Monday, September 15, 2014

A LONE WOLF PACES THE STAGE

Courtesy Kashif Abbasi 

On Thursday afternoon, as party leaders announced the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s decision to suspend talks with the government, a lonely wolf paced the roof of his container on Constitution Avenue.

Under the glare of the afternoon sun, Imran Khan was all but alone atop his stage – save for a few other party hands. But before him were not the multitudes that he had grown accustomed to.

In fact, around 2pm, dozens of empty chairs stared back at the PTI chief as he grabbed the mic to try and rouse the spirits of those who were in attendance.

Mr Khan was obviously perturbed, his mind no doubt preoccupied by the politicking that he and his party leaders were involved in.

But as he paced back and forth in clear view of TV cameras, those in attendance betrayed a sense of concern – even if for a brief while.

But as time passed and he began to speak to the crowd, morale among those in attendance improved. More people began to arrive by the late afternoon and the mood in the crowd as well as atop the container began to improve.

“I think our leader is worried about our party workers following reports that the government is set to launch a crackdown against them,” said Mohammad Hashim, who came all the way from Sargodha to hear his leader speak.

Another PTI supporter, Irfan Ahmed, appeared confused, saying it looked like something might happen because the main leadership, including Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi, Asad Umar and Jahangir Tareen were missing from the stage.

But at the time, these leaders were addressing a press conference, where they announced the conditional suspension of the ongoing dialogue with the government committee.

“My cousin, a constable in the Punjab police, is deployed here on special duty. He told me a few minutes ago that the government is mulling a crackdown… so I think the chairman is thinking about some way to counter this,” said Mardan-resident Niaz Ahmed.

But things improved drastically by the early evening, as Islamabad residents, who had left the venue to freshen up, began to return in droves. In the interim, Mr Khan’s fiery anti-government rhetoric and the rousing beats of DJ Butt kept workers’ morale high. Indeed, hundreds of workers could be seen dancing to the tunes of revolution, particularly the Pashto anthem ‘Waya Waya’.

“There is no need to be tense. It is commonplace for our workers to join the sit-in after sunset. You will see, in the evening thousands will join us,” said another party worker Abdullah Ahmed.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2014

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