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October 19, 2020

Karachi overwhelms Maryam Nawaz with love as PPP hosts massive anti-PTI rally

Karachi

October 19, 2020

Every component party of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an 11-party alliance formed against the federal government, tried its best to demonstrate its strength in the multi-party rally held at the Bagh-e-Jinnah ground in Karachi on Sunday.

The barren piece of land adjacent to the mausoleum of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah has become a Hyde Park of sorts for the city, a place where political and religious parties flex their muscles by a show of strength in numbers.

And on Sunday, the PDM’s component parties, mainly the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), managed to organise a successful power show in the political ground near the Mazar-e-Quaid by bringing a large number of party workers and supporters. The ground was jam-packed with a massive crowd, including activists and supporters, of all the opposition parties.

“The rally was indeed a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities and sects present in Karachi,” commented a journalist who was trying to enter the venue of the rally. Entering the venue was quite a challenge for the participants as well. People were coming in dozens holding party flags. Members of the PPP as well as uniformed volunteers of the Awami National Party (ANP) and the JUI-F were performing security duties at the walk-through gates and were allowing people in only after frisking them.

“How many people will be present in the rally inside and outside the ground?” said a JUI-F volunteer dressed in a yellow shalwar kameez and wielding a stick. “But let me tell you that our party [the JUI-F] had filled the area alone in 2012 by organising the Islam Zindabaad Conference.”

Najmi Alam, a PPP leader from Karachi, said that arrangements had been made to ensure 50,000 seats were present inside the venue for the participants.

When the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was unified under the leadership of Altaf Hussain, the party had set a record by organising a successful female-only rally at Bagh-e-Jinnah in 2012. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had also displayed its strength in 2011 and 2013.

Exactly six years ago, then PPP co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, in his first and only public gathering in Karachi, had addressed a jam-packed Bagh-e-Jinnah. Many had attended the meeting to catch a glimpse of the young politician.

Maryam well received

For the PML-N’s Sindh chapter, Maryam Nawaz’s visit to Karachi and her participation in the PDM rally signalled the hope of strengthening the party in the metropolis and winning a significant number of seats in the upcoming local government elections.

Maryam arrived at the Karachi airport at noon along with her husband MNA Capt (retd) Safdar and the party’s central information secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb. On her arrival, Maryam was accorded a warm welcome by the party’s workers.

It was Maryam’s first political appearance in Karachi, considered a launch pad for national politics from here after Punjab. After the October 1999 coup, when Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf took over the reins of the country and imprisoned both the Sharif brothers — Maryam’s father Nawaz Sharif and uncle Shehbaz Sharif — at the Landhi prison, Maryam and her mother Kulsoom Nawaz regularly visited Karachi to meet both of them.

On Sunday, dozens of camps were set up on Sharea Faisal to welcome Maryam. PML-N leaders also brought with them a number of camels. As a goodwill gesture, the PML-N vice president was welcomed by the PPP by erecting large Panaflex banners displaying her picture as well as her father’s along the route of her rally.

After leaving the airport, Maryam visited the Quaid’s mausoleum to offer Fateha. She was accompanied by former Sindh governor Mohammad Zubair, Capt Safdar, party spokesperson Marriyum and former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

While leaving the mausoleum, Maryam told the media that she was overwhelmed by the love she received in Karachi. “Quaid-e-Azam had said that governments should come and go through votes.”

PPP, the host

With the PPP ruling the province of Sindh, the party expected full cooperation from the local administration in organising the PDM rally at Bagh-e-Jinnah, unlike what the PML-N as the host faced in Gujranwala.

Taking advantage of being on home ground, the host party’s supporters had started arriving at the venue a little early in the day. The banners put up on the buses gave one the impression that the party’s supporters from across the province had gathered in Karachi to attend the PDM rally.

The PPP leadership manages to gather a significant and charged crowd every October 18 on account of the sentiments attached to former PM Benazir Bhutto, who had come under attack near Karsaz on that day in 2007.

On the fateful day, Benazir had arrived in Pakistan after eight years of self-imposed exile in Dubai and London and she was leading a rally of jubilant supporters when two powerful bombs went off, killing at least 130 people. Benazir, however, was unhurt.

Other parties

The ANP and the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party, the two Pashtun parties that are part of the PDM, also managed to bring a significant crowd mainly from the city’s Pashtun-dominated neighbourhoods.

A sizeable number of Pashtun youth belonging to former tribal areas had arrived to listen to Mohsin Dawar, an MNA and a leader of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement. He had not attended the first rally of the opposition alliance in Gujranwala.

The Akhtar Mengal-led Balochistan National Party, the Abdul Malik Baloch-led National Party, the Aftab Ahmed Sherpao-led Qaumi Watan Party, the Sajid Mir-led Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadith and the Shah Owais Noorani-led Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan failed to pull large crowds.

Under-representation

Since Karachi’s key political stakeholders, including the MQM, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pak Sarzameen Party, which enjoys support in the city’s largest Urdu-speaking community, were absent because of being with the federal government or for some other reason, the community’s absence in the PDM rally was felt. All these parties had recently either organised rallies or criticised the PPP’s Sindh government for allegedly making the municipalities toothless and ignoring the city’s development.

Female participation

Women’s participation in the PDM rally was very low, and most of the female participants were members of the PPP’s women wing. Journalists who cover political rallies said that it was no match for the energetic boisterous groups of women that are at the PTI’s rallies.

Security measures

In order of avoid any untoward incident, strict security measures were taken by law enforcement agencies for the PDM’s public meeting, adds our correspondent.

According to a statement issued by the Karachi police, around 3,740 officials were deployed along with 30 senior officials and 65 deputy superintendents of police to ensure foolproof security at the event.

The Karachi police spokesperson said 112 female police personnel, including female police commandos from the Special Security Unit (SSU), were also posted at different spots. A total of 284 SSU commandos were deployed to provide security to the opposition leaders and their supporters. In addition to that, 159 personnel of the Rapid Response Force were also deputed for security duty. The Karachi traffic police had already issued the map of alternative traffic routes to help the commuters as several main arteries were blocked as a security measure.