Five...four...three...two...one... the clock struck twelve and Pakistan’s 64th Independence Day was greeted with a crowd of about 5,000 bellowing the National Anthem for all they were worth.
It was not enough though, the world record for the most people singing a national anthem that the people of Karachi had set out to break stood at 5,248. The crowd used their nation’s pride as bait via a flurry of texts, tweets and Blackberry messages to lure over 800 more patriots into the Defence Authority Zamzama Club in Khadda Market, bringing the total up to 5,847 - a new world record.
The record is not yet official, but the participants and organisers refused to let a small technicality dampen their exultation. “We have done it!” they cried. The organisers - Waqas Pai, Abid Beli and Osama Pai - began collecting people via social networking with the motto, ‘No Punjabi, no Pathan, no Sindhi, no Baloch, only Pakistani’.
“After video footage, news clippings and other evidence of attendance are compiled over the next four to six days, we will send them to Guinness World Record (GWR),” explained Osama Pai. “Once we send our information to GWR, they will process it for around four to six weeks before we are crowned record holders.”
While an official online registration for each participant allowed event organisers to keep count of the number of guests present, the sudden downpour on Sunday night meant a lot of people who registered could not make it. In fact, the optimistic organisers believe that they could have had another 10,000 people present if it hadn’t been for the rain. Considering that 28,398 people checked the ‘Attending’ box on the Facebook event, their estimate may not be completely off.
GWR sent them a list of procedures to follow in order to make the attempt official. “Participants were instructed to book their ticket online, print it and show it at the gate before entry,” said Osama Pai, event organiser. “We had arranged bar code scanners and posted people at the entrances to tick off each person entering the venue.”
On September 1, 2009, 5,248 students of MSU-IIT in the Philippines sang Lupang Hinirang. They were the most people to sing a national anthem in one sitting until Sunday morning.
While they did not manage to obliterate the record as they had hoped, breaking it was good enough for the singing, clapping and dancing crowd. They trickled into the stadium starting from 10 pm until 2:30 am on August 14, bursting into spontaneous renditions of ‘Dil dil Pakistan’ and other patriotic songs. While the organisers thought the rain had marred their plans, in true Karachi fashion the crowd felt the rain completed what was one of the few occasions that Karachi’s harassed population has to celebrate.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.