Amidst oblivious interest of the city managers to clear roadsides and pavements from encroachers, the city residents face traffic mess and heavy rush on almost all busy and commercial areas of the city.
Ever-increasing encroachments in different localities of the city have become a permanent source of nuisance for commuters with roadside bazaars, street hawkers and push up carts prop up almost along every main or connecting road.
This tendency results in frequent traffic jams, create hurdles for pedestrians and often results in accidents and brawls. It is sometimes even difficult for pedestrians to walk through Raja Bazaar, City Saddar Road, Bara Bazaar, Trunk Bazaar, Kishmiri Bazaar, Jamia Masjid Road, Narnkari Bazaar, Adiala Road, Dalgara Bazaar, Fawara Chowk, Sadiqabad, Commercial Market and several other localities of the city.
The situation is no different in Cantonment Board jurisdictions where encroachment mafia freely ruling several commercial areas including Tench Bhatta, Chungi No 22, Tulsa Road, Sher Zaman Colony, Saddar, Scheme-III and other areas. As the bazaars offering a budget alternative to the public already experience heavy footfall particularly throughout winter season, the encroachers leave minimum space for them to tread from one shopping center to another.
The situation is also not different at Circular Road, Banni, Gawalmandi, Saddar, Murree Road and Commercial Market as residents are often seen complaining about the spread of this menace.
“It feels like free for all. They are everywhere encroaching busy roads, pavements and footpaths leaving no space for pedestrians,” said Faheem Ahmed, a resident of Gawalmandi. “Even the vehicles cannot move smoothly on important roads of the city. We also see roadside accidents and brawls due to this tendency.”
Faheem also complained about the attitude of concerned authorities demanding strict action against encroachers. “Authorities continue to turn a blind eye on encroachments. TMA should remove the encroachments and reclaim the pavements for the commuters.”
He said some commercial establishments have also extended ramps on to pavements and permit customers to park vehicles there. “This practice spoils peace of mind of the residents as well as result in anxiety and intolerance among them.”
Couple of years back, even the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi Bench had also directed the officials of district administration and cantonment boards to remove encroachments in the city within one week. But, after taking some cosmetic measures, the authorities once again went oblivious to this phenomenon.
“After the displeasure expressed by the LHC, a campaign was launched in the city’s cantonment areas. The encroachments (temporary and permanent) were removed but to no vain as these re-emerged after sometime,” Faheem said.
“Besides mental agony, the encroachments also result in waste of time and fuel and damages to costly vehicles of passing by owners,” he added.
Most of such roadside businesses in Rawalpindi city and cantonment areas have been set up without permission from relevant authorities. The residents stated that pavements on both sides of the roads in Raja Bazar, Bani have been gobbled up by hawkers of all hues and illegally parked vehicles and several vital roads turned from residential areas into a commercial hub over the past few years.