Muhammad Hafeez, a small business person, has to go through the very busy Mall Road checkpost, ahead of the Fortress Stadium, every time he is visiting the Cantonment. This means being part of a major traffic snarl-up.
Tens of thousands of vehicles cross this juncture every day, especially those coming from the Mian Mir Bridge. Many of them are headed for the airport, whereas scores of others are waiting to enter what happens to be one of the city’s busiest shopping and recreational centres.
The Stadium is closed from all sides and the public is not allowed in without a ticket. The recreational facility around the Stadium boasts big shopping malls, restaurants, cinemas, department stores, and an army-managed Joyland Park which is the biggest attraction for the children from all parts of the city. The park is home to some amazing rides for people of all ages.
For Hafeez, this juncture is the toughest on his way to cantonment where he loses many a minute because of high security and the people have no choice.
“Most of the traffic in the evening, headed for the Fortress [Stadium] whose one entrance is near the checkpost and a whole service lane is allocated for the purpose. Despite that, it seems difficult to manage the traffic in peak hours,” says Shahid Shakil, another routine visitor.
There are pathways to the Stadium underneath the Mian Mir flyover but these are also closed for security reasons. Along the Stadium, on the other side of the flyover, there are big offices of city police staff called the Qurban Lines. The police has blocked that road for security purposes, in the wake of constant threats in the past many years.
The bottleneck is caused mainly because of the security checkposts as the people enter the army administered area.
“We do not manage the post as the area is controlled by the army,” says a senior city traffic police official, on condition of anonymity.
On the other hand, the cantonment management and the secretary Fortress Stadium, who is a serving senior-rank army official, refused to comment or discuss any options in order to ease the traffic flow to save the civilian commuters’ time.
For the permanent residents of Cantt, there is a provision of an E-tag which spares them the hassle of going through the checkpost. But mostly the specified “E Lane” remains empty because a lot of Cantt residents don’t seem to avail the facility. It may be because getting the E-tags is a long procedure.
Commuters have often appealed to the cantonment management to help the situation and consider more options whereby they can ensure security and also ease the flow of traffic for the general public.
“It is like crossing a ‘fortress’,” chuckles Aleena Ahmed, a commuter.