Twin protests demanding the Pakistani government step down have wreaked havoc in the capital, Islamabad, where commuters must circumvent shipping containers and barbed wire to get to work, protesters knock on people’s doors to use the bathroom, and garbage is piling up.
“People are talking of revolution but (they) don’t care about the difficulties we are facing due to this situation,’’ said Zafar Habib, a 56-year-old government employee in Islamabad.
Tens of thousands of people have descended on the capital in recent days, answering the call from cricket-star-turned-politician Imran Khan and anti-government cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri to push for the government’s ouster. Both claim widespread fraud in the May 2013 vote and want new elections, something the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not likely to concede.
Both Khan and Qadri have vowed to remain in the streets with their supporters until Sharif leaves office, raising fears of political instability in the nuclear-armed nation, which only saw its first democratic transfer of power last year.
The protests have taken a strain on the city of roughly 1.7 million inhabitants, many of whom work for the government, embassies, or non-governmental organisations. The difficulties began last Wednesday, when the government started to beef up security, and show no signs of letting up in the next few days.
The most affected neighbourhoods have been in the eastern part of the city where the protests have been centered, not too far from the so-called Red Zone and a diplomatic enclave that house government offices, embassies and other sensitive installations. Residents say protesters —mostly women — knock on their doors early in the morning, hoping to use their bathrooms.]
“This is frustrating! The residents and I were trying to accommodate the women but then today some men also knocked on my door,’’ said Sajid Khan, a real estate agent.
Male protesters have also been crowding the washrooms in local mosques or simply going into the nearby forests. Garbage is beginning to pile up as well.
“My main concern is the deteriorating hygienic condition. This will make us and our children ill,’’ said retired government servant Jahangir Zahid.
Residents and people trying to get to work have also been stymied by both the protesters and the security measures the government has taken to deal with them. Early last week, the government started putting up shipping containers to control access to and from the city. The hundreds of vehicles brought by protesters have also clogged the roads.
“I have to put in more hours continued…