LAHORE: Eight people including women failed to catch their Jeddah bound Shaheen Airline flight on Saturday as they found motorways closed at Khankan Dogran Interchange on way to Lahore from Hafizabad.
“They were in panic and calling their travel agent on phone who told them to deposit Rs25,000 each more to get new tickets,” Shahid Mahmood, a witness of the entire scene, told their story to this scribe on Sunday morning.
Shahid is a salesman at a Lahore based paint factory and reached the city from Hafizabad areas after 12-hour drive by adopting alternative ways.
A man on motorbike was arguing with protesters at front of Data Darbar Lahore to let him go to pick his daughter from school when the protest started but he was not allowed to break the barriers at road and went back to find another way, said another eye-witness.
This reporter saw two buses packed with school children on their way back to Patoki remained stuck at Raiwind Road till late Saturday night near Dubai Town where the protesters blocked the way. Signs of fear were visible on the faces of the children who had come to visit Lahore Zoo on a educational trip arranged by the school.
People are suffering and there seems to be no end to their problems in next two or three days because of ongoing protests of Tehreek-e-Labaik. The protesters have given a call for wheel-jam strike on Monday. The angry protesters are justifying their actions.
“People have to bear some problem. It is test to determine the love and loyalty of millions of Muslims of Pakistan for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH),” said a follower of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi , the Sunni/Brelvi cleric at the heart of the agitation movement against the government on the issue of Khatme Nabowat (finality of the Prophet-hood).
Millions of passengers failed to reach at their destinations or stayed at homes as public and private transport went off-road and all inter-city main roads of Punjab had been closed for two days.
There are reports of miles long queues of buses and cars and goods transport in alternative ways aside from motorways and national highways.
Public transport companies including Daewoo, Niazi Express, Bilal Daewoo, Faisal Movers, Rahbar Travel, Bindyal Transport Company, New Khan and others made off-road their transport either because of closure of roads or for fear of getting their vehicles burned by protestors. Main trains operation from Karachi to upcountry destinations either remained closed or hit long delays.
As per sources, M-1 Motorways from Peshawar to Islamabad was open for traffic but M-2, (Islamabad to Lahore-367km), M-3 (from Lahore to Abdul Hakeem-230km) and M-4 (Pindi Bhatyan to Multan-309km) was closed for all kinds of traffic except a portion of M-2 that was open from Kalar Kahar to Kot Momin.
National Highways connecting Taxila, Gujar Khan, Sarai Aalimgir, Muridkay, Kamonki, Jandyala, Ravi Reyon, Maraka, Mohlanwal, Manga, Chuhang and Harapa remained closed. However, a small portion of highway near Chechawatni was open.
Pakistan Motorways and Highways Police has advised citizens to avoid unnecessary travel.
Main intra-city transport in Punjab big cities including Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Faisalabad is off-road for two days. Rickshaws and motorcycle rickshaws are “facilitating” the daily commuters against high fares.
The fares of Uber and Careem and other cab services also went high due to unavailability of other public transport.
Situation is worst in Lahore for thousands of daily commuters and is expected to become uglier on Monday as protestors have warned to enhance their protest campaign. They also announced a wheel jam strike on Monday. The buses run under the umbrella of Lahore Transport Company closed their operation till the situation turns normal. The operation at metro bus route from Shahdra to Gajumata remained suspended on Saturday and Sunday and will remain close on Monday too.
Panic buying of petrol was witnessed at different filling stations of the city as owners of motorbikes and cars feared about the shortage of fuel.