Last-minute development work in Rawalpindi raises eyebrows

RAWALPINDI (PEN) : Only a few days before the general elections, the Rawalpindi administration has initiated the renovation of footpaths and at least three major roads in the garrison city, a move, claimed by the PPP and the Jamaat-i-Islami, aimed at facilitating the PML-N candidates in the polls.

The Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC), on the other hand, said these projects were approved in December 2023 — a day before the poll schedule was announced — and only the name of the project was changed. “These are not new projects,” Dawn was informed.

At present, Rashid Minhas Road from Kutchery Chowk to Marrir Chowk, Liaquat Road in Raja Bazaar, and Asghar Mall Road are being repaired whereas the footpaths on Murree Road are also being renovated by the authorities. In addition to air pollution caused by these projects, voters are worried that their respective polling stations may be difficult to reach because of the renovation work.

Mohammad Akram, a resident of Naya Mohallah, said it was difficult to travel on Liaquat Road due to extreme dust and bumpy ride. He said the road was dug up three days ago and no reconstruction work started yet.

“How will we access the polling station to be set up at Government Gordon College on February 8,” said Anwar Chaudhry, a resident of College Road, as he expressed apprehensions about the decision to renovate roads days before the polling day.

Rashid Minhas, Liaquat Bagh, Asghar Mall roads being repaired; PPP, JI allege ‘pre-poll rigging’

A resident of Gawalmandi, Shahzad Siddiqui, wondered why the bureaucracy was in a rush to complete the renovation work.

He believed the administration wanted to please the politicians belonging to the former ruling party.

Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC) Chief Municipal Officer Amjad Chaudhry termed the ongoing projects a part of the repair and maintenance work. He said that the corporation would complete the carpeting of the roads before the polling day. “Due to the bad weather, we were not able to finish the work but in a day or two this job will be completed,” he said.

‘Pre-poll rigging’

The PPP took exception to the development work launched in the thick of the election campaign for the Feb 8 polls. PPP candidate for NA-55 Babar Jadoon told Dawn that the cantonment and city administrations started several new projects during this period allegedly to facilitate the PML-N candidates in Rawalpindi.

He said they complained to the ECP multiple times but their pleas fell on deaf ears. He, however, claimed that the people of Rawalpindi would not be impressed with “such tactics and they wanted to hold accountable the Shehbaz and Imran Khan governments for their poor performance over the past five years.”

Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) spokesman Malik Azam said that the new roads were being constructed after the announcement of the election schedule and claimed it was pre-poll rigging.

“Punjab Caretaker Chief Minister arrived in the garrison city and inaugurated many projects. Is this the job of the caretaker government to launch projects and inaugurate them? The actual work of an interim set-up is to run daily affairs and help the Election Commission of Pakistan in fair and free elections,” he said. ECP spokesperson Nadeem Haider could not be reached despite multiple attempts.