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Marchers experience Islamabad hospitality

January 18, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Jan 17: As the heavens poured down on the capital city, residents of the twin cities showcased their support for the protesters by visiting the sit-in site at D-Chowk and handing food to the protesters.

Thursday afternoon saw participants brave the winter rains and cold winds to hear Dr Qadri’s address.

The two days and nights spent on the road and tents had left them visibly fatigued, and their clothes crumpled and stained.

There was no dry spot to sit on even as the rains completely soaked the roads and carpets.

Two hours after the address when the sky cleared, a fresh wave of local visitors swarmed Jinnah Avenue, all easily distinguishable by their clean appearance and clothes.

In a sign of change, where there were young men flocking the ground, there were also a sizeable number of families with women and children who drove all the way from Pindi to D-Chowk.

“We wanted to see what people were doing after the rains, and how they were facing the chill,” said Mohammad Yousuf, who had come with his friends on motorcycles from Rawalpindi.

Many local visitors also expressed their support to Dr Qadri’s idea of ending corruption in Pakistan and said that they had come for a few hours to show their allegiance for his cause.

But they all admitted that their sentiments had been triggered by watching young girls, women and children sitting in the winter rain and listening to the cleric.

“We saw it on TV. We all know the impact of these winds and rains but this is really brave,” said Nusrat, a schoolteacher who visited Jinnah Avenue with four female friends from Satellite Town, Rawalpindi.

People from nearby sectors in Islamabad also came on foot and stood out because of their attires: men and women from sectors G-6 and G-7 were modestly dressed, whereas those coming from across Jinnah Avenue, possibly sectors F-6 and F-7, even had make-up on.

Apart from visitors a number of philanthropists from Rawalpindi and Islamabad were also impressed with the devotion displayed by the participants of the sit-in, and brought food and edible items for them.

“I have brought this vehicle load of cooked rice in packets but nobody is telling me where to enter from,” said Raja Waqar, a resident of inner city Rawalpindi, who was denied permission by the volunteers posted on security.

After arguing for a few minutes, the volunteers were informed on their cell phones that edible items may enter from China Chowk. Meanwhile, a group of vendors taking note of the situation established stalls on the footpaths selling old warm clothing.

Most of the sit-in participants those who had arrived from other cities also changed clothes – women went back to their buses and under-construction buildings in Blue Area.

As the mercury keeps dropping, this will certainly be an endurance test for the participants, especially girls, women, children and the elderly, who start retracing their steps back, after the government reached an agreement with Dr Tahirul Qadri.

Like a victorious army preparing a journey back home, participants of Dr Qadri's sit-in were seen moving towards their designated vehicles raising V (victory) signs, cheering, raising slogans, congratulating each other and some dancing to the tune of party songs.

The camps established on Monday night were  dismantled within two hours and young men leaving their sticks behind, carried their folded tents to the returning point.

As youngsters waited in long queues to return party tents and other winding up procedures, older men and women carried personnel   luggage to their vehicles.

Soon after the decision by their leader, the participants of the sit-in started to pack up, the children and elderly were hushed into buses, trucks, cars and other vehicles to protect them from the cold. But the cheer continued.

“Our victory is that policy makers have acknowledged to clean the system and our method of reform has been accepted” said an elderly woman hailing from Lahore.