(Clockwise from left) Participants in the march wave Palestinian flags; women wear the traditional keffiyeh scarf; and protesters hold posters and placards during a walk organised by the Palestine Solidarity Committee on Sharah-i-Qaideen on Wednesday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
(Clockwise from left) Participants in the march wave Palestinian flags; women wear the traditional keffiyeh scarf; and protesters hold posters and placards during a walk organised by the Palestine Solidarity Committee on Sharah-i-Qaideen on Wednesday. —Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: Although the call was for 3.30pm, the organisers of the Palestine Solidarity March, from Shahrah-i-Quaideen to the Quaid’s mausoleum, were present at the starting point since Wednesday morning.

Volunteers inside a small tent there were busy inserting thin bamboo up the base of Palestine flags before the other people arrived. Sahar Masood Ali had reached there from Nazimabad. “I’m a second semester student at the Urdu University. I was glad to have no classes today as it allowed me to come here and help,” the young lady smiled while assembling the flags.

The tent had lots of flags by then, the big ones to drape, the medium-sized ones attached to the bamboos, the small ones to attach to cars and motorcycles along with banners and placards and those painful posters and paintings of Palestinian children, some crying, some surrounded by rubble and gazing into space, mothers holding their dead babies to their heart, mothers burying them.

There was also a choice of the black and white or red and white chequered Palestinian Keffiyeh or scarves.

Ain-ul-Haq, a marble dealer, had shown up in a shroud with shackles around his feet. “It is to remind everyone about the dying Muslims and how helpless we are in chains,” he said.

Umar Farooq, also of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, was happy for the response they had been receiving after their call for the march. “These things,” he gestured towards the flags, posters, panaflex, pickups with big speakers, “all cost money and we are glad to have gotten so much support for this cause from all quarters in cash and kind”.

Former Karachi Administrator Fahim Zaman, the main organiser and head of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, said that they wanted to show up in huge numbers and also observe the United Nations International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on this day. “We held this march as a non-partisan event for all the people of Karachi, which has a population of 30 million, to participate irrespective of their political ideology, religious or ethnic differences because it is primarily to support Palestine,” he said.

With him was a friend, Asad Gulzar, who had donated money for the cause. “I didn’t stop at that. I also reached out to the business community, the Karachi Chamber of Commerce,” he said.

Meanwhile, Umar Farooq said that they had not taken any funding from any political parties. But they are also coming to join us and be counted,” he said.

He also added that since this was not a political rally, they were not going to have any speeches, either. “We are only going to walk,” he said.

Whoever the members of the Palestine Solidarity Committee looked to, they got positive response.

“We got support from Saeed Ghani and the PPP, the MQM, JI, Awami Markaz, the trade unions, associations, and even Mian Shehbaz Sharif. Actually, it was after he spoke for us that the rest of the Muslim League-Nawaz also responded positively,” he said.

Dr Qaiser Sajjad, another committee member, said that it was so sad that up until now the world had witnessed wars between countries and governments. “But in Palestine the war is being waged against civilians including women and children,” he said.

Michael Omar Yusuf, a retired IT expert, needed orthopaedic support for both his legs but he didn’t allow that to come in the way of his joining the march. “I’m originally from Australia but Pakistan is my home, so I had to come,” he said.

Professor Durriya Kazi represented the academia and the artist community. “Palestinians are the most courageous people in the world. This was the least that we could do for them,” she said.

Art critic Niilofur Farrukh said that she was glad to see such a big rally.

Social activist Mahnaz Rehman said that she had previously seen people here show support for the Palestinians in small groups, which was rather sad, but she was glad that this rally was different.

Chairperson at Pakistan Women’s Foundation for Peace, Nargis Rahman, also said she was glad to see more people at this rally.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2023

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