For many protestors, it was their first time in Islamabad
While the two-week protest of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) took a new direction on Wednesday evening, away from the political drama it provided a one-of-a-kind occasion for its participants – to explore the capital city of Islamabad. For many, this would be a first time experience.
Over the past two weeks, tens of thousands of supporters of the religio-political party were seen occupying open spaces of the capital territory. As the political agitation continued, away from the sit-in, protestors were seen exploring parks and grounds, playing cricket, football, volleyball and some local games.
“I was in Islamabad for the first time and it is a beautiful city,” said Sher Zaman, a political worker who had come to the sit-in. “We divided ourselves into subgroups to visit the city,” he said adding that during the day they played in the grounds.
Sleeping in tents on a stretch of more than two-kilometres on the Kashmir Highway, most of the protestors were young men, either studying or teaching in various religious seminaries, while others were farmers or labourers. While the evenings and the nights witnessed electrifying political activity at the sit-in, the mornings were divorced of the political rhetoric. For most of the participants belonging to far flung and under-developed areas of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, day time was dedicated to sight-seeing.
“The real march was in parks and, particularly, near Faisal Mosque, which was filled with these protestors,” a taxi-driver says. “We are happy they had a good time here,” he adds.
Scores of protestors were seen marching on roads, especially the (commercial) Blue Area. Hundreds of them visited the Faisal Mosque, which for them posed as not just the largest mosque of the country but for many who were uncertain about the length of their stay, the mosque’s compound offered protestors toilet and laundering facilities.
“We visited the city during the day and went back to the camp site in the evening to listen to our leader. We like Islamabad. It is so beautiful,” says Gul Khan, a young protestor. “Our favourite places were Faisal Mosque, which is big, and Lal Masjid, where our sect’s elders were killed,” he says referring to the Lal Masjid operation in 2007. “It was our religious obligation to visit Lal Masjid,” says another participant.
Karachi Company, a famous wholesale market in G-9, located at a walking distance from the protest site, was the go-to place for protestors to buy blankets, eatables and other day-to-day items. Many of the greenbelts of the G-9 Markaz were occupied by protestors as they were seen casually lying around and enjoying the scenic beauty of the federal capital. A good number of them occupied empty containers placed by the government to block roads in the wake of the protest.
While the sit-in did not manage to secure the resignation from the prime minister, it did offer several of its supporters an exceptional time – from riding swings and wrestling in playgrounds to playing their favourite long-forgotten childhood games, smack in the middle of an anti-government protest site.
The writer is a staff member and can be reached at [email protected]