Rawalpindi - The measures taken by city district government and police to stop the planned protest rallies of Pakistan Awami Tehrik and Awami Muslim League paralysed normal life in the city yesterday.

The citizens faced a lot of hardships due to the closure of roads and suspension of traffic because of barricades erected by the law enforcement agencies to bar the protesters of PAT and AML of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

A gigantic traffic mess was also seen on all major roads leading to the Benazir Bhutto Road, the main artery of the city, early on the morning as CDGR and police placed shipping containers on the roads.

The roads blockade and traffic snarl also led to the death of a woman at Mareer Chowk as she could not reach the hospital in time.  Similarly, District Coordination Officer (DCO) Talat Mehmood Gondal wrote a letter to leaders of the PAT and the AML saying that intelligence agencies had communicated serious threats regarding terrorist attacks on the rallies in the city. The city administration reportedly placed containers on the main roads in a bid to foil a possible terrorist attack.

The DCO, in the letter, had warned the organisers of the rallies that if a terrorist incident took place, the organisers would be responsible as the assembling of a large number of people could provide a soft target to terrorists. The DCO also informed Sheikh Rashid Ahmed that his life could be under threat.

Meanwhile, police had placed containers at Transit Camp Chowk, Kashmir Road near Kamran Market at Saddar at Metro Bus Stop, Rashid Minhas Road at Punjab House, Mareer Chowk, Liaqat Road near Rawal Town Administration office, at Urdu Bazaar, College Road, Trunk Bazaar Chowk, Committee Chowk and T Chowk Rawat.

These blockades were placed apparently to stop people from reaching Lal Haveli, the residence of Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

The police had also placed containers at Chandni Chowk and Faizabad flyover on BB Road. These blockades were put to stop activists of PAT to reach at Rehmanabad on BB Road where PAT Chief Dr Tahir-ul Qadri was supposed to address his followers at about 9:00pm.

The public transport remained off the roads, causing inconvenience to passengers, who could be seen standing worried on all the bus terminals.

The road blocks mainly hit Raja Bazaar, the central business hub of the city. No public transport could reach at Raja Bazaar as visitors had to reach different markets on foot. Massive traffic jams were witnessed in Saddar Bazaar and all roads leading to Raja Bazaar.

In another development, AML President and MNA Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also held a press conference at Lal Haveli.

He warned the district administration and police to remove the containers and allow him to carry out his planned rally from Lal Haveli. He had threatened if the barricades were not removed, he along with his supporters would march towards Islamabad.

Following Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s threats, the city administration removed containers placed around Lal Haveli and erected walk-through gates. A massive fire also broke out outside Lal Haveli when the supporters of Sheikh tried to light a torch. Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also came out of Lal Haveli about 7:30pm to lead the rally.  

Reportedly, a clash also occurred between PAT supports and police at Mareer Chowk. On the other hand, the road blocks also resulted in the death of a woman in an ambulance at Mareer Chowk.

A traffic warden told The Nation that ambulance driver wanted to take the woman to Benazir Bhutto Hospital. The ambulance, however, could not cross Mareer Chowk as containers were placed on the road resulting in death of the woman. However, he did not tell the name of deceased.

Earlier in the day, the metro bus service management restricted the bus service from Secretariat in Islamabad to I J Principle Road in Rawalpindi. Later at about 2:00pm, the administration suspended the metro bus service. Heavy contingents of police were deployed at Metro bus stations for security.

Large numbers of PAT workers also gathered at Liaquat Bagh to accord a warm welcome to their beloved leader Dr Tahir Ul Qadri.The Islamabad administration also brought containers at Zero Point to refrain the supporters of PAT and AML entering in the federal capital. Islamabad Expressway and Peshawar Road remained opened for traffic.

PAT Chief Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri along with al huge number of supporters entered the federal capital at 8:00pm.

Talking to media men, Dr Tahir ul Qadri said that he carried out Qisas Rally for getting justice for the PAT workers murdered in Model Town. He said that the Sharif brothers had deprived the people of employment, gas, electricity and food.

He stated that the government was trying to sabotage Zarb-e-Azb. He said that people of Pakistan have become fed up with looters and poured on roads and streets to get rid of the rulers. He stated that his march would be continued until the end of the rule of Sharif brothers.