Jinnah airport turned into a sea of red and green as Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supporters flooded it to receive Imran Khan who declared that Sunday’s public rally would not only go ahead but would also be a “historic” one.
He said that the court had “suspended” the order to not allow PTI’s event, so it would go ahead as planned. “We will be entertaining you!” he announced to the crowd, flanked by former foreign minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who flew in with him on Jahangir Tareen’s private jet.
Khan is in Karachi on a four-day visit, but his primary engagement is the rally on December 25, which he promises will be even larger than the one in Lahore. In fact, he fears that “a rela (flood) of PPP leaders will be rushing to join PTI after December 25.”
With his general secretary Arif Alvi by his side, Khan claimed that the party was not a “King’s party”. “The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) or Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) can be King’s parties but the PTI is a flood or a tsunami which comes from above.”
The rally will be an event to unite Karachi. “Until Karachi rises, Pakistan’s economy cannot improve since Karachi is a financial hub,” the PTI leader said.
Khan’s supporters - carrying flags and sporting flags as bandannas - crowded around him as he made his way out of the airport. For an hour and a half before his arrival, they had shouted slogans of ‘Prime Minister Imran Khan’, ‘Go Zardari Go’ and ‘Naara-e-Takbeer’ as the pitch built.
PTI supporter Syeda Zohra Rahat was among the hundreds at the airport. Sporting a dupatta in the green and red colours of the PTI flag, which she calls her signature, Rahat said Khan referred to her as “aapa” (elder sister).
Sadia Agha, who has been a PTI supporter since 1996, says she and other workers are “very excited” and believe the party has managed to attract people because they see Khan as a “ray of hope”.
Andaleeb, who flew in from Lahore for the event, said she has been a party worker for four years and in this time, people have grown so disenchanted with the current government that they have turned to Khan as a symbol of hope and change.
Agha isn’t demurred by the politicians from other parties joining PTI. “We have full faith in our leader. This will be a very successful event in Karachi.”
Earlier in the day, at a hurriedly called press conference at the Karachi Press Club, the party’s senior vice president, Hamid Khan, said that preparations for the rally and meeting were already under way at the ground across Quaid-e-Azam’s mazaar.
The PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi added that the rally would be completely peaceful and other political parties should refrain from trying to irritate the party as it prepared for the day.
The press conference was held in an attempt to clear up confusion after the Sindh High Court had disposed of a petition filed by people who wanted the permission for the rally cancelled.
For their part, the judges said they couldn’t interfere in the matter as the Mazaar-e-Quaid board had the power to make any decision according to its rules.
The PTI leaders circulated an email from the secretary of the Federal Ministry of National Heritage and Integration, Faridullah Khan, to prove that they had been granted permission. It said: “As per the permission granted by the competent authority, the PTI may hold its rally at the Quaid’s Mazaar on the 25th December 2011. The organisers will ensure compliance of all necessary rules meant for the care and sanctity and upkeep of the compound.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.