PTI rally: Sights, sounds, observations from Karachi

Published: December 26, 2011
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PHOTO: AFP

PHOTO: AFP PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN AND NEFER SEHGAL/EXPRESS PHOTO: AFP Attending the PTI rally was one of the best decisions of my life. PHOTO: AFP

Participating in the PTI jalsa on Sunday was a transformational experience for me. Originally, I did not plan to attend the rally because I didn’t agree with everything Imran Khan has to say, and felt his policy platform was too vague. Plus, there was a small chance that a bomb might go off, or something else would go wrong – it’s Karachi after all.

The tipping point came when Imran Khan positioned this rally as an opportunity to usher a new era of peaceful politics in Karachi. Sitting with friends the night before the rally, we made an impulse decision to attend.

“You’ll tell your grandchildren that you were a part of history,” my friend remarked as he made his case for us to attend the rally.

His advice inadvertently triggered one of the best decisions of my life.

It’s difficult to describe the energy of the crowd at the PTI rally in writing. There were people and PTI flags as far as one’s eye could see.

“Please stop climbing the electricity poles,” pleaded one of the PTI speakers, trying to bring order to the sea of people that had thronged the venue.

“You may electrocute the electric pole with all your current,” he added.

This was Pakistan at its very best; men, women and children of all ethnicities and economic classes breaking the shackles of fear and coming together to support a political candidate who thinks peace in Karachi is the key to a prosperous Pakistan.

There was music, there was dancing, there was laughter and above all, there was a palpable sense of hope. It was unlike anything I have experienced before in Pakistan. Every time a Pushto or Sindhi song played, the “tsunami” of people roared unanimously and danced without any discrimination on the basis of ethnicity or economic class.

Every speaker talked about bringing together Pashtuns, Sindhis, Balouchis, Punjabis and Urdu speaking people under one banner. “We are all Pakistanis,” they said.

Almost every leader wished Pakistani Christians a Merry Christmas. This is the politics of inclusion, diversity ,and tolerance. This was the need of the hour in Pakistan, and it wasn’t just talk; the roaring response of the tsunami was visible proof that PTI is already beginning to unite people who would otherwise be at loggerheads with each other. Instead of brandishing guns to show their support, people waved colourful PTI flags.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi said it best when he remarked that after years of disillusionment, he finally saw hope and sparkle in the eyes of the young people around.

“Karachi doesn’t want bloodshed or target killings,” he said, “Today Karachiites are here to spread the message of love.”

When Imran Khan came to the stage, the crowd was on fire. Young girls were gushing over Imran like teenage girls at a Justin Bieber concert. It was a magical moment; one of the most pivotal moments for politics of our generation in Karachi.

As Imran Khan announced another high profile defection from the PPP to his party, a young man in the audience quipped:

Ab thori deir mein khabar aye gi kai Quaid – e – Azam nai bhi PTI join kar li hai.”

(Soon we will get to hear the news that Quaid-e-Azam has joined PTI)

Imran Khan’s speech showed both political maturity and populist acumen. He said that he didn’t want to make any hateful statements against any political party but had to respond to Nawaz Sharif who challenged him to a 10 over match recently.

“Please arrange this match quickly,” a beaming Imran addressedd Nawaz.

“You may not have enough men to make a team at this rate,” he quipped as he referred to the high profile defection of PML-N heavy weight Javed Hashmi to PTI.

More importantly, Imran promised policy papers documenting PTI’s stance on every important issue from the economy to education. He pointed out that naysayers have challenged him all his life but he has proved them wrong every time; from winning the cricket World Cup to developing his cancer treatment hospital.

Imran related the moving story of a young man from DG Khan who sold his mobile phone to fund his trip to Karachi, just to attend the rally. It was a story that serves as a window into many similar stories; people flew in from Lahore, Dubai, London and America to attend this rally. Even the handicapped attended the rally in their wheelchairs.

The jalsa was meant to set Karachi and Pakistan on a new trajectory in the course of history and by that measure,the PTI rally was a smashing success. Imran has single-handedly managed to change the course of our national discourse on Karachi, for the better.

Without attaining a place in office yet, it’s clear that Imran Khan is one of the only leaders in Pakistan whose success is contingent on bringing Pakistanis together, rather than dividing them along ethnic and political lines. And that deserves support from all Pakistanis, regardless of their ethnic, economic or political affiliations.

This blog post originally appeared here.

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bilal.lakhani

Muhammad Bilal Lakhani

A Fulbright Scholar and author of “For the 21st Century Muslim: Real Life Lessons from the Holy Quran”. He blogs on life in Pakistan at "Pakistan: Beyond the Headlines" and tweets as @MBilalLakhani (twitter.com/mbilallakhani)

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