The turnout on Sunday at the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rally was a little short of a tsunami, with a show of over 5,000 supporters.
The march, held in support of the judiciary over its recent contempt verdict against Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, created traffic chaos as parts of major roads were blocked off in anticipation of buses full of party supporters travelling from different parts of the country including Swat, Hazara, Taxila and Dir to partake in the gathering.
“I was stuck in traffic for over two hours,” complained civil servant Habib Asghar, also sharing that traffic was congested near Zero Point as buses, wagons and private vehicles made their way to Parade Avenue.
Red, green and white flags cascaded aglow from the sweltering sun as workers, children and party devotees gathered at China Chowk to chant slogans against the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the biggest opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, while demanding the resignation of the prime minister.
The spirit of change was strong, perhaps even irrational in some, while others just joined the wave of flag-bearers for entertainment’s sake. The avenue was lined with ice cream and beverage vendors and music blared on speakers as young men took the opportunity to express themselves through dance. Children much too young to hold party affiliations were carrying carry signs denouncing the prime minister.
Nineteen-year-old Zahoor Rehman distributed PTI flags piled high on an open truck. Squinting under the bright sun, he said, “I’ll vote for PTI if it becomes strong enough,” admitting that for now, he remains apolitical.
Mohammad Sharif Macon had travelled all the way from Mandi Bahauddin to give change a chance. “It’s simple,” he explained, “If the captain is disciplined, the team will be disciplined.”
PTI Malakand vice-president Inamullah Khan added, “The [Awami National Party (ANP)]has lost credibility due to its failure to deliver, while MMA supporters have lost heart and see the party as butchers of humanity.”
Khan, who worked for the ANP for 35 years, left because he got “disillusioned with its attitude towards the people”.
He added, “PTI is the last ray of hope for the people in our province and will experience a landslide victory in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.”
The PTI chief arrived three hours into the rally, after the heat had exhausted all the revellers and a tsunami of dizziness had overcome supporters who sat under the shade while waiting for change.
There were separate enclosures for men and women. But everyone forgot everything once Imran Khan came. Their spirits revived, the PTI followers pushed and shoved at each other to get a glimpse of their leader, their beacon of change.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2012.