Rain, terror threats — a dampener on I-Day festivities
By Imran Naeem Ahmad
ISLAMABAD: Two separate spells of rain that lashed Islamabad on the eve of Independence Day coupled with security fears considerably dampened the celebrations.
In scenes that were in stark contrast to past years, the roads around town did not see the usual rush of revellers who used to swarm the capital on this momentous occasion.
The Jinnah, Faisal and Constitution avenues that previously witnessed an endless stream of vehicles presented a vastly different picture this time with traffic remaining extremely thin.
Although most of the government buildings were adorned with strings of colourful lights, still they failed to attract people, most of whom were either forced to stay indoors by rain or opted to remain home fearing terrorist strikes.
The first round of rain began around 9:00 pm and continued for about half an hour while the much longer second spell started at the stroke of midnight.
The rains forced whatever revellers there were off the roads as many vehicles got stuck in puddles along the Jinnah Avenue and elsewhere. A handful of youngsters danced to the tunes of the national songs in pouring rain, their cars having come to a halt in Blue Area.
As music blared from their cars’ stereo, some of the other folks passing by joined in, dancing wildly in the middle of the road well past midnight.
But the rain clearly played spoilsport, wetting buntings and flags put up along several of the roads, markets and private bungalows. “This has been a real dampener,” said a youngster, confined at home.
Two suicide attacks in Islamabad last month and the Operation Silence that preceded them have also been cited as the reasons for the low-key festivities. “I think people still think the situation is dangerous,” said Tariq Farman, a local businessman.
The main markets, almost always lit up profusely for the occasion, this year however wore a contrasting look. “This time no one asked us to pool money, so that’s why you see very little lighting,” Jahangir Badar, a trader in Blue Area said.
One thing that remained quite significant though in the run up to and on Independence Day was the sound of crackers going off all around the town. Despite a ban on their sale and use, crackers were freely and openly used, mostly by youth.
Significant too were the reckless motorcyclists who, with their noisy silencers, were seen performing stunts and zigzagging their way dangerously through traffic.
Termed a nuisance by the residents and road users, several of these daredevils have been caught in recent days by the Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) that has now announced a two-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 5,000 to those indulging in motorcycle acrobatics.
But despite Islamabad’s peace and quiet being disturbed by the crackers and the deafening roar of the motorcycle silencers as always, Independence Day clearly did not bring along the colour and cheer that used to be seen in previous years.