LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf meeting at Minar-i-Pakistan on Sunday was said to be the largest-ever political gathering of people in decades, motivating a large number of hitherto silent educated youth, especially women, to start directly taking part in politics in the hope of bringing about a change by and for them.
Waving the PTI flags, the crowd was charged and responsive with a political enthusiasm not witnessed in Lahore after 1986 when people thronged thoroughfares from airport to Minar-i-Pakistan to welcome Benazir Bhutto.
There were cars, mini-buses and wagons parked on both sides of Circular Road from near Sheranwala Gate up to Urdu Bazaar, with people marching towards a jam-packed Minar-i-Pakistan till around 7pm when Imran Khan started spelling out his “manifesto for change.”
Though the meeting was scheduled to begin at 2pm, participants from other cities started reaching the venue around 9.30am and a number of them opted for visiting Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque before coming to Minar-i-Pakistan.
A big group from Imran’s hometown Mianwali was the first to arrive, followed by those from Hazara, Dera Ismael Khan, Kohat, Dera Ghazi Khan, Sialkot, Khanewal, Kasur, Okara and Sahiwal.
Activists of the Insaaf Students Federation from Peshawar reached there with headbands inscribed with Al-Jihad and joined their colleagues from Bannu, Abbottabad, Mardan and Swabi performing Hattan dance on a Pushto song being played there. They also displayed a big banner carrying “Go Zardari, Go Nawaz” slogan besides a huge flag of the PTI.
The Lahorites, especially those accompanying families, began thronging Minar-i-Pakistan around 4pm when the front-rows in the enclosure reserved for them had been occupied by the youth. However, on the request of organisers the youth moved away without any argument.
Led by Sardar Tarlok Singh and Sardar Harpal Singh, a group of Sikhs from Wapda Town of Lahore also arrived with a banner, calling for change and raising slogans.
A remote-controlled aeroplane carrying the PTI flag besides balloons released in the air from time to time remained the focus of attention of a good number of children, who had been attending their first such meeting.
Eight walkthrough gates were installed for the meeting where the PTI youth wing activists along with some plainclothes men were deputed to carry out body search of the participants. The arrangements worked well till 5pm after which the youth started climbing up the fences and grills to reach the lawns of Minar-i-Pakistan.