The city may be run by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the ground opposite Mazaar-e-Quaid may have hosted three other rallies in quick succession in recent days — but on Sunday the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) erased any signs of the rulers’ presence over the ground or of the rallies that preceded theirs.
Jamaatud Dawa (JuD), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ) – the reincarnation of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) – dominated the landscape with flags, workers and convoys.
The themes raised during the rally were familiar and predictable — against reopening Nato supply routes, reiterating that Pakistan was created in the name of Islam, freeing the country from US ‘tyranny’ and advocating against India and US policies.
JI Secretary General Liaquat Baloch vowed that the DPC parties would besiege parliament on February 20 to protest any decisions regarding reopening Nato supply routes. DPC also announced its plan of arranging a rally in Quetta on February 27.
Despite a considerable presence of volunteers at the venue, they were unable to hold back ASWJ supporters who broke the cordon and rushed forward to the stage when Karachi leader Orangzaib Farooqui began to speak.
The stage filled up relatively early with leaders of the parties that make up the council – a coalition of over 40 religious-political parties – including JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, JI chief Syed Munawar Hasan, former Inter-Services Intelligence chief Hameed Gul, Ejazul Haq, ASWJ head Ahmed Ludhianvi and head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) Samiul Haq. Cleric Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi was on stage, as well as regional and second-tier leaders of the party. Other speakers at the rally included leaders of Jamaat Ahle Hadith and the Jamhoori Watan Party.
JuD leader Ameer Hamza delivered one of the more inflammatory speeches of the afternoon, as he vowed that one day the rally attendees would make “mincemeat” of India and asked them to “break the legs of any ‘whore’ who went to India to sing and act in films”.
Hafiz Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi also spoke out against restoring the Nato supply route, calling for an end to ‘thuggery’ in the name of Afghan transit trade.
Other leaders who turned up included Jamia Binoria representatives, Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rasheed and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) central vice-president Ejaz Chaudhry.
The attendees cheered and chanted as the afternoon wore on. Mohammad Arif, an ASWJ worker from Korangi told The Express Tribune: “I’ve come with 50 other people.
“I have never seen a rally as big as this. I’m here because I’m in the SSP and because they speak of religion here.”
Another JuD attendee said he had travelled by train from Lahore along with a thousand supporters.
Meanwhile, JUI-Nazriati leader Abdus Sattar called for Pakistan to adopt a system similar to the one introduced by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
PTI’s Ejaz Chaudhry claimed that the spirit of change had spread through the country and how Pakistan needs to be “cleansed of America”.
Several speakers paid tribute to Taliban leader Mullah Omar while ASWJ head Ahmed Ludhianvi claimed Pakistan did not need aid from the US and would ask ‘God’ for help.
The chair of the council, Samiul Haq, delivered the final speech at sunset as the crowd began to thin out. Haq said he endorsed all the speeches made and reiterated why the DPC’s creation was so important and took an oath from the attendees to work for its mission.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 13th, 2012.