Marchers in the twin road shows staged by Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf may find themselves in different political camps, but the two groups – separated by a few hundred yards as they stage sit-ins on two parallel roads – have several common features.
On Saturday, the second day of both marches, PAT leader Dr Tahirul Qadri was wrapping up his speech as PTI supporters reached Aabpara Chowk on the instructions of their party chairman. “Take a vow that you will not leave,” Qadri said to his workers at Aabpara Market on Khayaban-e-Suharwardy. “The revolution is about to come, wait for me until that announcement is made.” PAT workers replied with a resounding cry of “We will not go.”
A few yards away, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Finance Minister Ali Amin Gundapur was asked to address the PTI’s supporters, waiting patiently for the arrival of the party chairman. The number of PTI supporters has been contested by the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PTI, with a PTI stage manager saying there were an estimated ‘four million’ present.
Supporters on PTI and PAT’s sides strained to make out what their leaders were saying, as both sides stationed mini-trucks loaded with sound systems to make sure that those who are unable to see the party chiefs are able to hear them. Sound bites from both parties’ leaders mingled as it began to rain. Those standing on the fringe in the PAT camp rushed for shelter in Aabpara Market while some PTI supporters headed for the nearest tree. Those closer to the stage held their ground, many of them sharing umbrellas with other supporters unwilling to give up prime spots for the evening’s show.
However, the two groups could be distinguished not just by their leaders’ rhetoric, but the manner in which they conducted their sit-ins. In PTI’s camp, music played a lead role, underscoring chairman Imran Khan’s statements and including crowd favourites such as Abrarul Haq’s Punjabi song Jitna vi Imran Khan jitna (Imran Khan will win) and Attaullah Esakhelvi’s song about ‘Naya Pakistan’.
Pushto tunes were not repeated as often on Saturday as the number of marchers from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa had reportedly dwindled. Regardless of the soundtrack, every time the music came on, the PTI youth members started dancing.
On the other side of the road, those in PAT’s camp remained somber. No songs interrupted PAT chief Tahirul Qadri’s speech and supporters said they were comparatively better prepared to hold their ground in Islamabad. “We could stay here for a month,” said Zafar Ahmed, a PAT supporter who travelled to the capital from Jhelum. “We have everything we need with us.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2014.
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