For any political gathering to be successful it is not the speech that counts, but rather the strength, which sends out a message to policymakers.
Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have a whole network of people at every such gathering to ascertain the numbers. What follows is the account of such officials whose names have been withheld at their request.
“I just got a call from the chief, and he asked me to give him my estimates for the number attending the PTI rally,” says an official of the Special Branch. “When I told him it is around 75,000 he told me to go and find a neutral observer,” he adds and laughs, talking to his counterpart in the Punjab Police’s Operations Department.
In response, the Operations Department official says he has to keep the count low, since his department head knows that a low count will keep the Punjab government happy. “But I got a call from the CM Secretariat, and they are now quoting figures of 60,000 themselves,” adds the police official.
The Special Branch had set up a survey van at the back of the stage where Imran Khan spoke. With an elaborate technological system recording every angle of the rally with CCTVs installed all around the location, and even on top of Minar-e-Pakistan, the screens showed a flood of people.
Biggest public gathering?
A senior photographer of an English daily, while sharing his experience with a young journalist, claimed that the PTI rally was the largest public gathering at Minar-e-Pakistan since former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s arrival in Pakistan in 1986. People belonging to all walks of life – young and old, rich and poor – were seen at the venue, which was at full capacity.
Drone strike’s victims attend
A sizeable number of people came from Khyber-Pakhtukhawa and tribal areas, some of them being direct victims of US drone strikes.
“We have come voluntarily to participate in this meeting because we think Imran Khan has right policies,” PTI president in the Mohmad Agency Sajid Khan told The Express Tribune.
PTI’s tehsil Safi organizer Jam Dad Khan said: “I have lost my two uncles to drone attacks .We are supporting Khan due to his anti-American as well as anti-drone stance.” He added that Imran Khan is gaining popularity in K-P and Fata.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2011.