Life Stops For Many Quetta Residents When the Prime Minister of Pakistan Visits


A traffic jam at Zarghoon road in Quetta, Pakistan. Photo by PPIimages on 1 August 2011. Copyright Demotix.

The post was written by Adnan Aamir for The Balochistan Point. It is republished on Global Voices under a content-sharing agreement. 

Life was put on hold for many residents, students, patients and commuters of Quetta city, when the Prime Minister of Pakistan and his entourage arrived in Balochistan province's capital last week.

According to some estimates, hundreds of thousands are directly and indirectly affected every time road blocks are put up for the security of very important people or VIPs in Quetta, a city home to about 1 million. This is fifth time VIP security restricted traffic into the city this year.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif reached Quetta in the morning to participate in the cross-party political meeting “All Parties Conference“. The meeting was called in the aftermath of the Mastung bus carnage in Balochistan, where militants killed 22 Pashtun passengers in an ethnically motivated attack.

All major roads of Quetta located in the vicinity of Governor House, where the meeting was taking place, were shut down on the pretext of security.The last few years, whenever a important politician or powerful person visits Quetta, all major roads are blocked and closed to normal traffic.

Commuters travelling from the outskirts of the city to the main downtown had to walk two-three kilometres to reach their destination due to the closed roads. Public transport was not allowed to enter the center of the city and passengers were dropped outside the road blocks.

Patients and people heading to one of the city's main hospitals Sandmen Provincial had to go through long agonizing hours of waiting before entering the facility, which is near the Governor House.

“I travelled from my village in Kalat district to Quetta for an urgent errand but due to the closure of roads I will not be able to reach my destination on time,” Murtaza Baloch, told The Balochistan Point. He added, “Now I have to come back to Quetta some other day and this is huge mental stress for me.”

Three major schools in the city St. Francis Grammar School, St. Joseph Convent School and Sacred Heart School were forced to declare a holiday by the city administration. The schools are located along the route used for the prime minister.

“Whenever our Prime Minister visits this city, a school day of my daughters is wasted because their school is closed down for that day,” said Saleem Haider, a Quetta resident.

On the day of the prime minister's visit, Muhammad Siddique, a car owner stuck in a traffic jam said important meetings and VIP movements should be restricted to the high security military cantonment of the city. “If the prime minister and Balochistan government have any concern for Quetta's residents,” Siddique said, “then they should conduct all their meetings in Quetta Cantonment and spare us from unnecessary mental stress.”

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