By: Zafar Imam
Contrary to many media reports influenced by Imran-o-Phobia, PTI Jalsa in Hyderabad was a plain failure.
Imran Khan – the emerging Tea Partier of Pakistan- held a public meeting (so-called Tsunami) in Hyderabad on 22 June, 2012 which was not more than a small tide. It ran-over to coast, smashed and died. Here I am writing an eye witness account, because I was present in the SRTC ground where it was held.
This event started very late, after 8 p.m. in evening. Before Imran Khan, PTI’s other main leaders took to stage to address the crowd. His was the last speech, which he delivered round about 9.00 pm.
There was a huge deployment of Police and rangers. Barbed wires covered most of the surrounding area. All the nearby shops and hotels were ordered to shut off their business. It felt like he is not a man opposing the Government, but a man enjoying all official protocols and security arrangements which normally an in-government politician would enjoy. SRTC ground is on the same road a few kilometers ahead where Hyderabad cantonment falls. All security arrangements, official level protocol and strategic location of the event near Hyderabad cantonment did not surprise me. Today every Tom, Dick and Harry down the street knows that he is the new found darling of Pakistani establishment.
Most of the crowd was hired. Yes, hired. They belonged to backward areas like Tharparkar and local Muzhiks of nearby towns, who were loaded into buses and driven to SRTC ground in Hyderabad. Anybody visiting the ground from backside would know this truth. Crowd was cunningly arranged in a manner that those belonging to city and looking well-dressed ‘Jazbaati Nojwans’ (angry young men) were programmed to be present in front rows, and those belonging to backward areas, seemingly hired, were programmed to sit in back benches. This sitting arrangement was designed to dodge rolling cameras, which would focus front rows most of the time and will show blurred image of backward rows, such that the ground would seem filled with crowd and cast an impression of ‘Tsunami’. Most of the fans of PTI flocking into Imran Khan’s public gatherings are usually his cricket fans too. He had already achieved status of a cricket celebrity in Pakistan before entering politics. Till date, people know him more as a cricketer than a politician. This identity crisis is a challenge for Imran Khan which will ultimately give him tough time in upcoming elections.
As soon as Imran Khan started his speech, people became restless because they were only waiting to see him and by now they had seen him. Finish. They had not gone there to listen to his speech; but for fun. Anybody present in middle of the ground could easily take this feeling with him that people were not listening to him; instead they were talking loudly, crying and whistling. One could hardly listen to what he was saying.
Just after about 8 minutes of his speech, people were seen flocking out of the ground. Groups of 30, 40 people during his speech started to leave ground.
Because celebrity had finally appeared and it was worth nothing more than his mere appearance.
Within 15 to 20 minutes, ground was almost half empty! Ghosh! Imran Khan failed in Hyderabad. And Hyderabad is political and cultural center of Sindh. We could easily deduce that Imran Khan failed in Sindh. Just 20 minutes after he had started speech, ground was short of crowd and he had to complete his speech in haste. Quickly after that lights were shut off, SRTC ground and nearby roads fell dead silent. It ended so quickly, so rapidly. Hardly 5-8 thousand people were present in the ground against the claims of PTI.
Sindh is different; it has no room for such neo-conservative Pakistani patriotic chauvinism.
Observations before Jalsa
Before this event I had visited nearby areas of SRTC ground at daytime. I snapped some photographs and talked to people to know how they’ll respond to Imran Khan’s Jalsa at night?
In nearby streets and neighborhood where wall posters were affixed and banners were hanged, people showed a silent dissent with Imran Khan. I knew it from torn wall posters and banners in nearby areas. Clearly, people did not want him here. Generally in Sindh, people leave political posters, wallpapers and banners hanged wherever they are. This was a clear message that people already recognize him as a phantom of establishment.
This so-called ‘Tsunami’ was a failed scene of a small tide dying away. Sindh is more politically aware in this regard because it knows who is for them and who is not for them. It recognizes Talibans in guise of Imran Khan; it knows who is who and what is what. Neo-conservative, revivalist, patriotic chauvinist brand of politics has to face very tough time in Sindh.