It took the city police less than 48 hours to backtrack on a decision to seal off alleys leading to the city district courts. The about face came after pressure from the F-8 Markaz Traders Welfare Association, and is only made more surprising by the fact the police continue to call these alleyways a security risk.
Immediately after Monday’s attack on the city district courts, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration had decided to close all side streets entrances to the courts as they presented a security threat.
Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the attackers weaving through the alleyways to avoid detection.
The courts are located in the middle of F-8 Markaz. Although the main entrance to the court area has security, over a dozen unguarded alleys provide direct access to the courts.
On Wednesday morning, when Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Administration officials started sealing off some of the alleys, traders from the area rushed to the area and began demanding that the city administration stop closing the alleys, claiming it would affect their businesses, said an ICT official.
The official said the administration was supposed to close twelve alleys, but stopped at six as traders kept them from finishing the job. Najam Block-III, where the bombers blew themselves up, still has an open alleyway as traders refused to let it be sealed off, said the official.
“The ICT administration wanted to close 12 entry points including blocks III, XIV and XV, which is adjacent to busy restaurants. But when the traders resisted, the police accepted their demands.”
F-8 Markaz Traders Welfare Association President Qamar Zaman Abbasi had a different story to tell. “We are already facing problems due to the law and order situation. If the entrances are closed, our business would be affected even more,” he claimed.
When asked about the security threat the alleys present, he replied, that the market is a commercial place and the courts should be shifted elsewhere.
Last year, traders also held a protest against the illegal construction of lawyers’ chambers in the market.
The case is still pending in the district courts.
Saddar Superintendent of Police (SP) Jamil Hashmi confirmed that police has only closed six alleys. “The traders have a justifiable demand as their business would lose money if all the alleys were closed,” said Hashmi.
CCTV cameras and walkthrough gates
The city administration also installed six walkthrough gates and 16 CCTV cameras in line with a Supreme Court order. Official sources said that the total cost of the cameras and gates came to Rs3 million, which the administration has yet to pay.
Judicial commission winds up
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) chief justice has ordered the judicial commission to stop proceedings. The commission, appointed by the same judge, was supposed to start proceedings on Wednesday. However, the Supreme Court has already taking suo motu notice of the attack and sought a comprehensive report from the Islamabad Inspector General of Police (IGP) on March 10.
Condolence reference in IHC
The Islamabad High Court Bar Association organised a condolence reference on Wednesday for the judge and lawyers slain in the attack. Former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, IHC Chief Justice Muhammad Anwar Khan Kasi, and IHC and district courts judges were also present. Chaudhry said it is unfortunate that inquiry commissions are formed after every such attack, but the police fail to protect the lives of innocent people in the first place.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2014.