March 23 parade — a nightmare for local cabbies
ISLAMABAD: For the second consecutive day the daughter of Sakhi Khan, a local cab driver, has not been to school. Her uniform, worn for the past one and a half years, remains in shabby condition and her father does not have the money to buy a new one.
For around four weeks, the family have been living on bread and yoghurt. As the breadwinner, Khan is finding it increasingly difficult to feed his family. This is an example of the many problems experienced by local cab drivers in the federal capital. Preparations are underway to officially celebrate Pakistan Day on March 23 but this is at the cost of people’s lives. The daily profit of cab drivers has been reduced to just Rs 50 owing to a shortage of passengers, traffic jams and road blockades.
“What can I tell you about my business? It is impossible to survive in such circumstances. It’s better to leave cab driving and start labour work. That way, I’ll earn at least Rs 100 per day,” says Khan, while cursing the army and the government.
He questioned the purpose of celebrating Pakistan Day when the poor are unable to feed themselves. He looks at traffic sergeants and military police with disgust, who are diverting traffic from the road leading to Parliament House.
The Blue Area is the hub of commercial activity in Islamabad. According to cab drivers around 70 percent of income generated is from passengers either entering or leaving the area. “There has been more than 60 percent reduction in the number of Blue Area passengers,” Khan said.
For the past four weeks, rehearsals for the March 23 parade were underway with regular intervals. Hundreds of army personnel participated to show their ‘loyalty’ to the country. The venue of the parade is just in front of Parliament House.
Compared to their standard savings of Rs 200 per day, local cab drivers manage to muster Rs 50 profit from their sale. They used to give around Rs 250 to taxi owners but only pay them Rs 50. Long traffic jams compound their problems as they cause greater fuel consumption.
“Just look at what they (army) have done to us. It took us 50 minutes to cover two kilometres. It was raining and we had to wait because tanks and other army vehicles were on the roads,” comments Zulfiqar Ahmed, a motorcyclist.
CDA officials and Islamabad police refused to comment on the situation. Requesting anonymity, they remained reluctant to answer whether the arrangements for Pakistan Day parade were creating problems for the people. The city administration has carved a traffic plan, which by no means has lessened commuter hardships.