The sprawling Bagh-i-Jinnah located in the shadow of the Quaid’s mausoleum has witnessed many political gatherings. It’s the place where Imran Khan had staged a huge rally on Dec 25, 2011, followed by a big public meeting of Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam a month after that, and then Altaf Hussain-led Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s mammoth women-only event in February 2012.
The Bagh saw the last political event of this sort on Oct 18 this year when the 11-party Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) held a power show against the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government on the anniversary of twin suicide bombings on the homecoming rally of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
While there’s no denying that a majority of Karachiites felt left out following the PDM’s public meeting in which mainstream parties’ leadership did not bother to utter a single word to acknowledge their long-standing problems, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal wasted no time in announcing a public meeting in response to the opposition alliance’s event.
Mustafa Kamal and company want to show they can pull big crowds in the metropolis
And he raised the stakes further by voluntarily undertaking a challenge to stage a bigger public meeting than the one held by the PDM at the same place. “We will alone demonstrate people’s power on Nov 8 at the same venue where PDM’s 11 parties collectively held their public meeting,” he had said the very next day after the PDM’s Karachi event.
Bagh-i-Jinnah is not new to him. He had pulled it through once at the same venue in July 2019 when everyone was thinking that his party was a gone case due to its defeat in the 2018 general election. But, it remains to be seen whether Mr Kamal will succeed in bringing more people on Sunday (tomorrow) than those who had attended the PDM public meeting.
While the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan had held a big rally in September, the PPP held a counter-rally in October and the Jamaat-i-Islami staged a huge rally to highlight Karachi’s census issue last month, it appears that the PSP is looking for a reason to demonstrate its street power in the metropolis and the PDM’s Oct 18 event has provided it that reason.
Few naysayers, more optimists
However, there is no dearth of people who feel Mr Kamal has unnecessarily invited trouble as holding such a mega event at a time when even the local government elections are not in sight would be a waste of money, resources, time and energy.
They say instead of doing reactionary politics the PSP should first consolidate its position and then follow its own programme to hold public events.
But there are many who strongly support the decision to challenge the opposition alliance saying a successful event will show the popularity of the PSP among the people of Karachi and put it on the national horizon.
For them, Mr Kamal has been raising the issues of Karachi for the past four years and in 2017 when nobody was interested in highlighting the problems he had staged an 18-day-long sit-in and got arrested briefly for taking out a march for the rights of the people of Karachi.
They say today because of him all the parties as well as the establishment were acknowledging the city’s myriad problems and Sunday’s rally will give a message to the entire country that Karachi and its people are not political orphans.
PSP leadership often complains that their party has wrongly been equated with the MQM-P despite their different ideology and that the party is not limited to one ethnic community. So, they think a successful power show in the heart of Karachi will finally end the comparison between the PSP and MQM-P for good.
With one day left in Sunday’s rally titled ‘Prosperous Karachi, prosperous Pakistan’, the publicity campaign has reached its peak. Huge banners, party flags and portraits of Mr Kamal and PSP president Anis Kaimkhani have been hung on almost every overhead pedestrian bridge and high-rise building located on major thoroughfares.
A container-stage is being erected in the Bagh-i-Jinnah and seating arrangements for “thousands of people” are being made.
The confidence being expressed by the PSP that it would outdo the PDM rally is apparently not misplaced as before the outbreak of coronavirus pandemic, the PSP had held its first-ever public meeting in Larkana in January and six weeks later it held a massive women-only public meeting in Karachi’s district Central on March 1.
The pandemic, however, restricted all political activities to indoor events in its initial days. The activities started gradually after easing of the lockdown and on Aug 21 the PSP staged a protest demonstration in front of the Karachi Press Club against the creation of Keamari district in which its workers stood along with its leadership in pouring rain.
Since then, Mr Kamal has been visiting areas in all city districts as well as Hyderabad and addressing big corner meetings in order to mobilise his cadre for the preparation of the upcoming local government elections.
Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2020