By Waqas Rafique
Just when residents of Islamabad were finally getting some relief from the jammed traffic of Islamabad after the containers set up during PTI dharna and reopening of Jinnah Avenue recently, the government’s announcement on April 8 came as nothing less than a shock.
“Sir, you can take out the order but sorry can’t eat in.” was the reply of a rather embarrassed waiter at one eatery. Irritated, my friend and I tried to go into the popular café right across in F-6 area to eat a rather late dinner when the manager told us that all we could order was tea or coffee and no food items. He went on to describe to us how the magistrate and his men could pop up any time in the café to turn people out and have them shut the café.
Honestly, many couldn’t stop laughing and sharing the joke about how the government planned to save hundreds of megawatts of electricity in the country by deciding to shut down shops, marriage halls and restaurants in Islamabad at 8 pm,10pm and 11 pm respectively.
Others are angry, baffled and in total disbelief over this rather simplistic approach to improve the electricity shortage situation the country faces for years now.
The government’s dream of being able to replicate this idea in other parts of the country appears to be far-fetched since business owners and customers have out rightly rejected this decision.
Reasons are quite a few. Islamabad no longer has the sleepy lifestyle it once was known for. There are more people in the town now and many have moved here from cities like Karachi, Lahore and even abroad influencing Islamabad’s pace and mood. There are more cafes than ever before in the city where people like to hangout late at night. This is mainly because the work hours majority observes permit them just a few hours in the late evening to relax with friends and family.
F-11 market for example has a bunch of coffee shops popular with smokers. Surprisingly the situation there has been quite different from F-6 area ever since this decision. All cafes remain open till 2 am with lights dimmed. Shops also are expected to use their own electricity generators after the shut down time. Also, you don’t hear about the dreaded magistrate here.
So, one way or the other business owners and customers are trying to defy this decision which shows how unpopular this step has been. There couldn’t have been a better way of ripping people off their little leisure time they could have for themselves. Remember with load shedding already in swing and temperatures soaring the number of customers that markets would lose as a result of this ban would go up.
Businesses are paying the price. Load shedding already makes it difficult to operate and reduced business hours will only add to the issues. What about generating economic activity and boosting investment that government keeps on talking about? How does that happen in a situation like this?
Well, it’s a good sign that the spokesman for the Prime Minister’s house has gone on air saying that the government is willing to negotiate with the businessmen about this. Let’s see what happens on that front but it’s about time those who make such decisions realize that solutions need to be practical, well thought out, realistic and not have conflicting outcomes. Otherwise, they definitely would not be eligible to claim being good governors.