspector general of police Punjab had already directed district police chiefs (DPOs) and city police officers (CPOs) to ensure that arrangements were made for safe accommodation, administration, food and welfare of the arriving force to assist the local police.

Although there was no protest or demonstration by TLP activists in Rawalpindi’s downtown areas over the last week, the residents, particularly those living in areas adjacent to Murree Road, had been experiencing problems as a result of blocked roads.

Motorcycle riders, on the other hand, amassed a sizable fortune by carrying passengers when no other vehicle was capable of doing so due to the road closures.

After sunset on Sunday, people stuck in different areas were able to move ahead as containers were removed from roads.

Meanwhile, shortage of food and edibles in main markets of the garrison city has been reported due to the road blockades.

Rawalpindi Merchant Association President Saleem Pervaiz told Dawn that the supply of grains from central and southern Punjab was stopped due to the closure of Grand Trunk Road. He said traders had informed the district administration about this, adding, however, the supply would be improved as roads were opening.

On the other hand, people could not visit bazaars and markets in downtown area and Saddar, the main commercial hub of the cantonment, due to closure of main roads.

Mohammad Anwar, resident of Tipu Road said he could not do weekly shopping from Raja Bazaar.

Ahmed Saleem, a resident of Arya Mohallah, said his motorcycle developed a fault but there was no workshop open on Murree Road. He said prices of edibles increased manifold as shopkeepers charged more while making excuses about road closures.

Train services between Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi remained suspended for the last five days, however, they will open on Monday.

A senior official of Pakistan Railways said that they were trying to run the trains, adding the government’s directives in this regard were awaited.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Ali told Dawn that roads will be open by Monday morning. He said the roads had been closed for security purposes to avoid any tension in the garrison city.

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