Will Pakistan learn any lesson?
I too had not believed but now I believe is neither relates to a dream nor a self cooked story but the hard fact which I have myself experienced today (Monday 15th October, 2012) morning in Kuwait and hence simply cannot resist writing on it not for the benefit of those who live here but to those who are back home in my beloved Pakistan.
Kuwait is hosting 3 days international event called 1st Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) commencing from today and ending on Wed 17th instant. 32 different countries of the continent are participating as I could count national flags of 32 countries fluttering on the routes to be adopted by the foreign delegates. The summit will be graced by either Head of State or Head of Government like my PM Raja Pervaiz is heading the official delegation of Pakistan. Today all local newspapers have flashed the news issued by traffic police about closure of few roads during 3 days of summit when certain roads will be closed for public during 1000 to 1400 and 1630 to 2100. The foreign dignitaries are to be driven from airport to Bayan Palace and vice versa. The visitors will be staying at Bayan Palace and the summit will also be held there. Police has made very elaborate arrangements to control the traffic so that there is neither any interruption for the visitors nor any inconvenience for the residents. One can very well understand as to up to what point one can drive on the roads which lead from airport to the palace and vice versa.
Bayan Palace has many entrances but I will be talking about those two only which will be used as far as the summit is concerned. Gate number 1 is on the right hand side of King Khalid Abdulaziz Expressway which is connected with airport road so each and every foreign delegate will be driven from VIP terminal to this Expressway and then takes right exit to enter Bayan Palace from its gate number 1. Gate number 2 is on 5Th Ring Road which is connected to King Khalid Abdulaziz Expressway and therefore the guests will be using this gate to either enter the palace or exit from the palace and quite naturally public will not be allowed to reach anywhere near to Bayan Palace.
I was very much curious to experience myself about the ground realities so I told my wife that today she will not drive rather I will drop her to Kuwait University and pick her up when she finishes her classes. She teaches at Kifan Campus and each day she is driving on 5th Ring Road opposite to Bayan Palace to go to university and come back. I had a feeling that due to the summit 5th Ring Road will be closed to public as reported in newspaper but yet I wished to take a calculated risk. I had a feeling that I will not be allowed to take right loop from Fahaheel Motorways to come on 5th Ring Road but to our surprise there was no diversion and I followed all the others and it was 0940 when we passed in front of Gate no 2 Bayan Palace like any other day. Surprisingly I did not see police cars on 5th Ring though I had expected that there will be at least the strength of a platoon if not a brigade but I could only spot just 2 police cars parked at quite distance away from Bayan Place which perhaps had no relevance to the summit. I and my wife had been discussing in the car about safety and security situation in Kuwait and had it not been so peaceful country neither public could have driven at such grave hour next to none but Bayan Palace but also police had not been missing either. After dropping my wife at Kuwait University I was very much excited rather more correctly ignited to at least attempt to come back on 5th Ring and drive on King Khalid Andulaziz Expressway so that I could pass near to the approach to Bayan Palace gate no 1 which would be on my left hand. I had feared that now when it was 1032 all the approaches leading to Bayan Palace will be blocked and none like me will be allowed to enter the area but my goodness I was totally wrong and from distance I could see that traffic though thin was running as usual on both sides of the road.
I entered King Khalid Abdulaziz Expresssway where traffic could be seen on both sides and I was wondering how traffic is allowed at this expressway and that too so near to Bayan Palace though the traffic had been closed as per the news flashed in newspapers. Anyway, I kept on driving and intentionally slowed down and turned my neck towards left at the place where the approach to Bayan Palace gate no 1 lies and there only I found an armored vehicle specially brought in because of the summit but there was nothing else unusual except that the national flags of the countries participating in the summit were fluttering.
It should not be forgotten even for a fraction of a second that the summit has neither been postponed nor cancelled as one may think of because the traffic flow is as normal as everyday in the sensitive area which is called red zone in my capital Islamabad. Head of states and head of governments of as many as 32 countries including Pakistan are definitely going to attend the 3 days summit starting today but it does not mean that the public at large be taxed and waxed for nothing. Arguably Kuwait cannot even think of risking the life of any visiting VIP and therefore it has always taken very strict measures as and when such like VVIPs visited Kuwait so it will be the same even this time. Kuwait can very proudly boast of hosting IOC summit where many more VVIPs had come than those who are attending ACD. What does it prove other than that in Kuwait traffic is to be stopped only for the time when needed and not otherwise? I had mentioned many times before too that here Amir drives on one side of the road while public would be driving on the other side of the road at the same time.
Had I today not been driving myself I had simply not believed that the public could drive even when the notices are issued that the traffic will be closed during 1000 to 1400 and 1630 to 2100 and people are advised to use the alternative routes already designated for the purpose. Will there be any lesson to be learnt by the rulers of Pakistan?
Iqbal Hadi Zaidi / Kuwait /