When people poured into the rally early on Sunday, sections of the ground seemed to arrange themselves into little microcosms of the greater class system prevalent in the country. But as the numbers grew, the lines blurred.
What most people in the family enclosure had in common was that they had never attended a political rally before.
Some of them were overseas Pakistanis. Naqi Sharif, who is from South Africa and follows Imran Khan on Facebook, said, “We want to come out of the drawing rooms and onto the streets.” Karachi resident Anila Weldon, who runs a support group for mothers, said, “The passion itself has brought me here. I have no expectations.”
For many of these first timers Imran Khan and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf represents what they have been missing out on for years – someone to awaken them.
Majid Mehmood, an engineer, came from Saudi Arabia to Karachi to see his aging mother. And to attend Imran Khan’s rally. In the dusty ground, where the PTI rally was held, he along with his six- year-old son chanted slogans for Khan.
“I want to come back to Pakistan and work here, close to my family,” he said in a mix of English and Urdu. “I don’t know why but Imran Khan gives me hope. I want change, security and a better future for my children.”
Many came with hope. “My friends think I’m crazy but I’ve come from Riyadh just for this rally,” said Safwat Khalid draped in a PTI flag. “Imran Khan is not a career politician. He will run the country like a company.”
Listening in on the conversation, his friend Fouzan from Karachi chipped in “before Imran Khan, we never voted because we felt nobody deserved it.”
Common criticism against Imran Khan is that he is a ‘Taliban apologist’ and some nicknamed him ‘Taliban Khan’. But Canada-returned Uzair Dadabhoy disagreed. “I am not anti-USA but there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan or in Pakistan and Imran Khan understands that.”
Along with the young hip crowd, there were many who had been supporters of religious parties. “I am a prayer leader at a masjid,” said a man, in his late forties as he held a party banner. “I just like this man.”
There were girls in t-shirts and burkas, boys sporting Khan tattoos and others in traditional attire.
Even Chacha Cricket showed up at the rally, wearing his trademark green long shirt and holding a Pakistani flag. “Imran won us the world cup,” he said. “He built a cancer hospital for poor people. I am sure he can save the country.”
It’s all business
Jawwad Awan, a graphic designer, was selling white t-shirts with “Kara-Che” printed over a picture of Imran Khan. “Khan and Che are both revolutionaries. One used weapons and the other is using the ballot,” he said. He said he was selling the shirts for Rs300 a piece, earning just Rs50 in profit.
Besides samosas and pastries, which were being sold by about a dozen men, Niswar and Baloch Gutka was also on offer. Nawab Khan had a small stall set up right near the entrance. “Niswar is selling well,” he said, laughing. “But there are a lot of customers for John Johnny and Raza Mawa,” he said, referring to concoction of betel nut and tobacco.
Tens of thousands of people flooded the ground as well as adjoining roads, the wall of the Quaideen flyover and rooftops of nearby buildings.
Mudassir Ahmed, 25, came with his friends. “I am an Urdu-speaking and I really don’t care if Khan is a Pashtun,” he said. “He speaks against corruption and that is the language I want to hear.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2011.