KARACHI: “This jalsa means a new life for us workers,” said Muhammad Arshad excitedly, clutching a party flag in one hand and holding his son with the other. Making his way through the huge crowd, he shouted, “Today is the start of a revolution,” as a bunch of young men erupted into ‘Jeay Altaf’ slogans.
On Sunday, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) did all it could to justify its claims of hosting the biggest congregation in Pakistan’s political history as part of its campaign for the upcoming local bodies elections.
The venue chosen for the ‘grand jalsa’ was not the grounds near the party’s headquarters at ‘Nine-Zero’, but the one near Aladin Park, which was flooded with thousands of party supporters, while hundreds more choked the main roads.
For the party workers, a congregation on such a grand scale, being held after ages, was seen as a new beginning in the party – which is said to be faced by internal rifts, Scotland Yard’s investigations on Altaf Hussain and senior party leaders unofficially bidding goodbye.
Qamar Sultana, who had come in a bus loaded with 200 people from New Karachi felt ecstatic. “I have been an MQM voter since the year 2000. Such gatherings renew our faith that the party is still here for us.” She wanted the local bodies elections to be held as soon as possible. “Our area is filled with garbage and is plagued by other civic issues,” she complained.
In another row of the enclosure, set up exclusively for women and children, Afshan related that she completed all her household chores early in the morning to be on time for the event. Wrapped in sweaters and shawls, she asserted that neither the cold weather nor the fear of attacks could have stopped her from coming.
Former activists of other parties, such as Farahnaz, remarked that the congregation was very well-organised. ‘I never saw such discipline in [other] rallies. The common workers are getting so much respect here.”
Demand for new province
While Altaf Hussain’s controversial statement demanding a separate province in Hyderabad sparked protest and outrage here the demand received a gracious welcome. A college teacher, Adnan Babar, said that the move for a province for the Urdu-speaking people was not unjust. “You see, there is no equal distribution in jobs. Sindhis are preferred over us. We are facing the worst law and order situation,” said the resident of Buffer Zone. Even Chacha MQM, the elderly white-bearded man, who dresses up in kurta pyjama in hues of the party flags exclaimed, “We own the idea of a separate province. Other parties should also support the move,” came his croaky voice. His throat was sore after raising slogans for the last three days.
The grand preparation
The location set for the grand congregation was the ground in Gulshan-e-Iqbal where the Sunday and Wednesday Bazaar is held every week. This week, instead of the tables, more than 40,000 chairs were laid. People came to the venue in buses which were stopped near Millenium Mall. Young party activists, wearing orange caps, stopped cars and check the people before letting them pass. All shops in the area remained closed.
Closer to the venue, senior activists watched on as every man, woman and child walked in through the security gates.
More than 1,500 workers were present in the ground as part of the party’s own security, keeping a watchful eye on the participants through their black shades. In addition to this, a heavy contingent of law enforcement personnel, including police and Rangers, patrolled the area. A stage, 20-by-80 feet, was set up for the party’s leaders to address and welcome the chief Altaf Hussain, who was to address the gathering by telephone.
Source: The Express Tribune