KARACHI: “There won’t be a single area left without a PTI banner!” At least that’s the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) plan for an advertising campaign blitz to promote its December 25 rally in Karachi which the party wants to hold at a ground near Mazar-e-Quaid.
The rally will begin at 1 pm on Sunday, Christmas day, with Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi as the big-ticket numbers.
According to the PTI Sindh chief, Naeemul Haque, thousands of PTI supporters from across Pakistan are expected to amass for the rally.
But where they will be seated is contingent on the Federal ministry of national heritage and integration. The ground near the Mazar-e-Quaid is controlled by the Quaid-e-Azam Trust which the ministry overlooks. Federal minister Samina Khalid Ghurki has told PTI that the issue will be decided by Wednesday. Haque said he had also spoken with the Sindh chief secretary, who has assured him the government will provide police officers and help with security if the ministry allows the party to use the land.
The PTI has also reached out to the federal government, since December 25 is not only Christmas but also the Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s birth anniversary, when hundreds of people, government officials and politicians visit the mausoleum. But the PTI is not inviting any politicians to its rally - though Haque said they are welcome to attend.
Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan and Sindh Information Minister Shazia Marri have both said the provincial government has no objections to the PTI rally and that both security and assistance from the provincial government will be provided.
Wassan said that the government has given PTI the option of Nishtar Park while Marri added that they had urged the party to consider another venue as the workers of other parties will be paying their respects to Mohammad Ali Jinnah at the mausoleum on the same day and that could agitate the law and order situation in the area.
The party expects it will require 1,000 to 2,000 volunteers for security and 400 to control the traffic, and the PTI’s Karachi leadership will be handling these issues. Haque said the PTI has consulted security experts, who have advised them to do physical body checks instead of arranging for electronic gates, though given the large turnout the party expects, it will be looking into different options.
The PTI also dealt blows to two political parties on Tuesday, as the head of the Bilawal Bhutto Lovers Organisation, Irshad Hussain, and Zareen Syed, a cousin of Awami National Party (ANP) leader Shahi Syed, have announced that they are joining the Imran Khan-led party.
According to the PTI’s Ashraf Qureshi, “Irshad Hussain wanted to work for the late Benazir Bhutto’s mission and for Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari but once he saw that the Pakistan Peoples Party was not following Benazir’s mission he decided to join the PTI. Qureshi said that Ahmed Sohail of Pasban and the Sindh Democratic Alliance’s general secretary Shabbir have also joined the party.
While Zareen Syed is not an official member of the ANP, Qureshi said that a large number of ANP supporters have joined the PTI and they will accept any “clean” leaders from the party into its ranks as well. Qureshi said they are currently in talks with a considerable number of political leaders and one should expect similar announcements soon.
The numbers Haque threw out at a press conference on Tuesday evening provide a glimpse into how much groundwork is being done for the rally. Haque said 2,000 to 3,000 banners have already been put up in Karachi and another 8,000 will festoon its streets soon. Eighty billboards at major locations bear PTI advertisements and the party will advertise on 125 more. Two hundred thousand handbills have been distributed in the city.
The party also plans to arrange buses for 60,000 supporters. It will be placing 40,000 chairs at the venue, with separate seating for women and the media, and there will be floor mats for another 60,000 people. PTI volunteers will be giving out 50,000 flags. In the week prior to the rally, the PTI will be setting up 30 to 50 camps in the city and have mobile units out to promote the event.
In response to a question, Haque said that the rally was being funded by donations collected by the PTI in Pakistan and its chapters in the UK, US, UAE and Saudi Arabia.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 14th, 2011.
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