The capital remains ‘contained’ over the last 10 days. There seems no end to the traffic nightmare of its citizens. Yet thousands have been making it to Islamabad since August 14 to participate in the longest ever ‘concert’ in Pakistan.
The administration had opted for the creative use of shipping containers to deny public from reaching the capital city. Though no million have shown up anyway, thousands surely maintains permanent presence in the twin sit-ins. For all practical purposes, the legend of Red Zone has been shattered.
Neither did a terror act occur nor has the government claimed arresting any suicide bombers ever since the agitation began. To many, the so-called high security zone was an administrative measure to pamper egos of the political and bureaucratic elitist. The myth of Baghdad-style Green Zone has been busted. Since both the demonstrations have set the stage at the Constitution Avenue (Shahrah-e-Jamhooriat), their participants’ numbers have soared regardless of humidity or rain.
Yet the cargo containers seem to make a blunt statement of civil disobedience by denying public the right to movement. More than the popular video game, the youth has practically found fun in evading the ugly and questionable containers.
The un-embarrassed federal government is definitely annoying the diplomatic community. Though a handful of nations declare Islamabad a family station, the friendly foreigners’ are already cursing their stars.
Daily Times is privy to various situations in which the diplomatic staff was denied access to Shifa or other private hospitals for appointments with senior consultants. The public and private schools are closed till August 25 anyway. The administration has ‘wisely’ concluded to extend the closure of educational institutions till September 1.
Now to decrease participation in the sit-in here and elsewhere, the Plan B is being realized. While Section 144, barring citizens’ right to assembly, has been enforced in various districts of the Punjab, the cellular services are also likely to be choked or shutdown from evening to late at night. Television channels will face punitive measures – via mighty cable-operator mafia – for covering Imran Khan or Allama Qadri’s speeches live.
After the barricades around Islamabad failed to impress the public, local police stations have been ordered to erect checkpoints on roads. The directive not only aims to discouraging vehicular traffic but also provides an excellent opportunity to legendary Punjab Police to harass the motorists and reduce the inflation gap on self-help basis (in civilized world, it’s called ransom or bribe).
Though no democratic government has legal or moral authority to arrest citizens for participating in public meetings, the Sharifs have decided to use every excuse to keep police lock-up densely populated.
While Islamabad suffers near-perfect siege, its residents complain of shortage of foodstuff, fresh meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables. The hoarders are allegedly paying bribes to police to enter the city. A local retailer often pays double the price to buy such goods, which are then sold to a common with due profit margins. In case someone’s air conditioner needs repairs or certain other commercial services are needed, he must wait in order to help save democracy from being derailed.
Lucky are the citizens who get their newspaper or post delivered without any delay. The hawkers and postmen have a handy excuse anyway. Panic buying of petroleum products has no end. However, life is good as long as petrol is not sold in black market. And, one does not have to wait in a queue to buy bread and eggs.