MA Jinnah Road echoed with chants of Naray Naray Naray Altaf, Jeay Jeay Jeay Altaf, as thousands of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) workers turned up at the rally on Sunday to express solidarity with their party chief.
Terming it the biggest rally in history, MQM leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui claimed that over two million people had thronged the protest venue. He added that people had filled up streets from Tibet Centre till Teen Hatti Road. “These people have come to show their love and support for their leader,” said Siddiqui, pointing in the general direction of the swelling crowd.
The enthusiastic supporters claimed they want their leader to come back to the country. “Two generations have grown up without seeing him,” said a party worker, Rabia Majid. “Seeing him again would be a dream come true.”
Her only daughter, who is also an activist of the party, recalled the time she had seen him at their apartment in the late 1980s.
A university student, Saba, had come to the rally dressed in shalwar kameez of the party colours. Standing beside her sisters, Saba maintained they would always support their leader. “The best thing I like about him is that he speaks of equality for all as well as respect for women.”
Standing with children wearing badges of ‘Altaf uncle, we miss you,’ a worker from Korangi, Shahid Hamid believed that the party had a bright future despite all the conspiracies hatched to demoralise them. “We don’t feel let down,” he said. “Even in bad times, we will remain steadfast with our party.”
Members of the minority communities had also come to the rally in large numbers. Hindu representative Mangla Sharma said that the majority of the minorities supported the MQM because it was secular and spoke of rights for all. Bishop Sadiq Daniel of The Church of Pakistan prayed that justice be provided to Altaf Hussain.
The MQM had made grand arrangements for the rally. The entire area was adorned with party flags and banners of ‘We love Altaf Hussain’. A 20-foot-high stage, with the message, ‘Rally for Altaf Hussain, The voice of Common People’, in the backdrop was set up where the party’s leaders addressed the participants.
The younger members of the party, sitting at the social media camp, sent out live updates on Twitter and Facebook. According to party leader Aminul Haque, the people had turned up from the party’s 26 sectors and 250 units across the city. “Hundreds of our workers from the labour division and the student wing, All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organisation, are volunteering to provide security.” Before the rally started, Bomb Disposal Squad (BDS) teams and police officers came in to thoroughly check the area for any suspicious objects.
Before the main event started, people from different areas took out rallies in their areas and met at MA Jinnah Road.
Aminul Haque said that they had worked out a plan to create traffic diversions and no other road was blocked. “Though the rally is huge, we took care that people would not face traffic problems,” he said, adding that people from rural Sindh had also come to participate in the rally.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2014.