Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Peshawar, Eid shopping yet to gain momentum

PESHAWAR: Eid shopping in the provincial metropolis could not gain momentum despite that the religious festival is just three days away while the city police blocked traffic to certain busy bazaars to stave off bombing.

The provincial government also ordered law-enforcement agencies to launch search operation in the city to track down terrorists and their supporters. Dozens of brave policemen have offered sacrifice of their lives to protect Peshawar and other towns.

The seven bomb blasts in the current month and three in October have taken the lives of hundreds of people, not only unleashing terror on the city of three-million people but also filled the atmosphere with deep grief and sorrow.

On account of these two reasons, the Peshawarites are yet to go to the markets for Eid shopping and most of the busy marketplaces have been wearing a deserted look.

The historic and one of the busiest bazaars, Qissa Khwani, is a forlorn place where people scare to go. The visitors to the bazaar are its shopkeepers, who are waiting for the customers to come to their shops, just three days ahead of the Eid.

“There is a great fear among the shopkeepers following rumours of bomb blasts, which has also forced customers to stay away,” a shopkeeper said.

The bazaar has been blocked for all kinds of traffic at Kabuli (Now Khan Raziq) Police Station to ward off car-bombings.

Eating sweets on happy occasions, particularly Eid, is a tradition but this is not the case this time. “We are running the business in loss. Even during Eid days, we are earning only Rs2,500-3,000 a day while our expenses exceed Rs5,000,” the owner of sweets shop, Arshad Ahmad said.

The bombed Meena Bazaar, still reeling under the devastating blast on October 28, is situated at a short distance from the Qissa Khwani. As the people stayed away from all bazaars near the site of the blast on Tuesday, some shopkeepers were still seen engaged in reconstructing their destroyed shops. One could see concrete pillars being erected and ramshackle buildings repaired but fear still engulfed the place.

“People would tread on each others feet due to rush during the last few days to Eid but now you can see the market is empty,” Yasin, a shopkeeper dealing in cosmetics in Meena Bazaar, said.

In his opinion, the customers were not coming to the market after the October 28 blast. It was afternoon but Yasin said he had not earned a penny.

Rafiullah, selling bangles, in the same bazaar, said their sales had steeply dropped. “Previously, we would earn over Rs15,000 a day but now hardly make Rs3,000.” During Eid shopping in normal times, he said they would not have time “to scratch our head” but now all the Eid-specific items were lying unsold.

Saddar Bazaar, an up-market of the city, has been blocked for taxis and rickshaws and private vehicles are not allowed to park in front of shops. Eid shopping in this bazaar, where everything is available, has also not gathered momentum.

NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said Monday the government would celebrate Eid with simplicity to pay tribute to people martyred in blasts.

The NWFP government has directed all law-enforcement agencies to start search operation in Peshawar and hunt down terrorists and their supporters. They have also been asked to nab all Afghan refugees without legal documents and evict non-local prayer leaders.