All PTI did was talk about alternatives

Published: September 1, 2014
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Looking at the images of shelling on our television on crowds that consist of women and children, dictated by a man who is sitting on thousands of acres of private estate, I feel disgusted and ashamed. PHOTO: AFP

I write this piece as I see tear gas shelling and aerial firing towards massive crowds that are protesting peacefully outside the Prime Minister House. I write this as we hear of a girl from Dera Ghazi Khan who set herself on fire after not getting justice from the police for gang rape, and now her mother is part of the Azadi dharna in hope that her daughter’s death would not go to waste. I write this as I see our police become a mercenary force for a ‘supposedly’ democratic government that has taken on the role of, what I have often heard my mother refer to as, ‘firoun’ (pharaoh).

All this because these people are out there asking for their rights?

Watching these images right now, all I want to do is be in Islamabad. Having been there for the first few days of the march, all fear left me as I stood in solidarity with fellow Pakistanis asking for our basic rights. I have never felt more Pakistani than I did at those dharnas; it was not about any ethnicity, religion or gender. It was purely about Pakistan and an average Pakistani’s fundamental rights. Looking at the images on TV of shelling on crowds that consist of women and children, dictated by a man who is sitting on thousands of acres of private estate, I feel disgusted and ashamed. Did they learn nothing from the Model Town incident?

I fit into what you can call the quintessential ‘burger’ category; growing up and coming from a completely apolitical family, politics never ever interested me. So my impressions of Imran Khan were limited to seeing him lift the World Cup as a kid, interviewing him for Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (SKMH) for a children’s TV show, before the hospital opened up in 1994, and then, of course, hearing about the success story that  SKMH became over the years.

During this time, I heard passing conversations about Imran Khan and his political party; often from my father who maintained that Imran should have stuck to philanthropy. But these conversations never really caught my interest, until I saw Imran Khan at TEDx Karachi 2011. He never spoke politics in that talk but his never-give-up-on-your-dreams speech deeply resonated with me. Here was a man who had been laughed at, who had been written off every time he took on a project and yet, he stood here telling us about the success stories that those projects had become.

From there on, I started paying more attention to what was happening with Imran Khan and his political party. On October 30th, 2011, looking at the crowds that hit Minar-e-Pakistan in his support, anyone could see that the narrative was shifting. He spoke about fundamentals that day: minority rights, women’s rights, nepotism, de-politicisation of the police, corruption and, most importantly, he addressed the ordinary man. From rickshaw drivers, to civil servants and policemen, Imran Khan welcomed them all to help change the tide towards a Naya Pakistan. That was the day I became a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) supporter, and my conviction in the party and its mandate has only grown over the years.

Why do I choose Imran Khan over anyone else?

Because of the message his party has put forward and implemented in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) since taking power. This promise is one that advocates change at the grass-root level for education, health, a depoliticised police force and rights for all (regardless of gender, creed and religion). And what makes me proud is that we have seen these promises being fulfilled in K-P, in the form of mass immunisation drives, the building of a SKMH Peshawar, brilliant initiatives like the Tameer-e-School Programme and a depoliticised police force that are essential for a public that has no other doors to knock on.

Why did I think of writing this piece?

The experience I had with the Azadi march was unbelievable; it was of a Pakistan that was awake and alive. I see so many sceptics, especially from my own group of friends and acquaintances, making fun of those who believe in sitting and commenting from the comforts of their drawing room, pretty much having no idea about the situation on ground. To them what matters are false notions of ‘economic progress’ and as long as their businesses do well and they keep benefiting from an inherently flawed system – notwithstanding the fact that it comes at the expense of great foreign debt.

They accuse PTI for being a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) supporting party, I call their bluff. PTI is inherently against indiscriminate bombings that result in civilian deaths, they stand for targeted operations and engaging locals to weed out terror havens from the tribal areas. But nine years of indiscriminate operations have brought us absolutely nothing, except more terror. There has to be another way to deal with it, and all PTI did was talk about alternatives.

Zarlasht Faisal

Zarlasht Faisal

She is a hopeful Pakistani, and an entrepreneur trying to make her place in the world. She tweets as @ZarlashtFaisal (twitter.com/ZarlashtFaisal)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Controversy

    It is difficult to make one sided decision on whatever is going on for ~20 days. Whatever Imran Khan is doing may seem right to most of burgers because they are not living on daily wages. With demonstrations, when businesses are at there low and PTI fans are on facebook/dancing in red zone, these people are looking for their means to earn money. This inqalab and azadi looks very easy in theory. Yet it effects a lot of people. If author disagrees, please try simple experiment of living with three of your friends on minimum wage (400/day).

    And for your information, http://tribune.com.pk/story/755897/collateral-damage-road-blockades-that-stole-a-son-from-his-mother/ happened because of road blockages in Islamabad. (And government is not only to be blamed for it)

    As I said one sided decision is difficult, I agree at least with the vision of PTI but not the way they are implementing it. I agree family parties culture should be abandoned. I agree ‘muq muqa’ politics is our legacy and we should get rid of it. But jamming economy in the name of resignation for election rigging… will do more harm then good.

    Demand that looks legitimate is the resignation of shahbaz sharif over model town incident. Demand of election reforms is also acceptable. I would definitely be with imran khan if he finds some way of implementing his manshoor without destroying already crippled economy.

    Priority List to be remembered:
    Human Life (Highest Priority)
    Economy Sustainability and
    System to be Implemented in CountryRecommend

  • James Malish

    “…Having been there for the first few days of the march, all fear left me as I stood in solidarity with fellow Pakistanis asking for our BASIC RIGHTS..”

    By ‘BASIC RIGHTS’, you mean have a vastly rejected in ’13 election, Imran khan as a PM of pakistan, right?

    Look at the revolution (mess) being unfolded in the KPK by Mr. ’90 days’ Inqlabi KhanRecommend

  • Guest

    Puhleaaaseee wake up!
    -Have you see people i party
    – talks about democracy, yet fires and hires people in complete monarchy style
    -Goes back on his word almost every day
    -Uses indecent language against his opponents
    Need I go on, I think not! Please wake up before it’s too late. You are damaging Pakistan massively in the processRecommend

  • Humza

    I have my own story of naivete and hero worship. I now see that the system and working within the system is the only way forward. I used to support PTI and Imran Khan and like you I saw him win the World Cup and open Shaukat Khanum Hospital. I thought that though he lost the election – and yes I know the majority voted Nawaz Sharif including my parents – Imran Khan would be great in opposition, hold the elected government to account and show us all what PTI can do in KPK. Then there would be nothing to stop him win in in the next elections. Imagine the sorrow I feel in seeing Imran Khan align himself with the characters of old Pakistan like Shaikh Rasheed and the Chaudries of Gujrat. He even joined forces with a religious leader who thinks he is above the law in the form of Tahirul Qadri.There is a saying that goes ” power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” – to me this defines the change that has happened in Imran Khan’s thinking and his party. Hearing Javed Hashmi confirms my worst fears. Imran Khan was a great man but he has turned himself into an opportunist controlling a mob that doesn’t know when to stop. Peaceful protesters do not carry sticks, throw stones, attack police. So very sad.Recommend

  • Me

    We are with you Imran khan.Recommend

  • Prashant

    “I write this as we hear of a girl from Dera Ghazi Khan who set herself on fire after not getting justice from the police for gang rape, and now her mother is part of the Azadi dharna in hope that her daughter’s death would not go to waste.”

    There is nothing wrong in being an IK supporter but to say that if IK leads Pakistan, rapes would come to an end is a wishful thinking. Stop making fun of the poor by exploiting their pain and anguish.

    Also, how did IK realise after 1 year that the elections were rigged and what is the guarantee that any election in future which might result in IK victory would be fair?Recommend

  • Ahad

    I may disagree with your political views, Zarlasht but I will not disagree with your right to air them and to advocate for them.

    It is always important to try and understand someone else’s point of view

    In that vein, thank you for this.Recommend

  • Aisha

    Ignore them Zarlasht. A very inspiring piece.Recommend

  • Zara

    Did he say that rape wont happen?. All she said is that there are chances that rape victims will get justice like the one girl who got raped in Kpk and very next day the rapist was in police custody
    He didn’t realize of rigging after one year. He went through every legal process to ask for justice in that one year. Recommend

  • remi

    One realizes after finding proofs. If he wanted to protest just only to bring this government down he wouldn’t even accept it from the very first day.Recommend

  • Hamza

    I admire you for standing up for what you believe in. But i think hijacking democracy in the way Imran Khan has, in a country so volatile as pakistan is just dangerous.
    If Imran Khan stood up for minorities…why has he not stood up for Hindus in Pakistan? or Christians? if he is one who stands for all minorities then he should represent all the people no matter how few.Recommend

  • Prashant

    You cannot give a man a cult status and expect him to sort out issues which he himself is a product of. I wish you all the best.Recommend

  • Shoaib

    Who said he has realized after an year? He is asking in the parliament, submitting petitions that elections are rigged. He asked for 4 constituencies only but no body listened to him. Of course he would be on the roads now asking for his right.Recommend

  • Zarlasht Faisal

    I believe you did not understand what I meant by the rape story; my point was to highlight that there are no doors left to knock on for the poor man/woman and hence they find themselves out on the streets. That is what I meant to highlight. Just to give you an example; my own driver saw a one and a half lakh rupee robbery, and his tv etc…whatever life savings he had about a month ago. The police never helped him out…so eventually, they tried to sort out the issue by calling a meeting of local elders in his own locality in karachi. This is what it has all come down to…vigilante justice…how much longer till these people turn on us…”the have’s”…You are of course entitled to your own opinion; but I in no way said that he was bringing an end to rape…don’t know how you got that out of my statement? Rape is a psychological issue…and one that persists across the globe. For that we all have to hope and work towards raising better sons in the future.Recommend

  • Zarlasht Faisal

    To everyone commenting on this blog, this was my original piece that I submitted to express tribune, just hours before the crackdown began. They asked me to give more of a history into my experience…and hence came the piece above. Would appreciate it if people took out the time to read this as well. As for the criticism, everyone is entitled to their own opinion guys…its the true beauty of democracy :)!

    Sitting in Karachi, mind in Islamabad. My experience there was life changing, and I want to be back in the middle of it all. Its really really good to open your eyes to a world outside the bubble; from beginning my journey at 7 am on the 14th morning…waiting 9 hours at karachi airport, arriving in lahore and following the caravan from mall road, to having my social media friends leaving the caravan to come and say hi to us Imran Ghazali meeting like old friends, to standing on top of a fire truck at shaadra with massive crowds around us, to road tripping to Isloo with my cousin Ali Chaudhry Miraj and super aunt Shabnam Miraj who stood for four days despite numerous health issues, to standing soaking wet in the rain listening to IKs speech at Fajr, to meeting some amazing people from PTI youth wing who have become good friends today Umber Sheraz Khan,to getting stuck in a mob because we ended up right behind IK entering and youth wing boys forming a chain around us to protect usRecommend

  • Zarlasht Faisal

    Contd. , to dancing with mobs of people on the road in Pakistan and not feeling threatened for a second, to emailing asad umar about issues at the dharna and having him reply listening to you, to having pashtuns from kp Saleem Khan come and bandage up your aunts bleeding foot and show you their blistered feet because they walked with their MNA from kp, to meeting an amazing writer from france whose writing a book on PTI Alix Philippon and already has two books about Pakistan under her belt, to meeting amazing friends from khi youth wing Arsalan Taj Ghumman who came with all their female counterparts driving all the way from khi, to meeting my dad Faisal Sherjan there… light moments, to having them then go and offer him tea and sitting down to eat daal and naan with everyone, to seeing the fire in the crowd as iK says we will not be marching to the red zone that day, to seeing youth wing boys run to throw mud on a man dousing himself with petrol to burn himself, to hearing the civil disobedience announcement and then sitting and analysing what it meant on the drive back to lahore, to finally decipher on the car ride to isloo with ppl contributing on whatsapp what a smart move it was from an international perspective, to getting to lahore and finding out about the NA resignations, to cancelling flight back to khi and driving back to Islamabad with a new bunch of friends Amir Rashid and Attiya Noon in a van full of people, finding yourself sitting next to Moin Khan – ADifferentAgenda, to walking on to 7th avenue as the national anthem began, to seeing the containers removed, to everyone walking peacefully, to determination in peoples eyes, to standing for a break and just see endless sea of people walking past and bumping into your french friend again and giving her the biggest hug in the world knowing that you are witnessing unique moments in our countrys history,to finally hitting constitution avenue at about 2:15 am at night, first site of the secretariat lit up, the flag mounted high, sitting and chilling on the island divider and watching khan pointing with determination to the crowd… Allah Hu in the background, leaving Islamabad as the sun almost came up, contemplating thinking in a car mixed with friends and strangers…. to getting to lahore and getting on to a flight back and finally letting the tears flow because you know what you experienced has changed you forever, to wanting more around you to have the will to go and see it atleast once for themselves, to leaving with more conviction than ever that these were our people… to acknowledging the Pakistan outside the bubble. Would not have missed it for the world. I laugh at those that laugh at me supporting this cause…atleast I believe in something. What do you believe in?Recommend

  • Zarlasht Faisal

    Contd. , to dancing with mobs of people on the road in Pakistan and not feeling threatened for a second, to emailing asad umar about issues at the dharna and having him reply listening to you, to having pashtuns from kp Saleem Khan come and bandage up your aunts bleeding foot and show you their blistered feet because they walked with their MNA from kp, to meeting an amazing writer from france whose writing a book on PTI Alix Philippon and already has two books about Pakistan under her belt, to meeting amazing friends from khi youth wing Arsalan Taj Ghumman who came with all their female counterparts driving all the way from khi, to meeting my dad Faisal Sherjan there… light moments, to having them then go and offer him tea and sitting down to eat daal and naan with everyone, to seeing the fire in the crowd as iK says we will not be marching to the red zone that day, to seeing youth wing boys run to throw mud on a man dousing himself with petrol to burn himself, to hearing the civil disobedience announcement and then sitting and analysing what it meant on the drive back to lahore, to finally decipher on the car ride to isloo with ppl contributing on whatsapp what a smart move it was from an international perspective, to getting to lahore and finding out about the NA resignations, to cancelling flight back to khi and driving back to Islamabad with a new bunch of friends Amir Rashid and Attiya Noon in a van full of people, finding yourself sitting next to Moin Khan – ADifferentAgenda, to walking on to 7th avenue as the national anthem began, to seeing the containers removed, to everyone walking peacefully, to determination in peoples eyes, to standing for a break and just see endless sea of people walking past and bumping into your french friend again and giving her the biggest hug in the world knowing that you are witnessing unique moments in our countrys history,to finally hitting constitution avenue at about 2:15 am at night, first site of the secretariat lit up, the flag mounted high, sitting and chilling on the island divider and watching khan pointing with determination to the crowd… Allah Hu in the background, leaving Islamabad as the sun almost came up, contemplating thinking in a car mixed with friends and strangers…. to getting to lahore and getting on to a flight back and finally letting the tears flow because you know what you experienced has changed you forever, to wanting more around you to have the will to go and see it atleast once for themselves, to leaving with more conviction than ever that these were our people… to acknowledging the Pakistan outside the bubble. Would not have missed it for the world. I laugh at those that laugh at me supporting this cause…atleast I believe in something. What do you believe in?Recommend

  • Prashant

    I certainly did get your point Faisal. Let me ask you, if the law and order situation is so bad, why not protest against the Govt to make them accountable rather than asking them to put down their papers. There could be thousands protesting against the present Govt but do they represent the opinion of more than 180 million population of Pakistan?

    The way I see, this is a protest being led by a man who has been defeated by the people and he is now proving himself to be a loser. I am wondering what happens when Nawaz Sharif brings equal numbers to the streets to counter these protests.

    You cannot celebrate an election as a victory of democracy today and tomorrow claim the same elections to be a fraud just for your own convenience. Either way, democracy in Pakistan has taken another blow.

    I might be completely incorrect but this is my opinion. You know Pakistan better.Recommend

  • Guest

    Basic rights… means the right to life, liberty.. equality of opportunity and equality before the law. Currently, we have to pay in cash for all of these…Recommend

  • Golnath Agarwal

    A small reminder to you Ms. Faisal. Do you remember this man
    wanted an office for extremists? [ killers of 67 thousand men, women
    and innocent children?] You remember the Cricketer calling them
    “Our Brothers” No, you don’t remember. That is called selective
    amnesia. So now, he is a ‘born again’ revolutionary? Another U turn?
    Would you like to know how many were injured grievously?
    approximately 300,000 !! Recommend

  • sana

    Thank you Zarlasht, well written article and close to my heart because I never felt the feeling belonging to Pakistan either

    I live in Islamabad, I have all the facilities one can wish for and there is nothing amy government can do for me. I have the best schools, medical facilities, restaurants, cafes, roads, I will never have to encounter Punjab Police, my work will never get stuck in government red tapes (I have contacts and I have the money to bribe). I work in a multinational company, have all the perks anyone can wish for. Alhamdulillah

    Why I stand with Imran Khan is for my people’s liberation and elevation. Ghisaay pitay systems, corruption, dishonesty, police-gardi, degrading moral values etc etc, There are excellent people in both PPP and PML but they belong to Sharif and Bhuttos, not to Pakistan, this isn’t a democracyRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    Your point woukd be valid if there were no rape cases in India,America,UK (the worlds oldest democricies.)Recommend