Chairs and even standing room ran short as more people than expected turned up for the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) ‘Remove the government, save the country’ rally at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday.
The PTI had arranged for 40,000 chairs on the western side of Minar-i-Pakistan Park for the participants, but these were all filled even before the first speech began at around 4:15pm. PTI organisers made several announcements from the stage asking the police to remove tents and barbed wire erected around the venue.
People continued streaming into the venue till around the time Imran Khan began his speech at 6:30pm. By then, the venue area had grown to about double the size initially arranged by the PTI. A sea of people waving red and green flags stood as far back as GT Road around the boundary wall of Minar-i-Pakistan, from where the stage was almost invisible.
Unlike at the Muslim League-Nawaz rally on Friday, no participant left the venue before the end of Imran Khan’s speech. The organisers had invited artists like Strings and Shehzad Roy to keep the crowd entertained, but the PTI supporters appeared far more interested in the speeches than the music.
Most of the participants were young people, but there were also a good number of older men and women present with their children.
“It is time for change. All nations must rise against corruption,” said 20-year-old Shoaib Ahmed. Waving a PTI flag, he said that he had never been to any political rally before. He came out this time, he said, because he felt that Imran Khan would make the country safer. He said he would participate in future PTI rallies too.
Tariq Mughal and Salahuddin, members of the Aero Modelling Club, flew a remote-controlled plane towing a PTI flag at the venue. Mughal said that he and his friends at the club had recently decided to join the PTI and this was their way of showing their support for the party.
Badruddin, 60, a resident of Malipura in Lahore, said he had been a Peoples Party supporter for 25 years. “My family has never voted for any party other than the PPP, but I am fed up with all these politicians and have decided to vote for Imran Khan,” he said.
Badruddin said his family owned power looms in Malipura and their business was on the verge of collapse due to power outages and rising prices of raw material. He said that his sons and wife did not know he was at the rally, but he would make sure that they voted for PTI at the next elections.
Faiza Ambreen, who attended the rally with three children and her husband, said that seeing the “tsunami of people” at the venue had given her hope that Pakistanis realise that their country is in trouble and that they need to do something to save it. “If people continue their support for Imran Khan, Pakistan will become a progressive country,” she said.
(Read: Who will grab Punjab?)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2011.