ISLAMABAD: Heightened security prompted by a spate of recent bomb blasts has virtually turned Islamabad into a barricaded town with picket fences and concrete blocks staring residents in the face.

Be it the residential areas or the main roads, thoughtfully placed cemented blocks, many of them coloured have now become a common sight.

While they might be serving some purpose, the blockades are generally quite annoying for motorists who have to slow down and weave past them. At times, some of the bigger vehicles have to turn back for the blocks are placed so close to one another.

Although not many of these concrete walls were seen before the suicide bombers became active, however today they dot the town. The security agencies now guard embassies based in residential sectors, the United Nations offices, diplomats and other VIPs with the help of these pieces of concrete.

Heavy as they are, they have to be taken off trucks with the help of crane before a forklift operator places them at the required points. The barricades are also put to good use by the authorities to seal off the town as they did ahead of the lawyers’ long march in June.

Roads – especially the Constitution Avenue and the Jinnah Avenue Parade Square – have remained barricaded for months and access is limited. Similarly, part of a service road alongside the officers’ mess of a sensitive agency was shut down.

Residents complain that they feel alien in their own town and are looked at with suspicion by security personnel manning the pickets or those totting guns and peeping from behind sand bunkers.

They said that visiting the Naval and the Air Force Complexes, for whatever reason, had become a hassle because of the tight security measures in place. “We are treated as second grade citizens in our own city,” said Farooq Baig, a resident.

Also one cannot easily have access to the Judges and Ministers’ Enclaves – with the roads blocked and police on guard. Security around at least two of the leading hotels remains particularly stringent as it is elsewhere.

The vicinity of the Danish Embassy where quite a few other missions are also based has become a closely guarded fortress with a string of concrete blocks put up. Residents complain that the presence of police in residential neighbourhoods was quite disturbing.

“The presence of UN agencies and other offices is a great disturbance for us all – we have been left with no privacy,” said Tahir Khan who lives close to one of the UN offices.

Similarly, Khurrum Javed of F-8/2 said the police guarding the house of a prominent political figure was also a concern to them. “The policemen performing their duties round the clock keep talking and laughing, especially at night that disturbs us,” he said.

Naseem Qureshi on the other hand believes that the barricades and picket fences were an infringement of his rights. “I fail to understand why we can’t go around freely in our own town,” he wondered.

The police authorities however said that it was their duty to provide security to the VIPs and the embassies. That the offices and foreign missions are located in residential areas is no fault of theirs, they claimed.

Source: Daily Times