On Sunday morning, students and citizens in several major cities across Pakistan are expected to take to the streets. Not to protest, but to clean up.
The idea for ‘Project Clean Up for Peace’ came about when 23-year-old Faran Rafi, a resident of Islamabad, posted this message on Twitter on Friday: “I say when/if these #protests end, we take up the streets and clean up the mess. Show the world that real #Pakistanis say NO to violence.”
When the tweet and a similar update on his Facebook wall received positive response from his followers and friends, Rafi created a public event on Facebook and started inviting his friends.
“The idea is simple, just get out on the streets and roads, use whatever resources you can to clean up the mess created by the riots,” he wrote in the description of the event.
In just four hours, 740 people from across Pakistan signed up for the event. As of Saturday evening, that number has gone up to 4,374.
“The tweet turned into a movement,” Rafi, who recently graduated from the Lahore University of Management Sciences, told The Express Tribune.
Rafi and his friends have appointed representatives for Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi to coordinate the clean up efforts. They have also used social media to promote the event, both on their Facebook page and through Twitter using the hashtag #ProjectCleanUpForPeace.
In Islamabad and Lahore, these enterprising organisers have also received endorsements from the police.
“Just got off the phone with DIG Police, Lahore. He has agreed to provide security to us throughout the event,” Ali Ayyaz, organiser for Lahore, posted on the event’s Facebook page.
Rafi and his friends have already identified some areas in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore, and are asking people to suggest more places in different cities.
“We are targeting the areas most affected by the protests,” Rafi said.
In Islamabad, police will escort the participants from the Convention Centre to the clean up site near Serena Hotel.
The participants have been requested to reach the designated areas at 10 am on Sunday, armed with brooms, garbage bags, water, paint cans and paint brushes to clean and fix any damaged property.
The participants will also observe a moment of silence at noon for the people who lost their lives during the protests.
Rafi said he and the participants were also against the “blasphemous film,” but wanted to register a peaceful, non-violent protest, while observing Prophet Muhammad’s teachings about peace, cleanliness and forgiveness.
“The basic purpose is to tell the world that Pakistanis can be peaceful and productive as well,” Rafi said. “We are going to show our support for our Prophet (PBUH) by following his Sunnah and teachings.”
He said people interested in joining the cleaning project should visit the event’s Facebook page so they know when and where to show up exactly on Sunday morning.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.