Reluctant revolutionaries ‘bound to stay’ at sit-ins

Published August 29, 2014
Supporters of Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri eat during an anti-government march in Islamabad on August 28, 2014. —Photo by AFP
Supporters of Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan and populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri eat during an anti-government march in Islamabad on August 28, 2014. —Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: Not all the demonstrators on Constitution Avenue are there of their own free will. Indeed, there are many who want to leave but are compelled to stay on. This is especially true for the younger participants of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek’s sit-ins, who have better things to do with their time than sitting around waiting on the world to change.

Najma Islam is a 19-year-old from Multan. She was sitting in the shade of some trees outside the Federal Board of Revenue building, books in hand.

She told Dawn she was preparing for her medical entry test, which was scheduled to be held on August 31. “I am very worried about how I’ll perform, because I’ve been here for the past couple of weeks, when I could have been studying,” she said.

Najma’s father has been an ardent follower of Dr Qadri for nearly a decade now and made his entire family come to the march because “he had promised his leader”.

Not all participants of sit-ins there of their own accord

“I obtained more than 80 per cent marks in my FSc exams and was enrolled in a tuition academy, preparing for the entry test when my father told me we had to go to Lahore for the long march. It was very difficult for me to study during the march. I could at least read my notes in the daylight, but at night, there was no light to read by,” she said.

The 47-year-old Hajra Bibi is from Hafizabad and has come to the march with her husband and children.

“My husband is a school teacher and he decided he wanted to participate in this march because he wants to change the political system of the country,” she said.

Hajra told Dawn that when they left their house, he husband promised her that change would come in a few days.

“But so far, it hasn’t seemed like things will change anytime soon, even if we stay here for another week,” she said.

“It’s horrible. I’ve had to make my children wear their old, dirty clothes because there is no water available to wash them. Ever since we’ve been here, my daughter has contracted cholera due to the unhygienic conditions outside parliament,” Hajra added.

“I just want to take my kids back home, because their schools have reopened. But my husband keeps pleading with me to stay on until the revolution comes,” she said, exasperatedly.

Ruqia Batool, a 22-year-old from Chakwal has also come to Islamabad at the behest of her father. “He believes in Dr Tahirul Qadri’s ideology. He asked my mother to come along as well but she refused, so my sister and I came with him instead,” she told Dawn.

She said she had found it very hard to sleep in the uncomfortable conditions outside the corridors of power. “My younger sister had to sit for the University of Engineering and Technology entry test and she went straight from the sit-in,” Ruqia added.

Ishrat Jabeen, a 23-year-old from G-9, says she’s lucky to have a home in the city.

“My family supports the PAT and while I like to visit D-Chowk with my family every evening, I can’t imagine being camped out here for two weeks or more,” she said.

She told Dawn that several women from the PAT sit-in would give her their mobile phones to charge. “It pains me to see the horrible conditions that these brave men and women have to face while at Constitution Avenue,” she said.

Salma Mukhtar, 26, lives in E-11 and goes to D-Chowk every day to hear PTI chief Imran Khan speak.

The party leadership should announce an end to their sit-in, or they will lose their support and popularity in the days to come.

Ahmed Khan, a 24-year-old from Karak told Dawn he had been in Islamabad since Independence Day. “I am not used to living out in the open, but we’ve persevered because we have been promised change by our leader,” he said.

“Like the PAT chief, the Mr Khan has also been giving deadline after deadline. I do not think that he will succeed in the days to come, so I’ve decided to go home,” he said.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2014


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