ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI - A tumultuous welcome was accorded to Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran (TMQ) Chief Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s long march by some 10,000 supporters of TuQ upon their arrival at T-Chowk Rawat here on GT Road on Monday.

Chanting full-pitched slogans against PPP-led government, President Asif Ali Zardari and Interior Minister Rehman Malik and in favor of Dr Qadri, the charged supporters, including labourers, students, hoteliers, transporters, teachers, old aged men and even children, showered mounds of rose petals on the convoy of Qadri’s long march that comprised hundreds of buses, cars, wagons and other vehicles with holding banners, portraits and national flags into their hands.

Later, the convoy safely entered the territories of federal capital after crossing the jurisdiction of Rawalpindi amid tight security arrangements made by police under the supervision of City Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Hameed Khokher.

According to details, thousands of marchers of TMQ reached T-Chowk Rawat at 10:00pm where they were welcomed by a huge number of supporters of Dr Qadri.

A huge crane was also moving ahead of the marchers with numerous trucks loaded with blankets, quilts, water tanks, petrol cans and edibles showing their preparations for long stay in the federal capital for acceptance of their demands. The supporters were getting crazy on the occasion to have a glimpse of Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri, who was embarking in a bulletproof vehicle.

Thousands of TMQ activists and people belonging to various walks of life started gathering at T-Chowk Rawat early in the morning bracing the harsh weather and their number reached to thousands in the evening when the long marchers arrived at Rawat.

Earlier, Dr Qadri’s long march stayed at Jhelum, Dina, Sohawa, Gujar Khan, Mandra and Rawat for few minutes, receiving a warm welcome by the locals as well as his supporters.

Holding national flags the supporter of the long march included women and children as activists from AJK and Potohar region also joined them at the GT Road.

Faisal Haqani and Usman Azim, two students of I.Com and B.Com hailing from Khana Pull, told TheNation that they have arrived here to participate in the long march to get rid of the corrupt and fraud leadership of PPP.

They said that people were facing shortage of basic facilities of life and poor law and order situation and now they wanted change and a new system in which they could live peacefully. “We will go to Islamabad with long march and will stay there until the change in the country,” they claimed.

“I run a hotel at Khatana Mor. Today I closed my hotel and came here to support Qadri who started long march from Lahore to bring change in Pakistan. The PPP-led government badly failed in providing relief to the masses. Now, Zardari and his cronies will have to step down,” said Ahsan Ullah, aged 34, who was waiting for Qadri’s arrival at T-Chowk Rawat.

Muhammad Yasin, a carpenter by profession, told this scribe that he came from Azad Kashmir to take part in the long march of TuQ to raise voice against the unjust, corrupt and status quo oriented system of government in Pakistan.

He, while carrying a blanket and a bag in his hands, said that people were facing worst kind of law and order situation and hunger in the country but rulers doing nothing. He said he would remain present along with other people in Islamabad as long as TMQ chief asked his followers.

The other participants, who arrived from Chakwal, Mandi Bahawuldin, Mianwali and Pind Dadun Khan, included women and children, also said that they would participate in the long march to purge the country from corrupt and cruel leaders, who have been sucking the blood of poor masses. They said that owing to erroneous polices of Zardari, people were facing hardships in getting two time meals. Gas, CNG, electricity, price hike and unemployment were gifted to people by the government in its five years regime, they said.

The businesses of hand push cart owners and vendors selling peanuts, naan, kebabs, pakoras, samosas, juices, dry fruit also got momentum on the occasion.

On the other hand, the law enforcement agencies blocked GT Road from three places by placing barricades and containers to stop the marchers from entering Rawalpindi. However, the caravan was allowed to march on Islamabad Expressway.

Though the organizers of the long march had assured Rawalpindi administration that they would not enter the city, the law enforcers had put barricades and containers on the road creating problems for the commuters and vehicular traffic leaving and entering the city.

A police big wig told that some 10,000 Jawans of Punjab Police and commandos of Elite Force were deputed along with the route of TuQ march to guard them. Air surveillance was also conducted to avert any untoward incident. City Police Officer (CPO) Azhar Hameed Khokher and SP Potohar Division Haroon Joya supervised the security arrangements at T-Chowk Rawat.

Meanwhile, calm prevailed in the streets of Capital till Monday evening before thousands of marchers stormed into the city in pursuit of their demands.

Unlike other Mondays that are full of activity from dawn to dusk following the start of a busy week for the Islooites, yesterday that went past, told a different story altogether. The entire city virtually wore an ever-deserted look with only a handful of vehicles, pedestrians and public transport to be seen on the roads. The reason was that the security agencies had installed barricades at different points across Islamabad and Rawalpindi that greatly hindered the public movement. Considering this, Monday was observed as a holiday in several government offices and foreign missions while businesses were also closed in different parts of Islamabad.

The masses also complained of facing immense difficulties in finding the public transport due to the thin number of buses, vans and cabs. “I waited for nearly two hours to catch the bus and finally found one. Due to unavailability of passengers, few commercial vehicles are on the roads,” said Ali from Bhara Kahu.

Majority of the residents preferred to stay indoors and watch the long march’s unfolding developments on the television channels.

As part of the protection measures, tents and related covering shields were set up outside several banks and other offices in markets located in the central parts of the Capital. 

At the Islamabad Highway, several supporters of the Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran were also spotted who were moving to Jinnah Avenue to join the long march, staged on the call of the TMQ Chief Dr Tahirul Qadri in his bid to ‘change the system.’

Some people who came to the offices returned early upon getting to know that the offices were closed on Monday. “I came to the office early morning as per my routine but found out that the office was closed. I waited here for some time, roamed around the market and now I’m about to leave for my home,” Muhammad Imtiaz, a manager at a private courier company in the Aabpara market said before leaving for his home in Dhoke Syedan Rawalpindi.

In the morning, the number of the participants who were to join the activities upon the arrival of the marchers in Islamabad was very thin. However, the number kept increasing with hundreds of people including women and children having assembled at the Jinnah Avenue. By the Monday evening, this number reached thousands and shortly before the arrival of the marchers after the sunset, the strength of the participants waiting to welcome them was recorded over ten thousand.  It was also estimated that the number of the total participants of the long march including those who arrived from Lahore was around 50,000.

The security personnel from Frontier Corps, Frontier Constabulary, Punjab Rangers, Punjab Police and Islamabad Capital territory (ICT) Police were deployed across the federal capital to avert any security lapse. The traffic wardens from Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) were also assigned duties at the crowded areas in the Jinnah Avenue to avoid traffic jams and solve related problems. Generally, it was a lean day for the residents of the twin cities who enjoyed the ‘holiday’ indoors while watching the dramatic developments regarding long march on their television sets.

Meanwhile in Rawalpindi, the normal life in the city remained disturbed as the district administration waited for arrival of Tehrik-e-Minhaj-ul-Quran (TMQ) Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri’s long march with preparations to tackle any kind of untoward incident as tens of thousands of marchers passed by Rawalpindi district.

With the blockage of all the major roads including GT Road and Benazir Bhutto Road with containers and barricades from various points, Rawalpindi was virtually cut off with Islamabad and other areas as no vehicle was allowed to enter the city or going outside.

The business activities also remained suspended along with GT Road and BBR with closure of all shopping malls and markets, the CNG and petrol pumps, in result of which public transport vanished from the roads, causing troubles for commuters.

A large number of people could be witnessed moving on foot towards their destinations at GT Road, Soan Bridge, Kahuta Bridge, T Chowk Rawat, Kallar Syedan, Channi Alam Sher, Saddar, Peshawar Road, Murree Road and many other areas.

Many patients could not reach hospitals in time because of road blockage.

According to detail, the law enforcement agencies and district administration blocked first GT Road at Soan Bridge by placing a container making the section of the road a no-go zone from the vehicles going to Rawat, Gujar Khan, Sohawa, Jhelum, Kharian, Gujrat and other cities of Punjab. Similarly, BBR was blocked with containers at Faizabad cutting the city off with federal capital.

At T-Chowk Rawat, both sections of GT road by parking the tankers and huge-sized containers and barbwires to stop the marchers from entering the city. The traffic was also stopped from going to motorway. As a result, the vehicle owners faced a lot of difficulties. The vehicle owners strained in their vehicles for hours in waiting for the opening of roads.

In many areas, the motorists were seen cursing the authorities and staging protest demonstrations in small groups after coming out of their vehicles. “It is not understandable as to why the GT Road has been blocked so early,” said Sufian Ahmed, who wanted to go Lahore to attend a funeral of one of his relatives. He added that government itself was in panic and making the movement of people difficult unnecessarily.

City Traffic Police (CTP) diverted the traffic, going from Rawalpindi to Islamabad, at Double Road and 9th Avenue. The situation got tense when two convoys of TMQ Rawalpindi chapter were stopped by police from proceeding to Faizabad. However, after sometime, the convoys were converted to Double Road and 9th Avenue.

All the educational institutions in the city were closed while the people preferred to stay indoors.

While talking to TheNation, the residents and motorists said that the government has paralysed the normal life of the common man. “We cannot perform our duties in a situation when all roads are blocked,” they said.

Shama Bibi, a lady hails from Kalar Syedan holding a heavy bag into her hands and walking by foot to reach her home at Kahuta Bridge, said that she was facing a difficult situation in absence of public transport and blockage or roads. She said that her house was very far away while darkness was also started enveloping the city. She demanded of the government to not create troubles for poor people. Reportedly, Awami Muslim League (AML) President Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed along with a good number of his men reached at Faizabad Bridge to join Dr Qadri’s long march.

Agencies adds: The tight security arrangements on the arrival of Dr Tahir Qadri’s long march in federal capital made majority of residents to remain indoor as the transport remained off the roads and there was thin presence of employees in the offices.

Islamabad wore a deserted look on Sunday and Monday ahead of long march (Lahore to Islamabad) of Chief of Tehreek-e-Minhajul Quran (TMQ), Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri. Authorities shut down roads in the Capital and hundreds of containers were placed on all the main roads from Sunday Morning.

It was as if the entire city had taken a holiday, routes that usually see heavy traffic were almost deserted. Due to tightened security measures and non-availability of public transport and blockade of main arteries leading to the federal capital most of the people failed to reach their destinations.

The blockade of roads also caused problems for patients as those coming from distance localities failed to reach hospitals. “My father is a patient of Hepatitis C, he become unconscious last day and we managed to brought him hospital after changing several roads as main roads were closed,” said Ahmad. 

Meanwhile, reportedly, additional police force from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Azad Kashmir have also reached Islamabad to ensure fool-proof security. The security personnel were guarding various entry and exit points on the Kashmir Highway and the Red Zone. Authorities also blocked the double road on the Faizabad interchange, linking the twin cities.

Barbed wires have been erected on almost all the roads leading to the Parliament House and the Red Zone. The closure of key roads led to the diversion of traffic, causing a traffic jam. Commuters from the twin cities had a tough time commuting as the roads were closed. The markets, commercial establishments and offices were also closed partially for the day.  An official at District Administration told APP that the participants in the long march would be provided with security.  Police personnel kept a tight vigil at AK Fazlul Haq Road and Luqman Hakeem Road, where the protesters are likely to enter into D-Chowk and the Red Zone. CCTV cameras have been installed from Faizabad to the Red Zone as a security measure.

He said lawbreakers would be dealt with iron hands. Long march participants would be required to park their vehicles in F-9 Park. A stage has been established infront of Pak-Saudi tower, where Dr Qadri is likely to address the participants.

Sensitive areas including the Parliament House, Diplomatic Enclave, and other locations are cordoned off by means of freight containers. Moreover, Traders Associations said if the march culminated in a violent protest, they would lodge an FIR against Tehrik-e-Minhajul Quran.

Meanwhile the business of push-carts have increased maniflod as the workers of TMQ, waiting their leader since early morning have been purchasing instant food items including corns, burgers, biscuits, mineral water, etc.

Meanwhile, in the wake of long march from Tahir Ul Qadri, public transport of twin cities remained off the road on Monday.

Following the long march and to avert any unpleasant incident public transport remained suspended in Rawalpindi and Islamabad and people of the twin cities remained confined with in their houses. To avoid huge gathering at the site of long march and to restrict the public movement law enforcement agencies blocked the roads from different places therefore traffic remained off the road. 

President Rawalpindi Islamabad Transport union Haji Akhtar already announced that to avert any unpleasant incident and to safeguard innocent lives, public transport in the twin cities would be suspended on Monday. He said that if someone would ply his vehicle during long march days then he himself would be responsible for the consequences.

Talking to media men President Transport Union said that district administration has not negotiated with transport union regarding the strategy for transport movement however, union itself has decided to keep the vehicles off the road.

He said that situation has been critical and union can not afford any property loss to the vehicles.  He said that if someone would bring his vehicle then he himself would be responsible for it.

Answering to a question Haji Akhtar said that Minhaj Ul Quran has not contacted for provision of vehicle for long march and if they demanded then transport union would think about it.

Although due to long march social activities remained limited however, cab drivers took full advantage of the situation and charged extra fares from the people.

Aslam resident of G 6-2 told online that his child is suffering from fever and he is waiting for cab from last two hours. He said that cab drives are demanded triple charges from normal charges and taking full advantage of the situation.

Meanwhile, despite the announcement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik commercial activities in the twin cities remained suspended on Monday.

According to details, Federal Minister Rehman Malik on Sunday announced that government has made arrangements to keep the situation under control during long march by Dr Tahir Ul Qadri and business and commercial activities in the twin cities would continue as per their routine. However, contrary to his remarks business and commercial activities in the twin cities remained fully suspended not even a single market was open in the business hub Blue Area on Monday.

Trader’s community who earlier announced to keep their shops open but on Monday situation was contrary to that. All the shops on Blue Area that is hub of the economic activities remained closed. Traders on Monday keep their shops closed on the advent of long march when hundred and thousands of people are approaching to federal capital and federal capital has been turned into garrison city.

Traders community demanded from the government to provide fool proof security to them and also demanded Dr Tahir Ul Qadri to pay them their loss. They said that it is very unfair that due to vested interests of single individual their business is suffering and closure of market in the economic hub of capital blue area and other areas would result into million of rupees loss to the deteriorated economy.

Talking to Online, traders’ of twin cities said that situation is not favorite to keep their business on. They said that if any unpleasant activity happens then who would be responsible for it. They said that although closure of business is not in their interest and also for the country however they have no any choice but to keep their shops close on such critical situation.