RAWALPINDI/ISLAMABAD, Sept 10: A day-long strike by bus and van operators on Monday put the daily commuters of the twin cities to great distress but brought big joy to taxi and rickshaw drivers who charged huge fares.
Throngs of office workers and students found themselves stranded at bus stops as members of the Muttahida Transport Association (MTA) kept their vehicles off the roads and protested why they are not allowed to raise fares whenever fuel prices rise.
They burnt tyres and blocked the main road near Pirwadhai Bus Stand in Rawalpindi and rolled big stones on some other roads to disrupt private cars and other traffic.
Most of the stranded office and school-goers who could not afford the high fares demanded by taxi and rickshaw drivers went back home. Girl students and working women among them suffered most.
“Life has become miserable for us,” fumed office worker Safeena Akhlaq as she headed back home after waiting for hours for a bus at Marrir Hassan. What hurt her more was that when she informed her office why she can’t reach there, she was told she would be marked absent for the day.
Perhaps faced with a similar situation, some commuters pooled to hire a taxi to reach their offices.
Many others were seen straddling to their work places. “Why they (public transporters) have to add to our burdens? We, government employees, already are hand to mouth,” muttered Raja Shahid as he began his long march from Saddar to Radio Pakistan, Islamabad.
But for the transporters the success of their strike counted more than the misery it caused to the public.
Secretary General of the Muttahida Transport Malik Sultan Awan blandly informed Dawn that the loot by taxi and rickshaw owners on the strike day was by design.
“It was part of our strategy to exempt rickshaws and taxis from the strike and charge high,” he said with a straight face.
“If the cab drivers had not increased fares and created problems for the commuters, the strike would not have made desired impact and not conveyed the message the transporters wanted to convey to the government.”
No wonder, the “public transport” vans started appearing on the roads in the afternoon and resumed full service by late evening after the message had been conveyed successfully.