LAHORE: The start of the three-day celebrations to commemorate the 457th Urs of Lahore’s mystical saint Hazrat Usman Ali Hajveri, ‘Data Ganj Baksh,’ was marked on Thursday with the usual religious fervour.
The festivities were inaugurated by Provincial Minister for Auqaf, Syed Zaeem Hussain Qadri after he conducted the traditional changing of the chaddar covering the saint’s tomb.
However, the event which draws thousands of devotees from all over the country was marred by serious traffic problems and interrupted mobile service in some areas of the city, as flustered cops and traffic wardens tried to impose a very basic traffic plan.
Another major problem being faced in the Mall Road, Ferozpur Road and other regions was the blockage of telecommunication services. Mobile services seemed to be down intermittently, reportedly because of jammers being used in those regions. This further caused a number of people to complain that ride-hailing services such as Uber and Careem also faced issues due to these network problems, causing great strife for a lot of people depending on it.
The Punjab Police and City Traffic Police currently seem to be facing a serious crisis as two major events are once more set to take place back to back with the Chehlum of Hazrat Imam Hussain (RA) to be observed tomorrow. And while police and traffic presence has been beefed up, it seems as if the authorities have simply been overwhelmed by the sudden influx of activity.
According to details provided by Deputy Inspector General (DIG) Operations Haider Ashraf, 2,500 police officials under the supervision of 28 Station House Officers (SHO) and three Superintendent Police (SP) have been stationed for the Urs and tomorrow’s Chehlum. Earlier, Chief Minister Mian Shehbaz Sharif had ordered that foolproof security measures be drawn up for the Urs and Chehlum. On Wednesday, the police did indeed keep a close eye on proceedings as all visitors to the tomb were diligently and tirelessly checked. Another 5,000 policemen under the supervision of nine SPs and 80 SHOs are set to serve during the Chehlum of Imam Hussain. And while the extra police presence has been utilised to full effect in the Data Sahab area, Police Response Units (PRU), Dolphin squads, Bomb squads, and sharpshooters have been concentrated in that one are leaving the rest of the city less monitored than before.
Meanwhile, the deployment of 290 extra wardens under the supervision of four DSPs and one SP does not seem to have stopped the City’s traffic from choking itself as major traffic blocks occurred on the Ferozpur Road, Queen’s road and subsequently on the Canal from divergent traffic.
Traffic had been stopped from Katchery Chowk towards the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh, the old city’s Bhatti and Taxali gates as well as in and around the mosque complex as large throngs of devotees made their way to the Urs on foot, many without shoes. Even though the route was opened after the passing of the procession, the aftershocks left debilitating traffic for some time.
It is yet to be seen whether the cops and wardens will manage to get into a better flow for the Chehlum or if the City will spend the weekend too engulfed in the chaos of mismanagement.