Right to walk: Lack of footpaths across city leave citizens irked


LAHORE: Walking on the roads of the provincial capital has become a nightmare for the residents as the second largest city of Pakistan lacks footpaths owing to the negligence of the authorities concerned, Pakistan Today has observed.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) led Punjab government is about to complete its five-year tenure, but while it claims of developing the roads of the metropolis on modern lines after spending billions of rupees and several other mega projects are still in the construction phase, on the other hand is the ordeal of the pedestrians owing to which it appears that billions were spent to facilitate the motorists and the elite alone.

This can be observed while taking a walk on any road of the city, where pedestrians can be seen facing problems due to lack of footpaths. These footpaths are either non-existent or have been encroached upon by big and small businesses right under the authorities’ nose. Similarly, crossing the roads at any point in the city too has become a challenging task for the pedestrians.

The Mall Road is considered the central artery of the provincial capital and undoubtedly is one of the busiest roads, however, even the said road is not very welcoming to the pedestrians as various points on the Mall including Alhamra, WAPDA House, Hall Road, Lahore Zoo, Naqi Market, CM Secretariat and Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Office lack walkways. Barriers can also be seen placed on various spots on Mall Road, which are causing problems not only to the pedestrians but also to the motorists for the encroachments are one of the greatest reasons behind the road’s notorious traffic jams.

Somewhat freeing the citizens of the menace of traffic while following the orders of chief justice of Pakistan (CJP), barriers were removed from the Mall as well as other roads of the city including the residence of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in Jati Umra, the authorities seem reluctant to facilitate the pedestrians as they still have to walk on the roads in the absence of footpaths.

Not only is the lack of footpaths a problem, but the authorities’ negligence towards their maintenance is also one. If footpaths are present alongside the roads at any point, they barely qualify as walkways. Electric poles in the middle of the footpaths are a common sight across the city besides several vendors having set up tea stalls, juice corners and toy shops on the walkways. Similarly, several footpaths are home to overflowing gutters.

An example of this is at the Queen’s Road where the CCPO office is located. The footpaths on either side of the road have been occupied, as on one side – outside the CCPO’s office – it is encroached with security obstacles, while the other side has been turned into a motorcycle parking stand.

A much similar situation prevails on other roads of the city. Ferozpur Road and Jail Road after being renovated a few years ago were declared signal free corridors, but the authorities have remained reluctant to facilitate pedestrians despite after spending billions of rupees.

Faisal, a resident of Mozang Road while talking to Pakistan Today said that it had become hard for the residents of the area to walk alongside the road due to the unavailability of footpaths. “To the government, pedestrians have no value as their sufferings are being added to with every passing day,” he lamented and demanded the CJP to take a suo motu notice against the lack of footpaths.

An official in the Traffic Engineering and Transport Planning Agency (TEPA) said that TEPA had always considered the pedestrians while making any plans but this was not the responsibility of the agency to remove the encroachments from footpaths. However, while seeking anonymity he admitted that footpaths, on several roads, had been razed due to the negligence of the authorities.

A senior lawyer, Advocate Azhar Siddique, was of the view that walking freely was a fundamental right of any citizen and this provision had been made in the Constitution of Pakistan. According to him, depriving pedestrians of a fundamental right was synonyms with a crime at the end of government. He also said that the CJP must take an action against the negligence.