KARACHI: Although it had been announced that the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) ‘historic’ ‘Awami Long March’ would commence from the Quaid-i-Azam’s mausoleum near Numaish at 10am on Sunday, its real starting point was Bilawal Chowrangi in Clifton, where a huge crowd of party workers had been gathering since early morning on Sunday.
Meanwhile, turning to M.A. Jinnah Road from Saddar one found no sign of anything extraordinary until a few 4x4s with the red, black and green banners tied to their side mirrors passed by.
With the police having blocked most U-turns, the vehicles had to make a detour zigzagging between the empty water tankers, buses, trucks, decorated horse chariots, etc, to reach Shahrah-i-Quaideen.
The favourite PPP song ‘Dilan Teer Bija’ playing at quite a distance slowly became louder as one reached the assembling of a slow and meagre motorcade. Nothing was moving at the Numaish turning. A big black container truck to double as a stage as well as carry the VIP party was blocking the way up ahead in the front.
As the PPP Jiyalas awaited the party VIPs, they made themselves useful by distributing party banners, car stickers, baseball caps and pakols. Many of them wore white t-shirts with party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s picture on the front. A group of youngsters made a beeline for them when they saw them distributing more shirts and party memorabilia.
The baseball caps were in the biggest demand as per the requirement of the noon sun.
A couple of men speaking among themselves in Pashto passed by. They were both holding PPP banners with a big yellow dot in the middle. Asked if they were also a part of the march, they nodded. Then when reminded that they were not Sindhi, they laughed. “You think only Sindhi people represent the PPP,” asked the younger of the two. “We represent the PPP Youth Organisation,” he added before telling his friend to grab a cap from the volunteers.
With so much time to kill, if the Jiyalas felt that there was more need of posters and banners on the trees and poles there they added more. Besides mentioning which PPP division or section they belonged to, the posters and stickers also carried the names of the loyal jiyalas who had had them made along with the messages on them.
“March to end the rule of the corrupt” was the inscription on one banner.
“A sea of people from Jinnah Bagh to Islamabad” read another.
All posters had two late Bhuttos and two alive Zardaris with the common factor in the Venn diagram, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, in the middle.
Meanwhile, after roasting inside their little car since morning, Surraiya Abid and husband Ahmed Azam, there with little daughters Mehrmah and Muhbeen got out to straighten their legs. The girls aged six and four looked tall for their age as they seemed to take after their lanky father. And their short mother was happy to have gained two extra inches with her PPP pakol despite the heat.
“No, we are not going all the way to Islamabad. We’ll break away from Thatta as the children have their exams. We’ll rejoin them in Islamabad after taking a flight from here later,” informed Surraiya.
“The girls are quite excited and looking forward to meeting Bilawal Sahab again. They last met him in July when he shook hands with them and asked them their names,” said the father Ahmed.
Mohammad Fahim Gondal, a town president, was also feeling the heat of the sun as he opened his car’s back door for some fresh air while he waited there. He was not doing too well and in pain. He had recently had rods placed in his leg after an accident. “I don’t think that Bilawal Sahab will be here before 1pm,” he said.
Asked why he even came in his condition, the man shook his head with a smile. “It is fine. We are workers. We need to show our numbers,” he said.
Two slightly overweight senior ladies from across the road also headed towards the waiting vehicles. But climbing on the footpath to get to the other side of the road was a bit of an issue for them. Then one attempted a step with a grimace as she offered her hand to the other.
“Haye, meray Allah! Uff meray Allah,” said the other as she held on to a painful knee and climbed up, too.
“Is this a long march or a frogmarch,” someone commented upon seeing the gathering. Then she covered her own mouth with her hand hoping no one had heard her. “Hope Bilawal comes soon,” she added slowly.
Another group of young women in pretty Balochi dresses also crossed over to the gathering, their cheeks made rosy with rouge and lips made crimson with dark red with lipstick. Some of the older ones whispered to the younger ones: “Keep an eye out for the vehicle that is distributing the pulao.”
Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2022