KARACHI, Dec 24: Like devotees walking to a pilgrimage, a large number of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) workers marched towards the old terminal of the Karachi airport from Star Gate to welcome their co-chairperson, Asif Ali Zardari, on Friday.
It appeared like a festival. People from all walks of life – from students and housewives to parliamentarians and corporate bosses – everyone who gathered, sported a smile alike, making victory signs to the cameras trying to focus on them.
“Bibi [slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto] ka shohar, Bilawal ka baap aa raha hai. Khushi to bohat hai [The husband of Benazir Bhutto and the father of Bilawal is coming. It is immense happiness],” Kulsoom Baji, a jubilant worker of the party from its stronghold, Lyari, said, tailing her sentence with “Allah… “ as she clasped her hands together in a thanksgiving manner.
Slogans such as ‘Sub pay Bhari, Shairon ka Shikari, Phir agli Baari [Heavy on all, the hunter of lions, another turn for him]’ were raised with zeal. Nonetheless, the slogan of ‘Jiye Bhutto [Long Live Bhutto]’ maintained the ambience as workers religiously respond to it.
As the half of the nearly one-kilometre-long and 50-foot-wide Star Gate Road was allocated as Jalsa Gah, it was full to the brim with people at the peak time when Zardari spoke from behind a bullet-proof glass shield atop the same truck his slain wife used when she returned to the country.
Security was tightened around the premises since a day earlier. Public was allowed entry and exit from a single point. PPP leaders, including Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, used the other road passing through the PIA engineering department building.
While a large number of people had gathered at the event, most of them appeared less interested in listening to the speech of their leader and were more engrossed in taking selfies. Nonetheless, some transmitted the speech and activities at the gathering live on social media through their smartphones.
Besides the workers, street vendors selling samosas, coconut pieces, paapar and other eatables made the most of the situation to boost their sales. They strolled about through the road, attracting customers with their unique calling.
As Zardari concluded his speech, the public walked back to the exit points all at once, resulting in a traffic mess on the road and the connecting Sharae Faisal. Traffic personnel were seen trying to handle the situation. However, most of the people seemed to be in a hurry as they had to catch a flight about to take off at the nearby Jinnah Terminal.
Residents of Karachi faced immense difficulty in reaching the airport as the most important artery of the city got choked.
However, the Karachi traffic police had issued a diversion plan two days before Zardari’s arrival. During the procession, when thousands of PPP supporters had thronged the old terminal, Star Gate and Drigh Road got completely blocked due to parking of cars on the roads. People heading towards and leaving the airport also remained stuck at the Jinnah International Airport until the crowd dispersed.