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Tale of two dharnas : If you can’t convince them, confuse them


ISLAMABAD: One cannot understand the spirit of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Awami Tehreek sit-ins on TV channels, as the real scene is entirely different. If one visits the spot late at night, especially after hailstorm and rain, when half of, particularly, the PAT supporters, men, women and children, fall asleep on Constitution Avenue while some are busy in drying their clothes with fire, others roaming on road and many more attentively listening to naats (poetry that praises Prophet Muhammad PBUH). 
The beauty of this “no-go area” for commoners is gone with green belts and gardens of seasonal flowers giving an abandoned look. Its really difficult to get near the Supreme Court building due to foul smell as most of the makeshift toilets for PAT supporters have been arranged there. But all participants in both “dharnas” are convinced that they have gathered for a bigger cause, a cause which will change their fortune. 
“Why our elite politicians are so concerned about the beauty of Constitution Avenue? It will be restored in just two days. We are the ones who suffer due to bad smell as we are staying here all the time. I’ll praise them if they have courage to attend these toilets. It is this bloody mentality that we are fighting against. It is very easy to talk of stinking smell and dirt on TV stations,” says Rukhsana Bibi, a PAT member from Mandi Bahauddin. Since August 7, she has been participating in PAT protest without any break. She had endured the hardships in Lahore’s Model Town when it was under siege. “Our fight is against this aristocratic mindset. I wish that their wives and daughters should also experience the situation that we are passing through,” she added. Such was the temperament of almost every woman in PAT and PTI dharnas. 
It maybe happening for the first time in Pakistan that women at such a massive scale have come out from their homes for their rights. Leaving aside the counter narrative at different forums, the PAT should be given some credit as thousands of its women stay day and night in open on road. “We are giving this sacrifice for the country. All political leaders should be thankful that we are improving the image of Pakistan which has been labelled internationally as an extremist and conservative state where women cannot even think of raising their voice for their rights,” said Sofia Ahmed, who came from Sweden to participate in Qadri’s long march and sit-in.
Still many in both camps are concerned whether their sufferings in sizzling heat and heavy rain will bear fruit or they’ll return with empty-handed. Listening most of the time speeches of their leaders, they speak in same tone and tenor. Every person talks, without fumble, about change, revolution, the PM’s resignation, elections rigging, fresh election and electoral reforms. But in the end when one leaves, they curiously ask what will happen? Will change or revolution come? Will the PM resign? “Will the PM and his brother Shahbaz Sharif be nominated in FIR against the killing of 14 PAT workers in Lahore in police-op?”
“I am a lifetime member of Minhajul Quran. I support both PAT and PTI leaders for their revolutionary agendas. I came here on 15 August with the hope that change will come. We are fed up with maulanas, Sharifs and Zardaris,” said Musarrat Shaheen, a former film actress, at PAT sit-in. “I request Fazlur Rehman to learn about moderate Islam from Dr Tahirul Qadri,” she added and then whispered: “Tell me please, will it succeed?”
Malaika Raza, 35, an Islamabad-based PTI member comes regularly for sit-in. Her family is associated with the Pakistan People’s Party but for her Imran Khan is the only leader who has the potential to resolve al problems of the country. 
“Imran Khan says from the core of his heart what every ordinary Pakistani wishes. I am convinced that he is the only leader who can secure our future,” Malaika Raza said and added, “I respect Khan because he has accommodated people of all ideological leanings. I wish to see Pakistan as a country free of religious, social and cultural influences. It should be my discretion the way I want to spend my life.” 
More interesting was the conversation with Taqdeer Ali, 44, a PTI general secretary of union council from Peshawar.  “I am a great admirer of Imran Khan. I am the one who tore apart his shirt at his Banigala residence before elections. We came to protest against awarding of tickets to inappropriate candidates in Peshawar. Khan was laughing and just said: I accept my mistake,” Ali said. “I don’t see this tolerance level of a leader for ordinary workers in any other party. Khan is a gifted leader,” he added.
Slain PPP chairwoman Benazir Bhutto led the way for women in politics worldwide back in the 1980s. She was exceptional. It is good to see women taking an active part at a grassroots level in political life in Pakistan. This will pave the way for more women to get involved in politics at a higher level and to eventually become elected representatives of their people. 
“Parliaments and assemblies across the world should be a reflection of their societies. They cannot be a true reflection if there is not a fair and equal representation of women sitting in these institutions,” Elin Wyn, editor of Political Programmes at BBC Wales, told Daily Times.
“The UK parliament has a long way to go yet to truly reflect the population - only around 20% of the MPs are women. I hope this surge of interest in politics by Pakistani women will lead to more equality and fairness for women in all spheres of life,” Elin added. 

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