Amjad has spent nearly two decades in Islamabad, ferrying passengers from one residential neighborhood to another. Now, he said, he might temporarily leave the city due to the lockdown plans by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf.

“When there is no surety of income, and even life, then there is no purpose to stay,” Amjad said. Amjad, 50, takes care of his five children and parents, who live in his native village in Jhelum. His monthly income is Rs 15,000. Himself, he resides in the federal capital in a rented flat shared with three other people and contributes Rs. 3,000 as monthly room rent.

“I have no concern with any political party, ” he said. “My only interest in life is to manage my family on my meagre income.”

“In our business, the owner deducts the salary of the driver if the vehicle sits idle for longer periods and is not earning on the road,” said Amjad.

Talking about the impact of the unstable political situation in Islamabad, he said that up to 50 percent of the income of transporters is affected, especially vans that ply to the Federal Secretariat.

Remembering the days of the previous political sit-in, Amjad described them as a ‘picnic’ for protestors but troubling times for drivers and transporters. He drives the route from Golra Station to Aabpara.

“No one risks putting his vehicle on the road because anything is possible from ransacking to getting locked up in the police station,” he said.

“In the initial days of the 2014 protests, drivers didn’t come on the road and later when the transport service was resumed, they didn’t complete their routes because of security fears,” he said.

“Apart from angry protestors, the transporters are also afraid of the government because it orders locking the vehicles in police stations,” he said.

Qamar, an Assistant Sub-Inspector in Islamabad police, has experienced multiple protests in the capital ranging from religious party rallies after the execution of Mumtaz Qadri to political sit-ins of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT).

Qamar said that federal police has a force of 10,000 personnel and during unusual situations, additional contingents are called in from other districts and provinces.

“Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary services from a policeman when he has to perform his duty for 12 to 24 hours,” he said.

A constable, equipped with a shield and a helmet, is dropped to his duty point where he has to stand for 12 hours until his shift is completed. Basic food and water are provided on duty.

Qamar was tortured by protesters earlier this year when rallies were taken out against the execution of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer. A paramilitary soldier of the Frontier Constabulary was hit with a stone and got injured, he said.

“It was not possible for me to leave my aide there. So, I held him, and we started retreating to find cover, but the agitators caught us and beat us as if we belonged to the enemy country’s force,” said Qamar. “The mob always considers a police person as the enemy.”

“Whenever a clash occurs between protestors and police, the marchers move towards us with confidence and engage in a fight. However, if a single army man is standing nearby, no one dares to even look towards him,” Qamar continued.

This time, he hopes the protesters will not break the law and remain peaceful. “I really hope political leaders can keep their supporters in check,” he said.

Once a PTI follower, Khurram is disillusioned.  “My romance with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) dates back to when I was in my first year of intermediate and my only wish was to get a chance to communicate with Chairman PTI Imran Khan. When it happened, I learnt that dreams are beautiful but reality is bitter,” said Khurram, who belongs to Mansehra.

“The millionaires and billionaires started hijacking the party near the general elections of 2013 and workers like me who had contributed in sowing the seeds of the party were being cornered by the high-ups,” he said.

He said that last year when the party chairman gave the long march call, he joined him with enthusiasm and the hope that they would attain real change.

“But soon in the sit-in, I realized that my party had no plan to lead us to our destination,” Khurram said. “There were only slogans and music.”

“It was discrimination on all levels which disheartened me, and after the local body elections I decided to part ways with the party,” he said.

Remembering the division level meeting before leaving to stage the protest in the capital, Khurram said local leadership was not even aware about what the party intended to do and for how long.

“PTI forgot all its promises of the rule of law and adopted the same old culture of protocol and misuse of public offices being practiced by other parties,” he said.

“PTI had made a commitment to eliminate the political environment from government departments but in reality, their local leadership has not stopped using the official vehicles in political rallies,” said Khurram.

 “This was not the change which had been promised when the network of PTI and ISF was being spread in the entire country... I cannot join the lockdown campaign of PTI now,” said Khurram. “It was the party of justice, but there is no justice inside the party.”

Amir has dealt in the currency exchange business for past five years. His office is at Blue Area, one of the busiest business centers near the famous D-Chowk, which has gained notoriety as the final destination of protestors.

Amir is thinking of closing down his business for a week from Nov 2 if the situation turns unstable. “Protests and strikes cause severe troubles in business and financial sectors.”

He revealed he had to close his franchise in 2014 when protesters armed with batons and sticks roamed Blue Area. “I can’t give you exact figures of the loss, but I termed it ‘zero profit’ because there was no dealing at all.”

Amir said police and security guards provide protection, but this cannot reduce a businessman’s sense of insecurity. He said his business also provides livelihood to several staffers.

“I cannot direct anyone by commenting against the expected lockdown, but no one has the right to halt the city life,” he said.

 

Shareefa in her 17 years of service has witnessed numerous ‘high alerts’ in the hospital. The word ‘emergency’ has become an integral part of her life.

“The message ‘be prepared’ has started echoing in our ears and we know its meaning,” she said.

Shareefa lives in sector G-10 with her husband and three children, but her job demands she remain on duty whenever there is an emergency situation.

“Without any distinction of day and night, setting aside her problems, a nurse has to reach her duty… We can’t leave and visit our homes in high alert situations.” During an emergency, she said, the hospital cancels all leaves and those residing in the city are ordered to reach work on their own.

“Hospital administration arranges hostels for us, but it’s not a replacement for home, especially for a mother like me.” Shareefa said nurses are already performing duties beyond their regular working hours and the Nov 2 protest could mean even longer hours “with no overtime money, making it even more stressful”.

Tariq Ejaz, who teaches at Air University, is worried about the semester exams, which are overlapping with the announced PTI ‘lockdown.’

“The administration is considering rescheduling the examination time table now because of political uncertainty in the city,” said Tariq, adding that thousands of students and dozens of teachers would be affected by the prevailing political situation. “For a neutral person, having nothing to do with politics and whose only focus is academic activities, one has to pay the price in the form of wastage of time,” he said.

“Parents are very concerned about their children and are not in support of sending them (to university) because no one wants to take a risk in this situation,” said Tariq. He suggested political parties should protest in some dedicated venues instead of disrupting the life of the whole cities.

“Political leaders must think about the life of the rest of the people who have nothing to do with politics,” he said, adding that no one should be allowed to disrupt others’ lives at any pretext.

Dr Sharif Astori works at Federal Government Polyclinic Hospital, and his hospital has to remain extra vigilant if the normal situation of the city is challenged by political protests.

Talking to The Nation, Doctor Astori said that the responsibilities of a doctor are doubled during the imposition of an emergency. It’s going to be a pinch time for them especially as Polyclinic Hospital is located near the intended protest area, he added.

When roads are blocked, he stated, it becomes difficult for doctors to reach the hospitals on time. “Stock of medicine and blood are doubled in emergency situations, which happen when people are enraged and highly agitated,” he added.

Dr Astori hoped the ambulance service would not be affected due to planned protests by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. No interruption was reported in the past, but he said the November 2 lockdown could misguide the people. “I request protesters not to interrupt the ambulances services in the capital city in any case,” he said.