Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan looked entirely assured at his party’s rally in Karachi. With a slew of big-name politicians under his belt and attendance by hundreds of thousands of people from Karachi and other districts in Sindh and Punjab, Imran addressed the crowd with his usual mix of rhetoric, emotions and a few well-placed jibes, all set to a catchy soundtrack.
Imran said he wanted to “present his programme to the people”, which comprises reforms in the legal system, police, land records, taxation, civil service, National Accountability Bureau and education so that Pakistan can become “the Islamic welfare state it was envisioned to be.” PTI plans to organise seminars to introduce its policies, being developed by a team headed by former MNA Jahangir Tareen.
Imran also apologised to the people of Balochistan and said the province had been “treated like a colony”. He says PTI’s next rally will be in Quetta on March 23, but made no mention of who was responsible or would be held accountable for the human rights violations in the province.
Imran also announced that Sardar Assef Ahmed Ali was joining PTI, the newest high-profile recruit after Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Javed Hashmi joined the party on Saturday. He said his team would not be “one based on referrals”, so there was “no point in flattering Imran Khan”.
As the lights shone at Quaid-e-Azam’s mausoleum opposite the venue, Imran said that like Quaid-e-Azam, no one would be able to allege that he had misappropriated funds.
While a slew of PTI leaders spoke at the event, it was Hashmi and new recruit, musician Abrarul Haq, and to a lesser extent, Azam Swati, who drew the longest applause and appreciation. Hashmi’s emotional speech, drawing on his decades of experience in politics and the time he spent in jail, hit a strong note. “People began looting the country. People were divided into different classes. There was a Pakistan for the rich and the poor. The poor have no personal security while the rich roam around with 1,000 police officers.” He invoked Quaid-e-Azam’s spirit and said, “We are ashamed. We will need to work for the future.”
He said he was bestowing his political capital on the young PTI supporters, recalling that he started his career at a young age, and said “We are with you”.
The crowd chanted ‘Brave man, Hashmi’ (Bahadur aadmi, Hashmi), and there was a roar of applause for the former PML-N stalwart when he said he had argued for decades in the assemblies that politicians needed to stop stealing from the poor and stockpiling their assets, and also when he noted placards by the ‘Aafia Movement’ and spoke about Aafia Siddiqui.
Attendees at the event – who belonged to every ethnic, social and age group – had never attended a political party event before. Many told The Express Tribune that they were inspired by Imran’s message of change and hope, as well as his publicly stated resolve to rid Pakistan of corruption.
PTI leaders drew from that message. Azam Swati criticised the current government over the Memogate crisis, terming former and current ambassadors Wajid Shamsul Hasan and Husain Haqqani as people who “licked the president’s shoes” and called Salmaan Farooqui a criminal.
Musician Haq’s stirring recital of a poem and his talk of the hopelessness young people face in Pakistan which inspired him to join PTI and the need for a revolution were well-received. While Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that the huge turnout in Karachi will have “disturbed the slumber” of many politicians, the PTI will probably have slept soundly after the success of its event on Sunday.
There was no official figure available as of the time of filing this report. PTI Sindh claimed that up to 450,000 people had attended, “given that the ground had a capacity of 250,000 and that the surrounding roads and the Mazar-e-Quaid ground itself was packed.” A police officer deputed at the rally said his personal estimate was 300,000 including the people on the roads and in the mausoleum.
(Read: Imran's dream team wows Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, December 26th, 2011.