y father would have been alive had we been able to take him to the hospital on time,” said Ghulam Ali, a resident of Korang Town.
Visibly shaken as he narrated to The News on Sunday how his father had passed away, Ali said that on the fateful day, they had been stuck in traffic for about an hour on the Islamabad Expressway. “The traffic jam was caused by the poor construction plan at Koran Bridge,” said Ali.
Islamabad Expressway is the main road connecting Islamabad with the Grand Trunk Road. Heavy traffic has been restricted on GT Road threading through the cantonment areas of Rawalpindi as it could be a national security threat.
As a result, menacing trucks and noisy buses are diverted to the Expressway as they access the GT Road via IJ Principal Road. The sputtering heavy vehicles wreak havoc on Expressway and leave clouds of smoke on IJP Road in their wake.
It is estimated that two-thirds of about three million-strong population of Islamabad lives in the areas that flank Expressway that has been under construction for three years.
“More than three years have passed since widening of this road from Gulberg to T Chowk started,” says Mansha Sahi, a community leader. “There are four or five bridges on this road. But it seems that the construction work started without any planning and engineering expertise,” he adds.
“At the beginning, the Capital Development Authority gave the contract a civil contractor. Later it awarded the contract to the Frontier Works Organisation. But neither the private nor the public contractor has made any sense of constructing this road. That is why the CDA keeps missing deadlines one after another,” Sahi tells TNS.
Ghazal, a student of criminology at Quaid-i-Azam University commutes to her varsity daily from Rawat. “Trenches have been dug from Naval Anchorage Interchange to Gulberg Interchange. Travelling on this road is becoming very difficult,” she complains. “Well, at least the portion from T Chowk to Naval Anchorage Interchange has been built,” she adds.
Dr Atif Shehzad Sahi, a professor of media studies has composed a song on this road. The popularity of the song is clear proof that the residents of the city are sick of the construction work dragging on. “Basically, I wanted to highlight this matter. Nobody was listening to us. The road has devolved into a muddy puddle. People living in the vicinity are getting sick. Road users are getting into accidents. And yet the CDA ignores it,” he says.
About his song, he says, “I wrote, sang, directed, produced and presented it myself. Effectiveness is the essence of mass communication. I think I have been successful. My song got more than 20,000 views in a week. I have worked for news TV channels. I am using my skills to highlight this matter.”
The areas closely linked to Islamabad Expressway are the Defence Housing Authority, River Garden, Naval Anchorage, Jinnah Garden, Soan Garden, CBR Town, the PWD Colony, Pakistan Town, Korang Town, Bahria Town, Doctors’ Town. Media Town, Airport Housing Society, Judicial Coloney, Ghauri Town, Khanna, Iqbal Town and Sohan.
It is estimated that two thirds of about three million-strong population of Islamabad lives in the areas that flank Expressway which has been under construction for three years.
According to Azhar Jatoi, vice president of the National Press Club and a resident of Media Town, thousands of vehicles use the route. “Nawaz Sharif announced completion of this road. After his removal, Imran Khan got most of the votes from the housing societies that surround this road. Khan had no choice but to start work on the project. But the construction has been dragging behind the schedule. Then Shahbaz Sharif became prime minister. He personally visited the construction site on several occasions and the work picked up pace. Now it is slowing down agan,” says Jatoi.
Ali Raza Alvi, a TV anchor who resides in Media Town, is of the opinion that Islamabad Expressway gets heavy traffic because of the absence of a cardinal bypass in the capital. “In the absence of the bypass,” he says, “…all the heavy traffic is put on this road and lives of citizens are endangered.”
“The situation on the roads leading to Expressway is not any better,” he adds. “PWD Road and Model Town Road have their own problems. There are encroachments everywhere. It takes at least half an hour to reach Media Town from Expressway. What should be a straightforward drive becomes a nerve-wracking experience,” complains Alvi.
Capt Anwarul Haq (retired), the chief commissioner of Islamabad and CDA chairman, is hopeful about completion of the project. “We cannot press the contractor to work faster at the cost of quality. We have seen that quality gets compromised where contractors are pushed,” he says.
“Second, we have to keep the traffic running. Construction work cannot be started simultaneously on both sides of the road. That will block the traffic. This is why one side of the road is open. The other side is being constructed and will be opened soon,” he says.
He says, “Half of the road has been completed. It is the stretch from T Chowk to Naval Anchorage Interchange. Now the other half from Naval Anchorage Interchange to Gulberg is being built. It will be completed soon.”
To a question about the bridges, he says there were some hurdles. “Now all those hurdles have been removed. All the bridges are being built. True, people are facing difficulties. But I can assure them that this difficult time will be over soon.”
Dr Maryam who works at the Department of Sociology at QAU passes uses this road to reach university from the DHA. “A large number of people living in Rawalpindi work in Islamabad. According to a rough estimate around 80 percent of them on the Expressway. Buses of almost all universities of Islamabad ploy this road. It is perhaps the widest signal free track that caters commuters from Zero Point to Rawat,” she says. “People from all walks of life, including students, bankers and other professionals as well as labourers use the Expressway. All types of vehicles including students’ buses, public transport, trucks, heavy duty dumpers and a large number of two wheelers can be seen here,” she says.
”The road is undoubtedly a blessing for the Twin Cities. Granted that the traffic gets slow, it mostly keeps on moving, even if it is at a snail’s pace. The one thing we can do to educate the people to use it is the right of way. Much inconvenience can be avoided by wearing helmets, fastening the seatbelts, following the lane discipline and traffic rules,” says the professor.
The author’s bookCapital Calling is set to be published by IRD. He can be reached at Hassan.shehzadiiu.edu.pk