Red flags and red caps


Fawad Ali Shah May 03, 2010

KARACHI: The Awami National Party (ANP) on Sunday organised a rally to celebrate the renaming of the North West Frontier Province Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

The other aim of the rally was to tell people that Pakhtoons living in the city are united. The rally informally started at 2 pm behind the Bin Qasim Park. By noon, Pakhtoons from different parts of the city, and some who had come to the city from Balochistan, had started travelling towards Clifton.

The rush of motorcycles, cycles, cars and buses, packed with ANP supporters and sympathisers, caused jams on all the major roads of the city. The Korangi road was blocked after 3 pm whereas Shahrah-e-Faisal and the route from Tower to Fisheries and Sher Shah were also blocked. Khayaban-e-Ittehad and Khayaban-e-Shamsheer were blocked 5 pm onwards.

Public transport going from Korangi to Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s mazaar and Keamari were diverted towards Boat Basin. The majority of petrol pumps in Clifton and Defence had shut down because of security concerns. The crowd was mostly made up of 20 to 40 year olds waving flags and wearing red caps and handkerchiefs tied around their heads.

Stringent security measures had been taken by the police and Rangers. Heavy contingents of law-enforcement personnel were manning the roads leading to Clifton.

According to police officials, around 2,200 police and Rangers personnel had been installed at the entrance of the venue. The president of the ANP’s Sindh chapter Shahi Syed arrived at the venue at 7:35 pm, leading to a sudden rush of people towards the stage to look at their leaders. However, nangyali, as ANP volunteers in charge of security are called, started pushing the people back and requesting them to be calm.

The security of the main venue was handled by these volunteers, who according to the ANP spokesperson Abdul Malik, were more than 5,000. They were also responsible for checking people entering the venue.

“Be calm and peaceful. Enemies are following you today and want to disrupt this peaceful rally,” Syed told the crowd as soon as he arrived at the stage. By 8 pm, only red caps and red flags could be seen from Clifton to Boat Basin.

The turnout, said ANP Sindh chapter general secretary Ameen Khattak, was more than 130,000. Syed first administered an oath to the nangyalis to honour their commitment to protect, serve the constitution of the party and not do anything to bring a bad name to their community. “Today you have proved that Pakhtoons are a power in the city and people should start respecting you,” Syed said as the venue vibrated with the sounds of “Pakhtunkhwa zindabad”.

Syed said all the communities living in Karachi are equal and should respect each other. He said he was proud of his nation and vowed not to hesitate from sacrificing his life for the cause of the nation. Without mentioning any particular group or political party, Syed said that if people from Karachi can go to the Punjab to hold political rallies, why don’t they allow others to hold rallies in Karachi.

“Respect all the communities if you want to maintain piece in Karachi,” he said. “If somebody gives you respect, give him respect. If he does not you should also do the same,” Syed added. Trying to appease the supporters as well as the media, Syed kept switching between Urdu and Pushto. Touching upon the disagreement on the name Khyber- Pakhtunkhwa, Syed said that the people of Hazara did not oppose the renaming of the province but some hidden hands were trying to create turmoil in the area.

“These are miscreants funded by people who want to create havoc in Pakhtunkhwa,” Syed said, adding that people of Hazara are their brethren and would remain so. Some of the people attending the rally had taken a break from their work to join the rally. “I could not resist the Pushto music and could hear people chanting national slogans so I decided to join the celebrations,” said Muhammad Naeem who works at a house on Khayaban-e-Ittehad.

A musical programme was also part of the celebrations and young men performed traditional dances to Gulraiz Tabassum’s songs.

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