Sheikh Nadeem travelled from a small Punjab town to get married in Lahore. That is, until he found something more important to do. “When I heard there was going to be a rally, I left everything behind,” he says.
Hence the hardcore Muslim League-Nawaz supporter showed up at Friday’s rally dressed as a groom, holding a banner stating that he would stay a bachelor till President Asif Zardari gets forced out of government.
“I am with my leaders no matter what. We are tired of the government. I will sacrifice my marriage if I have to,” Nadeem said.
He was not the only creative protestor at the rally. Nasir Beraj, dressed in red and white, sang a song he wrote about the Sharif brothers and waved CDs of a recorded version.
“I am going to sway people’s hearts with music and motivate them to come out on the streets and stand behind leaders like Nawaz Sharif,” said Beraj, as he began humming his song. But when told that Nawaz Sharif would not be at the rally, the Shahdara resident seemed a little downbeat. “Without Nawaz it will not be the same,” he added.
Three clowns on stilts entertained the crowd while they awaited the chief guests. The organisers had hired Jameel Ahmed, Sajid Ali and Haroon to represent load-shedding, rising prices, and corruption. ‘We protest against load-shedding, rising cost of electricity and corruption’, read posters pasted around the venue.
The sound system at the venue blared music that repeatedly referred to Hamza Shahbaz as ‘the Tiger of Punjab’. Many in the crowd danced to dhol beats as the chief minister’s son arrived, while others waved inflatable tigers. Others, sadly, had brought the real thing, dragging caged tigers and lions behind them. “We felt that these animals wanted to attend the rally,” said one man who had brought a caged lion along.
Channo Sayeen, a drummer, spent the day shuttling between Nasser Bagh and Bhati Chowk to get people to follow him to the venue and to make people dance. “I am being paid for every trip I make and it is great. I never do this much business,” the musician chirped.
Despite the entertainment, the three-hour delay in the arrival of Shahbaz Sharif was too much for some. Nasreen left even before the chief minister began his speech. “We had been waiting since noon and I had children that needed to be fed at home,” she said. Before she left, a person came and marked her attendance in a register.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 29th, 2011.