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Scene of the day

January 15, 2013

 As dawn broke, rally participants were still camping it out in the freezing cold under open skies. The night before TMQ had been unable to live up to its promises of providing mattresses and quilts to ‘thousands’ of marchers.

l On the other hand, Dr Tahirul Qadri spent his day in a warm bulletproof white container. A few local journalists could be seen trying to get a scoop as the riot police flexed its muscles, while in contrast foreign mediapersons focussed on staying in the crowd and getting quotes from the marchers.

l The march participants weren’t the only ones left out in the cold - the city administration was equally unkind to police officials who were put on round-the-clock duties with no relief.

“Sleeping in this chilling weather is in itself a punishment for me and my fellows,” commented a police constable.

l The brains from the federal government — Islamabad police, local administration and personnel from intelligence agencies — had opted to sit in another white container equipped with screens showing the live feed from closed-circuit cameras set up at various points in the city. It must be pointed out that while food was served to officials at D-Chowk, there was no potable water available.

l The city administration had called in additional personnel from Azad Jammu & Kashmir and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, who looked very pale and tired as they were posted first in the line of fire with Punjab police.

Behind them were the men in pale blue, that is the Islamabad police, followed by Rangers personnel. The army’s troops could not be sighted anywhere as they were keeping a watchful wait at an unknown location.

l The only oddity were the female traffic wardens from Faisalabad with their fluorescent green jackets. It was strange to note that the Punjab police would send traffic wardens to regulate marchers on foot, and not male personnel.

l Overall, Dr Qadri’s second speech in the capital city with the participants since his arrival was better managed. When private media channels started running tickers about the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, Dr Qadri roared midway in his speech, “Mubarak ho mubarak ho (congratulations) Supreme Court has given orders to NAB to arrest the prime minister.”

l The crowd was visibly overjoyed as they bowed together and chanted slogans of “revolution” in January’s chilling temperature. But somehow there was no way of erasing the uncertainty on their faces.

l For the police too the changing political situation meant increased tension. “This is no coincidence. Look at this (private TV breaking news), Prime Minister Ashraf will be arrested ordered the Supreme Court,” said an excited police official as he ducked into one of the Direct Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) vehicles of a private television channel to get the latest update.

“I wish this government goes home and this march ends and we go home,” remarked an assistant sub-inspector.—Imran Ali Teepu