PTI rally: Sights, sounds, observations from Karachi

Published: December 26, 2011


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.

Do you think Imran Khan's rally was more successful in Lahore or Karachi?

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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 (

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

  • Shiraz Hassan

    You didn’t mention that there were hundreds of placards and supporters of Afia Siddiqui??Recommend

  • nisar

    IMRAN KHAN statements and policy direction is the only hope for Pakistan and our future generation. Come forward and help PTI to bring desired change.
    God bless IMRAN KHAN.Recommend

  • sarmad

    Well done PTI, well done Karachi and Well done Pakistan.Recommend

  • Aasim

    Nice Narration Bilal,

    I saw the proceedings on my TV set, sitting in Islamabad, and I completely agree with you, it was one of the most enthusiastic political event I have ever witnessed. The passion could be felt even on TV. The change is coming, and its coming big time, and importantly as you mentioned, PTI is not a party dividing us as a nation, it is bringing the nation togather.

    Wishing luck to “Kaptaaan” for the March 23rd in Quetta.Recommend

  • Ahmed Raza

    Imran Khan is the need of the moment…He is the only hope. God Bless him. Recommend

  • Arslan

    Clear stance should have to be taken on doctor Aafia Scen..Recommend

  • Faraz Talat

    Can somebody explain to me what Imran Khan has promised us that uncountable politicians before him have not? Can you make me follow IK without just trying to impress me with the number of people attending his rallies, because I don’t really give a damn about trends.

    Or are we just so desperate for a revolution, that we’re ready to worship the first new politician to take centre-stage?Recommend

  • Waseem

    I wish I was in Jalsa, but watching it on TV was also a great experience. I question all Imran Khan critics is there any other leader who can give hope and unite all Pakistanis like Imran did.

    @Shiraz Hassan majority of Pakistanis believe aafia innocent, shouldnt we respect there sentiments and those carrying posters and placards were also part of Jalsa same like thousands of other people so it is also another plus point that liberal and people with religious background are uniting under one flag.


  • Parvez

    Agree the rally was something, although I got to watch it only on TV.
    The one thing I noticed was IK speech delivery was more assured with substance articulated simply and clearly, so that the message got through to the common man. He was better in Karachi than in Lahore. Although it has to be said that there was something magical about the Lahore bash. Recommend

  • Asif Khan

    yes of course, the jalsa that held in Karachi and Lahore clearly say that people of pakistan want to change, they have tried Nawaz, Zardari, Musharraf, and every one has the policy what they want, not what the people of Pakistan want. As far as Imran Khan is considered i think his past is clear from taxes and making illegal money. But its Pakistan you know, and there are currupt people also here, so a little considered if he will handling the Government, after successes in Election.Recommend

  • Asim Naveed

    well written and congratulations to Pakistan…Recommend

  • Saad

    @Faraz Talat: Today Pakistani is fractured by parties that end up speaking of disunity and discord and dividing people along ethnic or religious lines, e.g. PP always plays the Sindh card, MQM the Muhajir card, ANP the Pukhtun card etc. He is uniting Pakistanis, not dividing them and he has personally not indulged in any financial corruption unlike other leaders. That alone merits support regardless of your views.Recommend

  • Azra

    Aa. In this regard I want to say that we all as a nation should realise our duties as well educate ourself groom ourself as a patient n a responsible citizens of Pakistan. Don’t put all responsibilities and blames on government. May Allah help Imran Khan n nation. May Allah keep us all steadfast.Amin Recommend

  • The Only Normal Person Here.

    Imran Khan should thank MQM. Like seriouslyRecommend

  • Amna

    @Faraz Talat: you know, you are right. Lets just sit around and be cynical and criticize anyone who is trying to bring change to Pakistan. Because that route of course, will make everything all better.Recommend

  • Adarsh

    @Ahmed Raza – God Bless him ???? What kind of expression is this???

    Allah bless him !!!!!!!!!! IK is certainly the next PM and you would see Pakistan would soon be in developed nation list. Americans nowhere to be see in or around Pakistan.Recommend

  • Waseem

    @Shiraz Hassan:
    Majority of Pakistanis believe aafia innocent, they are part of Pakistan so are part of PTI. Recommend

  • amrita

    Yes the rally was pretty entertaining and at times inspirational but I really don’t see things changing even if PTI comes to power. Imran Khan is a new face but he has no experience in politics as yet. The team he has and is still gathering comprises of skilled politicians who have always been involved in the politics of the elite – people who have been well off during democracy/martial law alike. He doesn’t have any representatives from the masses, from the people in actual need of reforms.
    The fact that he discusses corruption, injustice, etc and not defence is also bothersome. Recommend

  • Zawar

    I flew from London for this event and I agree with you. It was one of the best experiences of my life.

    Yes we Khan!Recommend

  • Hassan

    @Faraz Talat: He has promised to lead by example he wont ask anyone to do what he cannot and once he does it he will not relent till everyone does the same. Any other queries?Recommend

  • Faraz Talat


    I myself lean towards PTI, but only because the other political parties and their filthy ways have left me no choice. It’s not because I see IK as a messiah, as most PTI supporters are convinced that he is.

    Such blind support for IK is not only irritating, but dangerous. Every famous politician, from Bhutto to Nawaz, stood exactly where IK stands now – attracting huge crowds by shamelessly demagoguing, but providing no real plan of action.

    I support Imran Khan, but very cautiously, without getting swept away by unreal optimism like the greater chunk of the PTI cult.Recommend

  • me

    As soon as i listened to his speech, i became IK’s fan. I mean his speech was so motivating. Only he, with Allah’s help can bring a change in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Anum

    Register your votes please! Most are first time voters!!Recommend

  • Tariq Umar Qureshi


    I am happy for you and glad you could make it. For me, this was only the second political rally that I attended. First being the May 21-22 dharna.

    We are Muslims and we do things for the sake of Allaah, purely. I find myself aligning with Imran Khan on things that are not against Islaam. If he supports anything anti-deen … just leave it.
    As for the MQM, well, my only advice to Altaf bhai and his followers would be that Allaah swt did not even allow the prophets and messengers to do ‘wrong’ along with the ‘right’ that they do. And if you are from Karachi, you know what I mean.


  • http://yahoo tariq larik

    well it was a nice show of both ladies and children with good wishes and hopes for future.wish for a good hope in future doings too.Recommend

  • shahid mahmood


  • hammad siddiqui

    massive jalsa and show of power by PTI check out blog on Imran’s branding and marketing strategy Recommend

  • Wisk

    @Saad & Amna: Lemme remind you that Imran Khan has the same people in his team who were once major parts of the same PMLN, PML Q & PPP.

    Now either this would churn up an extreme disaster or a mellow balance.
    Only time will tell !Recommend

  • Amna

    @Faraz Talat:
    And what would you like him to explain as his plan of action? lots of peole say his doesnt have a plan, but i dont understand what you want to hear from him that he hasnt already explained?Recommend

  • Sagar Sindhi

    MSG For Sindhi / Urdu speaking Brothers

    Once again a few politicians are aiming to divide us linguistically. We believe one who lives in Sindh is a Sindhi, whether he speaks Sindhi, Urdu or any other language. People of Sindh are united and they are always willing to live together. Imran Khan, yesterday, said, “We will facilitate the people of Karachi and people of Sindh” MEANS KARACHI IS APART OF SINDH ..?? Secondly Javed Hashmi favoured the less population of Sindhi speaking people in Karachi rather than Bangalies and Biharies….. Is this fair ??
    These politicians must change their attitudes… We appeal all our Political forces to condemn Khan’s idoit talks..
    Jeay PakistanRecommend

  • http://None Mohiuddin Syed

    With due respect to all the above bloggers including Mr Lakhani, who surprised me the most when went on describing the yesterday’s IK speech as refreshing and contributive to the political agenda of PTI, which I must say has been quite disappointing to describe the least.In addition, you all must know that neither do I have any belongings with any of the present or past political parties nor have I ever had any interest for them because none of their policies either reflective of the addressing issues of the country or if they could then never did they have established rebuttals to resolve them. Anyway, the reason that I decided to write my views over the speech is to point out areas of concerns where the credibility seems reaching at stake for PTI. In three words I would like to describe my opinion regarding the speech that lacks Substance, Credible proposition, and above all rebuttals to reach Change for Good.
    Best regards to all who will read this and more will I hope that IK wouldn’t disappoint the this nation in despair in future. Recommend

  • Adnan Dhanani

    It was the first time I attended an event like this and I’m proud that I did :)Recommend

  • http://pta usama shahid

    salam imran khan and strong man for your furture we will you keep it upvoteBest regards to all who will read this and more will I hope that IK wouldn’t disappoint the this nation in despair in future.Register my votes please……………………?Recommend

  • shaista

    imran khan is the best hero for our country.Recommend

  • shaista

    imran khan ji aap to cha gay tha kar ke……..Recommend

  • Yousuf Mohammed Lakhani

    Great observation and a good read, it is delightful to see young Pakistanis getting involved in the politics and future of our country.
    We need a Leader in our country who puts Pakistan first and everything else second, its about time young people, rather then thinking about becoming a cricket player, are engaging in activities which is going to impact the future of Pakistan. Recommend

  • ammar aslam

    Just a personal story to share about the rule of law under the current leadership.
    My father, who i adore despite all his flaws, took many loans for our hospital which he was unable to pay because of the lavish lifestyle we had gotten used to. we were unable, actually unwilling, to give up all the toys “necessary” for our status. in the end, under this government, and the obliging ministers always willing to look the other way if they are ‘compensated adequately’ , we managed to get our loans written off.
    I am not proud of what we did. i turned to Islam after my marriage failed and i now see the error of my ways.
    However, although i accept my faults, i blame the corrupt leadership as co sharer in my sins as the fruit always rots from the top.
    I hope other doctors whose duty should be to save lives are not mired in this quicksand of corruption and lust for money. Recommend

  • http://NewYork Falcon

    @Faraz Talat:
    Let me highlight that if he can’t break this ceiling, nobody else among us will! And that is because of the complexity of our socio-political structures. So let’s put together our hands to strengthen PTI in areas where they are weak rather than then pigeonholing their achievements.Recommend

  • Rational


    Thank you for pointing this out, like yourself I too support IK in a very cautious manner because the crowds he is attracting now have been attracted by other leaders in the past.

    So far we have heard ‘what’ PTI wants.. for us all to be pakistanis, not divided based on ethnicity. Our economy to be strong, for us to demand respect as a sovereign nation etc. Sounds absolutely great, but here’s the part I’m waiting to hear, how?

    Will PTI take actions against the two greatest evils in Pakistan? The army and feudalism. Like it or not people, these are two of the greatest reasons we are being held back as a nation. When I say the army, please don’t retaliate by talking about the soldiers that have died and continue to fight while we sleep everyday, I have utmost respect for them, I’m pointing at the higher authorities in uniform and how they have used this institution to destroy this nation. Unless and until there is a govt that doesn’t take action against these problems, we are going to be devoid of progress. I sincerely hope that PTI has this how figured out better than I think they do for the sake of each and everyone of us. Recommend

  • Londoner


    Maybe you can answer a question for me: how come not a single leader on the stage was a Sindhi in spite of the fact that the jalsa was being held in the capital of Sindh?
    It may be cool to say we are all Pakistanis, and we are, and play different music, but actual grievances are a lot deeper than that and any government that comes to power will have to face that. If it has no representatives in Pakistan’s second largest province that are native to that province then it can neither understand the grievances of Sindhis and nor hope to get votes from there.Recommend

  • Kamran

    @Faraz Talat: you asked

    “Can somebody explain to me what Imran Khan has promised us that uncountable politicians before him have not? Can you make me follow IK without just trying to impress me with the number of people attending his rallies, because I don’t really give a damn about trends.”

    Faraz, I can explain to you in simple words:

    IK has not just promised but already delivered. That’s a BIG BIG difference between Imran Khan and other politicians.

    Shauqat Khanum Cancer Hospital (
    Namal College (
    Imran Khan Foundation (
    Clean record: no cases or curroption, murder or any thing

    The above examples should be enough for you I suppose. If the above efforts hold no value to you, then I wish you best in search for a better leader. As far as I know, none of our politicians that you are comparing IK with have delivered any such thing as above.Recommend

  • MarkH

    Actual details probably. It’s like someone giving you a potion that makes you immortal but leaves out that it causes a sickness that will kill you in a year as a side effect.Recommend

  • Amna

    @MarkH: I dont see any other politician giving out any more details then Khan, in fact he gives out much more detail then I have heard in any jalsa. Other parties have been in power so its easy for them to say the same as KHan and not be judged. All I hear other party leaders do is say really dumb “nara-baazi” and use past/dead leaders or ethnicity and the victim card to gain sympathy and common ground with people.Recommend

  • Faraz Talat


    I don’t deny those services, they are indeed commendable. Unfortunately, a philanthropist isn’t ipso facto an excellent politician. I can make the same argument for PPP with it various poverty alleviation and school-building programmes, and God knows I don’t like PPP!


    For starters, I would like him to stop tip-toeing around the question of terrorism, and explain how he plans to deal with Taliban, or as he calls them, “our brothers”.

    It’d also be nice for him to reveal his plan for ending corruption, and let us know if he has a few more cards up his sleeve than simply crying, “Please, please reveal your assets! Pretty please with a cherry on top!”

    Its supporters need to stop worshipping the ground IK walks on, and start demanding him to specify his plans to curb terrorism, prevent corruption, and deal with the financial and military consequences of kicking USA out. Remind IK that our support does not come free of cost, and that we’re expecting more than thunderous speeches.

    I’m not asking you to forsake PTI. Just tread cautiously.Recommend

  • Faraz


    Yar, its a joke to compare PPP’s social programs with that of IK’s.. PPP’s programs have rarely benefited the deserving people if at all and they are more interested in filling up the pockets of the stakeholders. I know people who benefited from PPP’s “Income support program” for some rural area of sindh while they had great houses in Karachi.

    And sorry but I don’t agree with your view that a philanthropist cant be a politician. ANY body can be a politician. In fact, in times like these, everybody in Pakistan who cares about Pakistan should be a politician. That is why IK became a politician, to make Pakistan a better place. His intent is a better Pakistan, nothing personal.

    According to wikipedia, “A politician, political leader, or political figure (from Greek “polis”) is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making.”Recommend

  • Asad

    its more than obvious that Karachi really was bigger than Lahore’s but there is no logic that I can think of comparing these two, why did you choose this question for the pole?Recommend

  • Kamran

    @Faraz: sorry, for some reason the “Name” field says Faraz in my comment above but it was originally written by me (Kamran) for Faraz :) so here I repost again:

    Yar, its a joke to compare PPP’s social programs with that of IK’s.. PPP’s programs have rarely benefited the deserving people if at all and they are more interested in filling up the pockets of the stakeholders. I know people who benefited from PPP’s “Income support program” for some rural area of sindh while they had great houses in Karachi.

    And sorry but I don’t agree with your view that a philanthropist cant be a politician. ANY body can be a politician. In fact, in times like these, everybody in Pakistan who cares about Pakistan should be a politician. That is why IK became a politician, to make Pakistan a better place. His intent is a better Pakistan, nothing personal.

    According to wikipedia, “A politician, political leader, or political figure (from Greek “polis”) is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making.”Recommend

  • Faraz Talat


    I think you’re underestimating PPP’s contributions, but no matter. I’m not trying to sell you on PPP, a party that I myself do not support (for obvious reasons).

    And I never said that a philanthropist cannot be a politician at all. I just said that it’s not necessary that he becomes an excellent politician by default. IK gets 9/10 for his cricket skills and 10/10 for his charitable disposition, but what of his public policy and decision making skills, according to the definition you stated yourself?

    It’s easy enough to make loud promises, but how does he plan to end corruption? How would he deal with the aftermath of severing our alliance with USA? His desk-banging and public-speaking skills are immaculate, but how well does he fare in the art of diplomacy, and in dealing with terrorists?

    These are the questions he should be made to answer, before we all follow him blindly and get saddled with yet another disappointing leadership.Recommend

  • Faraz

    Well done Karachites. You showed some balls to attend the rally and make it a huge success. But credit should be given to Lahoris as well, cuz if they hadn’t attended the Minar-e-Pakistan rally, this momentum that we see now wouldn’t have been built.Recommend

  • babar khan

    I love my pakistan and i LOve Imran KHanRecommend

  • babar khan

    LoV3 LOv3 LOv3 MY PAKISTANRecommend

  • Amna

    @Faraz Talat:
    I can understand your concerns about how he will finish corruption, but the terrorism argument is so old and plain ridiculous. He has said time and time again, he plans to pull out of the War on Terror, and have talks with all groups. That is pretty simple and makes a LOT of sense. If the US says the same thing in fancy words, we all think it makes so much sense. IK says it plain and simple and we like to bash him…that is pretty sad.

    As far as corruption is concerned, IK has made institutions that are corruption free such as Nanak University and Shaukat Khanum, I have faith that he can bring Pakistan closer to being free of corruption then any other party. I do think its huge task and I wonder how it will be done, but I totally agree that handling corruption at the top level will reduce it at the bottom. I have faith because Imran Khan has a record to show for what he says he will do.Recommend

  • Faheemm Z. Choudhry

    watched the Jalsa live on PTI’s web site, well done karachites.Recommend

  • Kamran


    Please enlighten me with any of the contributions of PP you feel are worth mentioning. I am talking about the current PPP and not the one of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

    And as you said, IK would get 9/10 for his cricket skills and 10/10 for his charitable disposition. Now, for the policy making, keep in mind that IK believes in institution building. Shoqat Khanum Hospital is not just successful because IK was able to raise millions in donation. Shoqat Khanum Hospital is successful because of the institution building capabilities of Imran Khan. Same goes for Namal University.

    So here again for PTI, Imran has built an institution for change. Unfortunately, our media only goes gaga over IK but PTI’s team has some truly amazing and deserving people. As a small example, see the profile of PTI’s spokesperson for Science and Technology:

    His profile can tell you that the guy knows stuff about technology having worked at Intel Corporation.

    So, PTI is an institution filled with great minds, so even if IK lacks the policy making techniques that match your standards, I am sure the PTI team has some amazing and patriotic talent who can build great policies.Recommend

  • Masood Usmani

    No one can bring any positive change unless the current corrupt electoral system is abolished. The people of Pakistan have been fooled for the last 60 years in the name of democracy , Islam , and Military Dictatorship .
    The Current Electoral System protect the 2% elites of the country whole have been ruling this country and looting this country and depriving the rights of 98% people of Pakistan .
    As you all can see the establishment once again is uniting the vultures of Pakistan Politics.
    The people of Pakistan Have to stand up themselves and snatch their rights from the establishment . This the the time to rise people should not wait for any masiha they themselves should stand up like people of egypt, libya tumis Iran . and get their rights Recommend

  • brie

    bilal lakhany, why is ET so anti pti? even the slant of general news articles is geared towards criticizing imran khan. Recommend

  • Farah

    How a cricketer, a socialist, a philanthropist can be a better leader to run a country where dirty polictics and corruption rules…but him being a learned person, a part of the youth group and bringing entire nation under one umberella, I wish gud luck for Imran Khan hope is the positive CHANGE for us now.Recommend

  • Beautiful Soul

    To All those people who have commented negatively ….. Please let us be happy … we have been fooled a hundred times …if we loose this hope there ‘ll be nothing left but despair …and the time of depression will begun again .. in the form of PPP < PML_N , ANP and MQM govts .
    If something good is happening welcome it !Recommend