Karachi: Thousands of people, including women and children, converged here today for Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party's massive rally seeking a "change" in the country, with the organisers dubbing it as a "tsunami".
All roads leading to the Quaid-e-Azam park, the venue of the rally adjacent to the mausoleum of Pakistan's founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, were jammed with buses, trucks, cars, motorcycles and pedestrians who were eager to reach the place.
Mindful of the response to Imran's call for Karachiites to attend the rally in large numbers and show their support for a change in the country and against corruption, the organisers had set up giant video screens outside the park for people who could not find a place inside.
A sea of people, including women, children and even the physically challenged, stood shoulder-to-shoulder braving the afternoon heat as they listened to Tehreek-e-Insaf leaders' speeches, but waited for Imran to make his much-awaited appearance.
Imran, who was yet to reach the venue, was the notable absentee at the main centrestage set up for the rally as other leaders of the party started their speeches, with crowds singing and raising slogans like "Imran Khan Zindabad", "Tehreek-e-Insaaf Zindabad" and "Pakistan Zindabad."
The Quaid-e-Azam park was swamped by people carrying the red and green Tehreek-e-Insaf flags and wearing party caps. People had started converging at the venue since morning, hours before the rally was to begin.
"We are here because of Imran Khan. We believe he can make a better Pakistan and bring changes," shouted Maleeha, a hijab-clad woman who had come with her fiance to the rally.
Zainab, another young woman dressed in jeans and T-shirt, said many people now know that Imran Khan was the last hope for Pakistan. "We all believe only he can turn around this country and rid it of corruption and extremism. He can bring about better governance."
Just before the rally was to begin, a car mysteriously caught fire in a parking lot close to the venue leading to chaos and panic among the party workers and officials.
The car fitted with a CNG cylinder was parked in the parking lot near the Quaid-e-Azam mausoleum and caught fire all of a sudden after a short circuit, according to fire rescue officials. Nearby cars were moved immediately to avoid the fire from spreading and causing a major explosion.
Imran had visited the venue an hour prior to the incident to inspect the preparations for one of the most anticipated rallies in recent months, which is being dubbed by his party as a "tsunami".
The presence of large number of women and youth at the rally was a big triumph for the organisers who had set up separate enclosures for the women, families and youth.
Shahdab Kabir, a disabled person who came to the rally with his brother on a wheelchair, said he came to show Imran that the people of Karachi supported him and his manifesto.
"It is not only time for a change in Pakistan but also in Karachi," he said as popular popstar Abrar-ul-Haq started the formal proceedings on the centrestage with a religious hymn.
The organisers, with the assistance of local administration, had set up special walkthrough security gates and body scanned each and every participant before they entered the rally venue. Imran Ismail, deputy secretary general of the party, said. "This rally is going to be bigger than the one we had at the Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore."
Asif Khan, a party worker, added that "we believe in Imran Khan and the fact that a senior (PPP) politician like Javed Hashmi has now joined us shows people believe in Imran and want change in the next elections."
Karachi for the last two decades has been the stronghold of the MQM, which represents the Urdu-speaking migrants from India and which has won majority of the national and provincial assembly seats from the city in the last few elections.
The MQM has been the only party in the last two decades to manage massive rallies in the city.
Story first published:
December 25, 2011 18:40 IST