The sudden emergence of a severe dust storm on Thursday uprooted the first-ever convention of the PML-N Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) branch, forcing PML-N President Nawaz Sharif to exit the venue without addressing the congregation.
The congregation of nearly 25,000 people was made up of party workers from various parts of Mirpur division and the rest of AJK at Chitterpari ground, and was arranged to mark the emergence of the PML-N party in AJK.
The storm started brewing at the exact time the PML-N chief was to address the rally. The slow-paced wind took a sharp turn and suddenly uprooted the rally. The change in weather caused the audience to exit in a hurry from the venue, rubbing dust from their eyes.
In his few opening remarks, Sharif gave assurances to the AJK people that he would meet them again in the near future. He thanked the organisers, singling out the newly-elected PML-N AJK President Raja Farooq Haider Khan for managing the first-ever mammoth public rally after the June 26 AJK Legislative Assembly elections in which his party had emerged as runners up in the house. They had clinched 12 seats in the state legislature next to the PPP, AJK, currently ruling Azad Jammu & Kashmir.
Nawaz was accompanied by senior party colleagues including Raja Zafarul Haq, Zaffar Iqbal Jagra and several MNAs and MPAs belonging to his party when he reached the convention amidst extra-ordinary security arrangements provided by the AJK government as well as the neighbouring Punjab government and a contingent of his personal bodyguards.
Speaking at the event, PML-N AJK President Raja Farooq Haider Khan said that the PML-N would have emerged the single largest party in last year’s AJK Legislative Assembly elections had the polls been held in a free and fair environment.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2012.