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November 3, 2019

Handling big crowds in a big way

Islamabad

November 3, 2019

Islamabad has been a destination of big crowds all along and the one it is having right now, no doubt, is one of the very few biggest crowds it has ever had. When such crowds are collected, routine life is disrupted as a matter of routine. But it has not happened this time and citizens are spared the trouble they feared.

True, organisers of the ‘dharna’, led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, managed to discipline the participants and keep the crowd in order. But the real credit goes to the ICT Administration teams led by Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat.

He proved his mettle bringing the ‘dharna’ organisers to table and ink an agreement with him that they will not disrupt peace and tranquillity of the city for the administration to let them in.

When the crowd was heaving off Islamabad borders, he constrained the entry points and get into negotiations with the organizers to make sure that they will honour their word. Now, the marchers have skilfully been gathered at Kashmir Highway.

“The road only from G-10 signal to Peshawar Morr will stay closed for security reasons. At the moment, all Islamabad is open except Kashmir Highway,” he told this scribe at Saturday noon.

For far smaller crowds, we have seen that the federal capital would remained constrained for weeks. Failure of past governments to lead big crowds to open places like Kashmir Highway resulted into problems for public.

“We have designated Parade Ground for such activities (public gatherings) but unfortunately people want to block D Chowk and Faizabad to get government attention,” he said.

He added that blocking roads and disrupting peace is illegal but different groups do it. Islooites have fresh memories of a hiatus in their lives when TLP, a religious-political party, blocked Faizabad for many days. Similarly, memories of a marathon ‘dharna’ by the PTI at D-Chowk have not faded yet.

Citizens of Islamabad have paid the price for whatever goals these parties and others like them wanted to achieve.

“There is a threat that this crowd will march towards D-Chowk or Faizabad, which is not the ideal scenario for the city. This is the reason that Red Zone is sealed and containers are placed around Faizabad. The rest of the city is open,” he said.

The message Mr Shafqaat has left for the citizens is that of hope and peace. “There is nothing to worry about. We are performing duties 24/7. I encourage citizens to go about their work as usual,” he said.

Citizens of Islamabad have full faith in his capabilities. But if something happens in Islamabad, it also affects Rawalpindi. It could only be hopped that the administration authorities, not least the deputy commissioner, in the garrison city have learned city management from Mr. Shafqaat. A good lesson that I recommend them is that Mr. Shafqaat is interactive and always ready to share information in public interest, which kills the chances of creation of panic. His good communication skills have always been very instrumental in countering the troubles that come to Islamabad, uninvited.