Bad timing: 4 protests at rush hour gridlock traffic

Traffic police chief Khurram Gulzar may have been standing with his men at Akhtar Colony in an attempt to control a traffic gridlock precipitated by a water riot, but this was hardly what people wanted to hear.

“I stood there for four hours and my feet are still sore, but people won’t listen to you at all,” he told The Express Tribune. “Who says our force wasn’t there. How could it be that a DIG was at the chowk and his men disappeared?”

The riot by residents of Akhtar Colony, Kashmir Colony, Azam Basti and Mehmoodabad started at main Korangi Road but as this is a main artery, it affected traffic on routes leading to Defence, Clifton, Sharah-e-Faisal, Baloch Colony, Saddar and Mehmoodabad.

It did not help that the problem started to develop around rush hour and that several protests broke out at the same time across the city. There were four alone in Korangi. There are only 1,500 traffic wardens in one shift as well, which is simply not enough.

In the Korangi vicinity, the protests broke out at Khajjoor Chowk, where electricity employees continue their protest at Sunset Boulevard at Punjab Chowrangi, at Delhi Colony against load shedding as well as Kala Pull, and a major one for water at Akhtar Colony.

“We faced several protests at the same time,” explained Gulzar. “We explained matters to people till we were blue in the face, but because everyone was in a hurry, it turned into a mess.” Akhtar Colony protests for water at least twice a month. Water board MD Misbahuddin Farid said that there were three main reasons behind the water crises in the locality. The residents of Qayyumabad had covered the valve with cement, preventing it from working and cutting off supply to Akhtar Colony, Kashmir Colony and other adjoining areas. The police and Rangers will help the water staff fix the problem.

Secondly, the water shortage is exacerbated by load shedding at KWSB’s major pumping stations in Dhabeji, Pipri and Gharo. Up to 80 million gallons went short on Monday.

The third reason is political. On Thursday (July 20) elections are going to be held and the area where the protest broke out has a large number of Kashmiri voters. Some petty groups had tried to create a law and order situation, he said.

This theory was corroborated in part by Defence SHO Raja Mumtaz who said that the protest was staged such that Mehmoodabad and Baloch Colony roads would be hit. The protesters choose main Korangi Road as they knew that it was the busiest of thoroughfares. “Honestly, it’s the limit,” he fumed. “The problem was about water and we were being cursed. It was so bad that they even fired straight at us and pelted us with stones.” He felt that if the water officials had come in time, the problem would not have been so bad.

Around 600 protesters emerged at X Chowrangi at around 2:30 pm and practically blocked it till 9 pm. The protest turned violent when police, after failing to negotiate, used tear gas.

The protestors responded by hurling stones at the passing public and traffic. “We were exercising our democratic right through a peaceful protest, which unfortunately turned violent,” alleged Syed Jadoon, who was leading the protesters. “Instead we chased the police back towards the Defence police station.”

Police arrested around five protesters. The Rangers contingents arrived as backup but only to stay at the Khayaban-e-Ittehad and Sunset Boulevard roads.

Resident Ajmal Murad told The Express Tribune that due to water shortage residents needed to buy water tankers at the cost of Rs2,000 or Suzuki water suppliers who charged Rs500 for 150 litres.

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