Metro buses remained off the track in Islamabad and Rawalpindi for the third consecutive day for security reasons to the misery of those commuting between the twin cities.
The suspension of the fast bus service, which covers key areas of the twin cities and is used by around 120,000 people daily, occurred as scores of the supporters of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of former Punjab governor Salman Taseer, continued with the sit-in outside the Parliament House and adjoining key government installations for the second day.
Resorting to violence, the protesters destroyed several metro bus stations on Jinnah Avenue, causing inconvenience to the people, who had to commute between the twin cities for one reason or the other, due to the suspension of the fast metro bus service plying the 22.5km route.
They used either slow-moving minibuses or fast taxis to reach their respective destinations. Some complained cabbies overcharged them.
An official of the Punjab Metro Bus Authority put the damage caused to metro bus stations by mob at around Rs120 million. He also said the suspension of bus service cost the authority over Rs2 million daily. The official said assessment of damages and law and order situation was underway and that the service would take few more days to resume.
Also, thin attendance was reported at government offices in the capital city mainly due to the suspension of Metro Bus service.
The District Coordination Officer (Rawalpindi) Sajid Zafar Daal said that Metro Bus Service (MBS) will resume service soon after cooling down of the situation. We are trying to handle all issues smoothly, he added.
The regular commuters of Metro buses particularly women expressed concern over the situation as such incidents create lots of problems for them. Public was not only facing suspension of Metro Bus Service (MBS) but also facing shortage of privately Public Service Vehicles (PSV) here in the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad. Majority of PSV owners are not only plying their vehicles due to fear and panic as protesters might pelt stones over them.
Similarly, important Route No.1 and 1-C from Saddar to Pak-Secretariat and from Chungi No.22 to Pak-Secretariat are going through Kutchery. There was no wagon from Saddar to Chandni Chowk as all PSV diverted to Rawal Road via Kutchery or Airport Road. This situation was adopted because of presence of Metro Bus Service (MBS). Now, passengers are facing hell like situation in absence of Metro Bus as first they have to go to Kutchery and than catch their desired van. Talking to ‘The News,’ people expressed their resentment over suspension of the bus service as many remain stranded for hours at bus stops as they could not get any other public transport on that route.
Haji Irshad Ahmed, a commuter said that I usually reach Islamabad through Metro Bus but now I am stranded in Rawalpindi due to suspension of the service. He appealed to the government and protesters to cool down this situation so that normalcy returns.
Yasmeen Zafar, a working woman said that before the start of the Metro Bus Service, people were facing worst kind of humiliation at the hand of private transporters. “On start of Metro Bus, we got some relief but strikes and suspensions of the service have left a negative impact on the project,” she added.She also said that female commuters felt comfort while travelling in Metro buses but such kind of atmosphere is creating unrest among them. People stranded at different arteries all across the capital had nothing but one demand from the state authorities — to establish the writ of the state and put their house in order so people do not suffer. “People suffer every time there is a rally, protest or VIP movement,” an angry Mohammad Salman said.