This past Sunday, I was woken up by the sound of my mother’s voice, screaming at the top of her lungs asking me to get bread of all the things. This just isn’t any bread according to her, she says it’s the best bread she’s ever had. It better be because I had to drive almost 40 kilometres to get it.
It was a typical bright spring day and I made my way out. I got to Bahria Town without any incident, met a friend and made my way back home. Little did I know what would be waiting for me on the Islamabad highway.
I had heard about the ASWJ’s plans to protest against Mumtaz Hussain Qadri’s hanging but to their credit, they had been peaceful during the other protests and I was under the illusion that it would be the same as before.
As I was driving on the Islamabad highway, I saw a barrage of bearded men acting violently and I started to fear the worst. Some of those bearded men had started burning tyres on the side and some of them had started hurling stones at the traffic. I started driving faster because I was wearing shorts and I knew if they stopped me, I would surely be beaten up. The car behind though was not that lucky and it was stopped and attacked. Our religious people like to talk about the sanctity of women and children, that car had woman and 2 little children. A small family heading to spend some quality time together. Not to be.
By now, the mobile carriers were ordered to suspend services as the government massively miscalculated the gravity of the situation and the riot police was summoned.
Area around the Islamabad club and Serena was closed and the traffic there jammed for the next 6 hours. I could hear the protestors chant and scream, but typically the police ran to the area outside Islamabad club to protect the elite.
After 2 long hours of being stuck in traffic, I finally got inside the Islamabad club and called home to tell my parents that I was safe. The next 3 hours were spent in mind numbing paranoia because of the information blackout ordered by PEMRA. As I live in the suburbs, I had no idea about the situation in the city and relied on people stuck with me, who fed me information in line with their sectarian or political beliefs. It was of no help.
Finally, someone told us that the crowd had moved to D-Chowk and that we were now safe to drive to go back home. Finally, at 9 pm, I was able to get back to the safety of my house.
This is just one account and I’m sure there are multiple experiences like this but this raises a lot of questions. Firstly, why were the protestors tear gassed and baton charged when they had protested peacefully before? Why did the protestors choose Sunday, which happened to be Easter to hold the 40 day death anniversary of Qadri, 14 days before the actual anniversary? Why are they still being allowed to stay at D-Chowk? Will these miscreants be charged or will they get away like always because of their beards and the affinity to vote for the ruling party? Who will pay for the damages they cost? Why were the cell phone services suspended for 3 days in Islamabad? And finally, why was the most security provided to Islamabad club, the very symbol of elitism in the capital?