LAHORE - Eight people failed to catch their Jeddah-bound Shaheen Air flight on Saturday as they found motorways closed at Khanqah 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 to the scene, told this scribe on Sunday morning.
Shahid is a salesman at a Lahore-based paint factory and reached the city from Hafizabad after 12-hour drive through alternative routes.
A man on motorbike was arguing with protesters in front of Data Darbar to let him go to pick his daughter from school when the protest started but he was not allowed to break the barriers on road and went back to find another way, said another eyewitness.
This reporter saw two buses, packed with schoolchildren on their way back to Pattoki, stuck on Raiwind Road till late Saturday night near Dubai Town where the protesters had blocked the way. Signs of fear were visible on the faces of the children who had come to visit Lahore Zoo on a trip arranged by their 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 the Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah. The protesters have given a call for a wheel-jam strike on Monday. The angry protesters are justifying their actions.
“People have to bear it. It is a test of love and loyalty of millions of Muslims of Pakistan to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him),” said a follower of Allama Khadim Hussain Rizvi, the Sunni/Barelvi cleric at the heart of the agitation movement against the government on the issue of changes to the declaration of finality of prophethood.
Millions of passengers failed to reach their destinations or stayed at homes as public and private transport went off road and all inter-city main roads of Punjab remained closed. There are reports of miles-long queues of buses, cars and goods transport vehicles on alternative routes aside from motorways and national highways.
Public transport companies, including Daewoo, Niazi Express, Bilal Daewoo, Faisal Movers, Rahbar Travel, Bandial Transport Company, New Khan and others, took their buses off road either because of closure of roads or fear of arson attacks on their vehicles by protesters. Train operation from Karachi to upcountry destinations either remained suspended or was hit by long delays.
As per sources, M-1 Motorway 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 Bhattian to Multan-309km) remained 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, Saraey Alamgir, Muridke, Kamokey, Jandiala, Ravi Riyan, Maraka, Mohlanwal, Manga, Chuhng and Harappa remained closed. However, a small portion of the highway near Chichawatni was open.
National Highways and Motorways Police 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” commuters against high fares.
Situation is worst in Lahore for thousands of daily commuters and is expected to become uglier on Monday as protesters have warned to intensify their protest campaign. They announced a wheel jam strike on Monday. The buses operated by the Lahore Transport Company closed their operation till the situation turns normal. The operation of Metro Bus from Shahdra to Gajjumata remained suspended on Saturday and Sunday. The bus will not operate on Monday either.
Panic buying of petrol was witnessed at different filling stations of the city as owners of motorbikes and cars feared shortage of fuel.