The Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) staged a sit-in at The Mall in a protest against elections on Saturday, despite a ban on such protests on polling day.
PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri had promised to lead the protest and was in Lahore, but did not participate in the sit-in at the service road between Masjid-i-Shuhada and Charing Cross, disappointing many of his supporters. He addressed the protesters via a video link from his Model Town residence.
The participants stayed at the venue from 9am to 5pm, waving placards and banners and chanting slogans against the voting. They received lunch boxes from the party. Security was tight to ensure that there were no clashes with supporters of other parties. Raheeq Abbasi was the senior PAT leader at the sit-in.
In his address, Dr Qadri vowed to alter “the corrupt electoral system”. He said the PAT’s were the first “successful” sit-ins against the elections.
He said they would continue their struggle till there was “real change” in the country. He said the PAT was fighting against all parties that were trying to maintain the status quo.
He congratulated the PAT workers for their persistence.
He said that no single party could get a majority because of the electoral system. He predicted that “the party speaking about change” would “also join the corrupt”. He said that all the election campaigns had been sleazy. He said that the elections would result in “5 to 10 per cent new faces” and the rest would remain the same. He said his predictions made on December 23 were coming true.
“The political parties will start slinging mud at each other. At the end of this month, there will be massive horse-trading and the whole nation will remember what I said about this corrupt system,” he said.
Dr Qadri said that parties that had opposed the PAT were now themselves boycotting the elections, an apparent reference to the Jamat-i-Islami’s announcement in Karachi. The party forming government would only be able to do so after spending millions of rupees on buying seats.
A participant at the sit-in said that he was disappointed that his leader had not turned up. “Apparently he avoided coming to the venue because of security concerns,” he said. “But the lives of PAT activists are also at risk. We came here with our families.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2013.