It was early this year when Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf Chairman Imran Khan announced PTI will hold a jalsa in the provincial capital of Balochistan, Quetta on March 23, 2012 which shocked all friends and foes, the rival parties mocked the notion as impossible, media was bewildered and all political workers of PTI started getting worried because it was dangerous to visit Balochistan and now Khan won’t retract his word. Balochistan had been under attack by a separation movement, anti Pakistan foreign agencies were reported to be involved in the killings. It had been an undeclared war zone, people were reported missing and dumped after being brutally killed. There had been this sectarian war as well where cross sectarian killings were taking place on daily basis, police and security forces had been falling short to safeguard the people or reprehend the murderers. There was chaos and fear and the residents of the city preferred keeping at home unless inevitable. Weather was another constraint to this brave initiative to come and show solidarity to the oppressed citizens of this cursed province. “Nauroz” would start from 21st March and Quetta would be eloped by icy cold winds, extreme freezing weather and snowfall had been a normalcy during the nine days of Nauroz in the previous years. Khan will have to postpone the Jalsa to a lateral April date for the people of Quetta and Balochistan. April 20th was the date decided subsequently to remain remembered in the history.
I was in Karachi for a domestic issue all this while and hearing news about missing people, dumped bodies, sectarian violence and kidnapping for ransom in Balochistan had caught the attention of the whole country including me. And despite the Frontier Corps presence there to help police in maintaining law and order, the province had been a 21st century Wild West which had gone beyond control. And announcing a jalsa there in such chaotic times where other parties couldn’t dare to hold corner meetings was a decision too brave almost amounting to a suicidal act. This wasn’t safe at all, I was worried just like every other Pakistani who considers Imran Khan a hope for the entire country, worried for the safety of my leader and thousands of those who would come to stand by him on the day. And after much discussions and deliberations my friends and I decided to travel and be there in Quetta on the day to stand by our leader. If he had decided to risk his life and would go to the oppressed brothers of Balochistan, our lives are insignificant if we don’t stand by the man who has stood for the people of Balochistan specially and whole Pakistan in general. Just like always he’s walking ahead once again having all his boats burnt and wouldn’t stop unless he has done something for the people of the biggest province of Pakistan. My friends and I decided to be on board with the Tariq Bin Ziyad of our times and I myself after apologizing my parents for not having them informed in a soliloquy took the plane and landed in what was once called Little London, Quetta on April 17th, 3 days before the Jalsa. My ex classmate in Karachi Arbab Jalil Kasi and his brother received us with the customary Pushtoon warmth and hospitality, the guy himself is a huge fan of Imran Khan and die hard PTI supporter.
I wasn’t too excited about the people of Quetta and Balochistan to have a huge support for Imran Khan. The province had been occupied politically by Baloch and Pushtoon nationalists and if anything was left, belonged to the religious parties. The province had low literacy rate and majority had an anti-Punjab feeling, thus some referred to Pakistan as Punjabistan, such were reports from Jalil when we studied in one of the prominent Business Schools of the country. But after exchanging pleasantries, Jalil fed me with some optimism as he claimed people now were sick of ethnic and sectarian divide and the dead bodies on daily basis in here and wanted a uniting change. The words were sweet like honey for my ears. As we drove through the city towards my host’s home in Satellite Town area of Quetta, I could see that change in the form of Imran Khan billboards, welcoming banners by different local PTI members and PTI flags. I felt warmly welcomed by the Quetta.
Quetta valley can be labeled as one of the hill stations of the country, a favorite place to those who prefer winters over summers, but this extended winters was a problem this time around for the Jalsa. It had been raining for couple of days already and we had a week more of heavy rains as per weather forecast. To make it worse Zardari govt in Balochistan had just been a bit more competent ( read Corrupt) than the rest of the country. Apart from lawlessness, killing, kidnapping, looting and all, the roads in Quetta have vanished and the drainage system blocked. The rain water would flood all the roads and everything kept flowing along, roads were bogs of mud and dirt and people cautioned you to be ready for an unplanned dive in some open hole of a gutter; camouflaged by rain water. I thanked them all for the life-saving tip as I can’t swim.
Before the Jalsa, we came out to accompany PTI rally in the city in the leadership of Azam Swati who had been in Quetta for a week now, but we were late on schedule. The rally was gigantic and the city had witnessed a huge march of green and red chanting Pakistan Zindabad and PTI slogans and we were amazed by the numbers of participants. The second good news of change for me in the day.
Jalil’s brother Khalil Kasi told us that the youth had joined PTI in huge numbers. The awareness and need of unity was increasing among the people of Balochistan who were now sick of the Divide and Rule policy by their politicians who had played them with ethnic, territorial and sectarian cards. They had had but just hatred and dead bodies at the hands of those hate mongers. I though wanted to witness this change in person on the Jalsa day. At nights, Jalil’s cousins and friends would gather at their guesthouse and as they all were PTI supporters, the discussions would revolve around politics, current affairs of the country and the preparations of the Jalsa. I was amazed at the political awareness of the youth of Quetta; who we consider backward. My task in Quetta was also to report everything at Twitter to PTI-Cyber-Force which I myself am a member of. I did that with pride telling the world how much patriotism, dutifulness and the desire for change the Quetta youth displayed. I was in a formidable company by all means.
When I woke up at Jalsa Day on April 20th it had been still raining like cats and dogs and eskimos. It had been raining intermittently for five days now which was heart sinking. We had had little sleep as we were busy preparing for the Jalsa all previous day and night, ordering banners, getting PTI and Pakistani flags, having them on polls and houses in the area and writing PTI poems and slogans, but sleep was never a concern on the day, Jalsa was and rain and law and order situation were. It had rained so much during the night that Shafqat Mehmood, the PTI Information Secretory announced on Twitter that the Jalsa Gah had been moved to the Hockey stadium now from the Football stadium, to have a more concrete ground. It had rained so much that the PTI chairman Imran Khan had to postpone his flight twice during the previous day due to bad weather. We performed ablutions and went head down to Almighty to seek HIS help for the day (Nasru Minallahi Wa Fathun Qareeb)
…to be continue