A rally in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement was organised in Karachi on Saturday afternoon, but the most its organisers could occupy was a section of the pavement outside the Karachi Press Club.
The rally was organised by a group calling itself the Anti-Capitalist Movement, which comprises members of the National Students Federation, International Socialists, students and teachers of Karachi University and some students from the Aga Khan University and College of Business and Management. Bystanders, followers of the Tanzeem-e-Islami (who were holding their own meeting across the road) looked on curiously at the protest.
About 40 young students and old activists awkwardly gathered together on the pavement, clutching signs and copies of the International Socialists monthly magazine, placards with printed photographs of the sit-in protests organised by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. The placards drew inspiration from what has become the most well-known slogan to have come out of the US protests by saying ‘Occupy Pakistan. We are the 99%’.
The group chanted slogans against the US, businessmen and capitalists. ‘New York bhi maange azadi, London bhi maange azadi, Karachi bhi maange azadi’. (New York, London and Karachi demand freedom).
While the Occupy Wall Street protest worldwide has attracted tens of thousands of people, including celebrities, the Karachi rally could barely compete.
According to Ali Hasan, who runs a school in Landhi, “Based on our internal discussions, we knew that only a few people would show up. We have talked to other left-leaning parties and if more people from the Left would join us, this could turn into something bigger.”
Hasan was realistic about the magnitude of support leftist parties have in Pakistan. “Perhaps people are still hoping that the political parties will deliver on their promises,” he remarked.
On the other hand, organiser Naghma Shaikh was optimistic. “We are going to continue these protests throughout the country and we do expect more people will join us. Money is only concentrated in the hands of 2% of people… we are the 99%!”
The protesters then made their way to Regal Chowk, where they were joined by members of the International Socialists group.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2011.