While linking women empowerment to the prosperity of the country, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain added another milestone to the country’s political history by supposedly hosting the largest congregation of women in the world.
Addressing the large gathering of his female followers, Altaf Hussain galvanised the audience even further by claiming that this congregation alone was enough to counter the claims about big rallies by other political parties.
The sea of women waving the traditional red, green and white flags indeed seemed larger than the crowd that had thronged Bagh-e-Jinnah to listen to Pakistan Thereek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan. MQM officials put the number of attendees at one million. The crowd contained women from all socio-economic backgrounds, most of whom came with their children. It seemed that the party’s male members heeded to their leader’s advice, after all.
The party’s numerical claims gained credibility after the BBC declared the rally to be the largest congregation of women ever organised in the world. Nasreen Jalil and other party members also claimed that it was the largest crowd ever assembled that sung a national anthem and that they intended to get it recorded in the Guiness Book of World Records.
One political analyst, while comparing the event with the recent PTI rally, said that it was like observing two different receptions, one hosted by a family in its own house and the other by a stranger at a new place. “It was their (MQM’s) home city, the party knew everything inside out and also had ample experience in organising large-scale events like this one,” he said. The party had made traffic arrangements, parking and security arrangements and provided 100 mobile toilets, food stalls, a media help desk, an information desk occupied by ra1bita committee members. A high proportion of female police officers were also present at the occasion. A male volunteer, Rasheed, said that the organisers planned the event to conclude early, keeping in view the fact that women from all over the city came to attend the event.
The mammoth stage provided room for the party’s women members from all over the country, who gave short speeches at the beginning. Some of these included Nadia Gabol, Nasreen Jalil, 1Khushbakht Shujaat, Bilquis Mukhtar, Laila Parveen and Kishwer Zehra. Altaf Hussain later addressed the public meeting via phone line from London. Although the event lacked musicians to liven up the crowd, Altaf Hussain more than made up for their by singing “Leke pehla pehla pyar, leke acha acha pyar jadoo nagri se aya hao koi jadogar.” However, towards the end, the attendees were treated to a 20-minute spell of spectacular fireworks, along with songs by Shazia Khushk.
Umaima Jaffer, a resident from Defence Phase V, said that she was drawn to the event by the worthy cause it was supposed to address. “Our political parties are forgetting that they need to come up with clear cut and well defined strategies for various issues in order to get votes, instead of just relying their usual fans voting in their favour” she said.
According to Hussain, the country could never prosper or strengthen unless the women were empowered. While talking about the condition of women in Pakistan, he said that women did not have basic human rights as they were buried alive or treated like animals. He added that the MQM had changed the perceptions and showed that women could participate in politics. “We held the first rally for women on July 15, 1988,” he said. “Another historic rally for women was organised by the MQM at Nishtar Park in June 2005.” He added women had played a important role in Operation Clean-up in 1992. “They opened Nine Zero and held the funeral of their loved ones, suffered hardships and went to jail but remained steadfast,” he said. “More than 15,000 MQM workers were killed and to date 28 workers are still missing.” He added that his party had campaigned for the rights of women in all the legislative bodies of the country. It introduced legislation in the Sindh Assembly against karo kari and domestic violence and got the Women Protection Bill passed in parliament.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 20th, 2012.
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