Strike call gets a muted response

Published October 7, 2007

ISLAMABAD, Oct 6: The federal capital has never been so calm and peaceful on ‘eventful’ days in the recent past as it was on Saturday, the day of the presidential election.

The strike call given by All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) to protest the re-election of President Gen Pervez Musharraf was ignored by traders as well as the general public.

A similar response was given to the call by traders in Rawalpindi, Taxila and Chakwal.

Markets in Islamabad did roaring business on the day with the commercial hub, Blue Area, witnessing the most rush. Other commercial areas like Aabpara, Super Market, Jinnah Super, F-10 Markaz and Karachi Company presented a perfect picture of a pre- Eid day with shoppers out in the hundreds.

“They want us to be beaten by the police. They want to play with our emotions and win our votes, change loyalties and secure deals with Musharraf,” Mohammad Amjad, a store owner in Blue Area, told Dawn.

He said Maulana Fazlur Rehman was among the APDM leaders who at a press conference on September 29 called for a strike on October 6. But the Maulana himself had been an ally of Musharraf for the last five years and was still dying to be part of the next setup, he claimed.

Though the APDM leaders had given the call for strike, they practically did very little to demonstrate street power.

In the morning, Jamhoori Forum, a broad-based coalition of political workers opposed to all forms of dictatorship, held a demonstration in front of the Parliament House, hoping to be joined by activists of political parties.

Speaking on the occasion, Rana Yamin of the Pakistan Mazdoor Mahaz said Gen Musharraf’s survival was an evidence that the United States was playing a role in Pakistani politics. He said the nexus of Pakistani army with imperialism was responsible for the absence of democracy in the country.

But there were not more than 50 people at the spot to listen to the sort of food-for-thought speeches of Mr Yamin and some other prominent human rights activists like Asma Jehangir, Hina Jilani, I.A. Rahman and Iqbal Haider.

The forum members had to disperse after realising before noon that they could see everything in the capital except anti- Musharraf strikes or workers of political parties.

On the green belt in front of the Parliament House, two families from Sindh and another from Punjab were peacefully observing a protest, however, not against Musharraf. They were there to draw the attention of the Supreme Court towards the highhandedness of some local feudals who had allegedly gangraped a girl belonging to one family present there and forcefully occupied the land of the other.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was the sole political party which had brought out its workers. Being in the ruling coalition, the MQM workers expressed their solidarity with Musharraf and chanted slogans in favour of their leader Altaf Hussain.

Although there was not much buzz on the streets about what was going on in the National Assembly, still some vendors in Aabpara could be seen passing remarks to each other that “Musharraf has won again”.

Live telecast by independent TV channels has made the coverage of such events interesting these days. But, it seems that the onslaught of electronic media has turned politicians into showbiz figures. Though the APDM leaders had given the call for strike they did not do their home work to bring people on to the roads. Instead their faces could be seen on the little screen every now and then.

“We call it electronic rhetoric,” said a student of International Islamic University, Uzma Gul.

She was commenting on the availability of electronic media to political leaders. She said politicians had failed to learn a lesson from Nawaz Sharif who was roaring with big words but had not even mobilised his close friends let alone party workers to “throw away” Musharraf. Instead, Nawaz was exiled to Saudi Arabia on his return to Islamabad on September 10.

Hundreds of police had been deployed at different points in the federal capital since Friday night. They could be seen in the vicinity of the Parliament House and on all roads leading to the building.

“Even we were expecting some reaction, at least from the activists of political parties. I had never witnessed calm on such an important day,” said a constable of Punjab Police deployed near the Parliament House who was reading a newspaper in a relaxed mood.

Some of the policemen could even be seen enjoying a nap under the shadow of trees.

“They are all the same,” said a university student, Amina Jalal while selecting sandals from a heap of footwear put on sale at Jinnah Super.

She said people like her would never come out on the streets as they were “between the devil and the deep sea”.

If they rejected Musharraf, they had to elect Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Maulana Fazlur Rehman or Altaf Hussain, she added.

Inamullah Khattak adds: The strike call given by All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) on Saturday received a poor response from the traders, however, it did turn out to be an occasion of celebration for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) after unofficial results showed Gen Pervez Musharraf had swept the presidential polls.

The strike, called by opposition parties to protest the re- election of Gen Musharraf, virtually failed to take hold as none of the opposition leaders was present to lead the small gathering of people that assembled at Fawara Chowk.

Markets remained open and there was no sign of strike in any street of the city as the traders had already refused to shut down their businesses during the Eid season.

On the other hand, the elected representatives of the ruling PML led by City Nazim Raja Javed Ikhlas assembled at GPO Chowk and celebrated the victory of Gen Musharraf in the presidential election.

TAXILA: The local traders and transporters of Taxila and Wah Cantonment gave no response to the strike call given by the APDM on Saturday.

CHAKWAL: All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) took out a protest rally against the presidential election on Saturday and marched on various roads of Chakwal city.

The participants carried party flags, placards and banners inscribed with anti-government slogans. The rally converted into a public meeting at Bhaun Chowk.



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