Musharraf’s rally: Mixed crowd shows up for ex-president

Published: January 9, 2012

Around 7,000 activists and supporters of the party of former president Pervez Musharraf came to listen to him speak on Sunday via a video link from Dubai during a public meeting at a ground next to Jinnah’s mausoleum. Musharraf announced he would return home by the end of January after more than three years of self-exile, piling more pressure on the civilian government. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

Around 7,000 activists and supporters of the party of former president Pervez Musharraf came to listen to him speak on Sunday via a video link from Dubai during a public meeting at a ground next to Jinnah’s mausoleum. Musharraf announced he would return home by the end of January after more than three years of self-exile, piling more pressure on the civilian government. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
Around 7,000 activists and supporters of the party of former president Pervez Musharraf came to listen to him speak on Sunday via a video link from Dubai during a public meeting at a ground next to Jinnah’s mausoleum. Musharraf announced he would return home by the end of January after more than three years of self-exile, piling more pressure on the civilian government. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS
KARACHI: 

The time for Pervez Musharraf’s rally was 1pm. But even after four hours, the All Pakistan Muslim League’s claim that a sea of people would sweep to Mazaar-e-Quaid fell just as flat as the dusty ground where it was organised.

About 10,000 chairs were set up by the decorators and journalists estimated that between 7,000 and 8,000 people turned up, drawing immediate comparisons with the mammoth crowd summoned by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf just weeks earlier at the same spot.

If members of the APML noted this, they certainly didn’t let on and in fact kept mentioning the word millions in their speeches. Shama Roomi, the general secretary of the women’s wing in Sindh, confidently chirped, “This rally will be bigger than Imran Khan’s.”

What stood out more than the numbers, however, was the fact that people from the villages and cities of Sindh turned up rather than people actually from Karachi. Most of them roamed around, clutching the party’s green flags with an image of Pervez Musharraf, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and an eagle. The fact that more people came from the countryside seemed to ruffle the APML’s Karachi division that accused them of “taking over the event”. For a while they decided to boycott their own party and stand at the reception. “We have been working so hard for the rally. But the event has been hijacked by Punjab sardars and Sindh’s waderas,” cribbed the party’s Karachi general secretary Ali Asghar Swati, after getting up on a chair to address workers. “They are not letting us go on stage.” This prompted some men to shout, ‘Give Karachi people their rights’, before a scuffle broke out.

“Haris Nawaz, the secretary general, has posted people from Sindh as security volunteers,” said one worker. “They have guns and are threatening to kill us. The Karachi division was in charge before the men hijacked it.”

But their cries fell on deaf ears, and more and more buses from the countryside kept rolling up. Ajrak-clad passengers streamed out to make it to the dummy walk-through security gates in the single-digit temperatures.

Out on the road since 4am was Muhammad Umer from Thatta, who said he came to the rally because his leader Ghulam Mustafa Khaskheli, the APML’s coordinator in Sindh, had invited them. After a little coaxing to open up, he blurted out why he was actually there: “They have given us a lot,” he said, “one thousand rupees per person.” But as soon as these words were out, men from his group pounced on him. “No one has forced us or given us anything,” clarified one man hastily. “We only got biryani on the bus.” But all of them agreed that Khaskheli was why they had come. “We support Musharraf because Khaskheli supports him,” said Maula Bux from Thatta.

In the main area, a massive two-floor stage was set up with a huge LCD screen in the middle with the top leadership slouched on the couches by the side. A huge sound system blared songs praising the former president as men showed off their dance moves and girls clapped and cheered. Zainab from DHA College declared: “I will vote for him. I saw banners across the city and that’s why I came. He is the only one who will save us.”

Watching the crowd dance was Mrs Rizwan Khan, who was the director general of the Press Information Department during Musharraf’s era. “After 9/11, it was a difficult time for Pakistan. But being a great leader, Musharraf handled it well,” she said. “That’s why we are here to support him.”

A number of Bengalis and Biharis from Orangi Town also came to the event. Mushtaq said that his group, the Bengali Ittehad, had offered its support. From Gulistan-e-Jauhar came Syed Imran who brought his elderly mother and two children as he felt that only Musharraf could make a difference.

He did add, however that the murder of Akbar Bugti and the Lal Masjid episode were still fresh in people’s memories and could prove a hurdle to Musharraf’s popularity.

Others chose to mock PTI chief Imran Khan. Young Zeeshan from Gulshan said, “Imran Khan is only interested in politics. Musharraf’s cause is only to save the country.” Another participant felt that they had only a week to organise the event while Imran Khan had a month to organise his rally.

Unlike at recent political rallies, Naeem Abbas Rufi was the only one singer present to entertain.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2012.

Reader Comments (23)

  • shahzad
    Jan 9, 2012 - 3:04AM

    Musharraf was addressing over a video link while Khan was there in person. Musharraf prepared for a week while Khan for a month. Given the above, the real match will take place once he lands in Karachi and holds a Jalsa. I would say that he’ll easily manage 25,000 but if he manages anything beyond a 50,000 then for sure he’ll be a political players in the next elections.

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  • ehsanali
    Jan 9, 2012 - 3:13AM

    A very biased article as expected by thankless media

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  • NA
    Jan 9, 2012 - 3:22AM

    People are soo stupid and ignorant.

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  • babur chughtai
    Jan 9, 2012 - 3:22AM

    failed politicians and failed politics and failed political parties. and lest I forget, a failed democracy run by fake democrats!

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  • 110
    Jan 9, 2012 - 4:10AM

    7,000 activists and then fighting with each other.
    Cool Stuff!

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  • Faheem
    Jan 9, 2012 - 4:25AM

    Mush didn’t do anything in 10 years of his power and at the end gifted us Zardari as departing gift in the name of NRO. He had his time and he didn’t do anything for people on grassroot level. There was so much could have been done in 10 years especially when he had US and world support.

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  • ABC
    Jan 9, 2012 - 4:25AM

    Poor and failed show. The above article speaks volume about his popularity.

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  • Jan 9, 2012 - 4:44AM

    I think he did reap much more than what all was expected— He was attempting a very high jump to have his Jalsa in IK style where a mammoth gathering was on display very other day. I was expecting rather a total wash out but in nutshell; it went well for him and he was able to successfully deliver his message too.

    After his proposed arrival back in country although he will receive a good joint thrashing from all old polity bearers and he be found going in and out of jails etc but I suppose his mere presence in political arena and the resolve shown— will help break the our old feudal myth and deep rooted taboo of the ancestral politics which is holding our society at ransom.

    After IK he is yet another bearer of flag delivering the hope to the people.

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  • Omer
    Jan 9, 2012 - 5:17AM

    For all the APML supporters, can you please ask Musharraf about the NRO deal that he did. If he considers himself to be the savior, why did he hand the country back to the goons he threw out in 1999 and go into exile. What is the difference between the Musharraf and Nawaz sharif ?

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  • Zahid Ameen
    Jan 9, 2012 - 5:41AM

    It was nice to see that Mr Musharraf has drawn some support from the people of Karachi and I am hoping that he will again successfully attract larger crowd in Panjab and other provinces.
    Imran khan shouldn’t shoot himself in a foot by saying that he will never form a Government with the help of APML because ehe APML is a fact and a truth and will be a winning factor in next elections. Also, PML Q will also be in his cornor along with MQM. Imran Khan has no choice but to shake hands with Mr. Musharraf or be vanished in a crowd.
    One thing Mr. Imran khan should know that Musharraf is an honest man and never ripped this country off in a past; he in fact was a first Governemnt official to declare his wealth in public. I could understand that you don’t form an alliance with a dictator but how about a civilian who will be participating in in next coming election and win seats democratically and declaring his assets in Public?
    Pakistni Media specially GEO TV, Daily DAWN, Express and ARY TV work on foreign agenda by talking negetive about him all day long and all year around.
    They never admit that it was Mr musharraf who got rid of IMF Loans for good by paying off 60 Billion Dollars worth of Debt that Mr Shareef left for him. Mr. Mushraf raised GDP of Pakistan from negetive numbers to 6% per year. IT sector and Industrial sector improved to point that our bugget deficit started to shrink. People of Pakistan specially Karachi saw less bloodshed as compare to PMLN and PPP era.

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  • Sindhvoice
    Jan 9, 2012 - 7:07AM

    Journalist wrote “people from the villages and cities of Sindh turned up rather than people actually from Karachi.”
    For your kind information, Karachi is also Sindh in fact heartland of Sindh.Karachi and Sindh are NOT different.Handle with care please.Thanks

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  • Jan 9, 2012 - 8:22AM

    Few months back, Imran was not attracted to people, as soon as Musharraf said “Imran is the only credible candidate among today’s politicians”. IK received the public’s support. Difference is, if IK is delivering telephonic or video linked message to people, I am sure he would never ever receive this much crowd. Physical presence makes the difference. It is premature to guess PM’s popularity, let him come, then we will be able to judge.

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  • Amjad
    Jan 9, 2012 - 9:12AM

    Musharraf is yesterday’s man. The sooner he realizes that he is finished, the better. The nation had 9 years of his dictatorship and is not prepared to see him again Recommend

  • Fasih Khan
    Jan 9, 2012 - 9:42AM

    @Zahid Ameen: Well Said Zahid Sb. Thank God for some people with sanity in this land of pure.

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  • Karim
    Jan 9, 2012 - 11:24AM

    when he will come inshallah real Tsunami will be witnessed.

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  • Kazmis
    Jan 9, 2012 - 2:55PM

    Poor fellow! Last days it was in leading newspapers that Musharraf & his wife have millions and millions of dollars, Riyals, Rupees etc in various banks. They give even account numbers and amount etc. But I see a very unfortunate person who is bound to come to Pakistan and see his destruction and not able to enjoy that money which he got from his retirement from Pakistan Army, as he himself said.

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  • Lobster
    Jan 9, 2012 - 4:06PM

    @Sindhvoice:
    There is huge difference b/w Sindh and Karachi. That’s why its mentioned separately. Come visit Karachi, and ask the “Sindhi” leaders in government to do development in Sindh too.

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  • Red Alert
    Jan 9, 2012 - 6:35PM

    this article seems like a page from a insafian’s diary, very biased and negative!

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  • ali
    Jan 9, 2012 - 9:57PM

    A criminal on the run and must be arrested. Its a shame that these 7000 people are supporting a proclaimed offender.

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  • Faju
    Jan 10, 2012 - 12:29AM

    Very Biased article…
    I think if article of such caliber can be published then Express Tribune should give space to other articles too which only picture the one sided/biased opinions for other parties.

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  • Sindhvoice
    Jan 10, 2012 - 1:20AM

    @Lobster:
    Karachi is held hostage by terrorists, extortionists and extremists. Sooner or later, peaceful sufi Sindhi message will prevail. Terrorists will be considered terrorist and city will be free from all sort of mafias. For those who are making castles in air of detaching Karachi from Sindh will fail miserably for good. We will never let any one play with territorial integrity of Sindh,If any one has problem with Sindhi culture, language and history, they are free to leave our cities.

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  • I Khan
    Jan 10, 2012 - 4:41AM

    People from Sindh are one! Yes the event in KHI was organized by Karachi division, but our brothers from Sindh have the equal right to be there and participate in this event…after all KHI is part of Sindh and not a separate entity as some people deliberately make it to be.

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  • Simon Khan
    Jan 11, 2012 - 3:16AM

    Once Bengali Pakistani’s are registered and intergrated in the system only the Bengali Pakistanis will safe the country from destruction and India already knows this which it wants to stop from happening because Muslim Bengalis never give up land to the Indians.

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