By: Myra Imran
ISLAMABAD: Supporting Allama Tahirul Qadri’s slogan of change, thousands of women belonging to all age groups enthusiastically participated in the ‘long march’ on Monday.
Their spirits were high, as they gathered on one side of Jinnah Avenue reserved exclusively for women and children. They chanted slogans and waved the national flags. The most active among them were the student volunteers.
“Poor people are demanding their rights and we will not move from here until our demands are met,” said Safia Bibi in her native Punjabi language. “We are not asking for castles or big cars, all we want is food, water, gas, electricity and education.”
Safia, draped in a national flag, came all the way from Muzaffargarh. Like many other women, she was equipped with blankets, clothes, food and some basic utensils for the sit-in. Also there was her 80-year-old mother Ayesha who sat guarding the things.
“We are mentally prepared to stay here for an indefinite period. I have dry food with me and some pickles,” Safia said. Some women even brought gas cylinders and stoves with them and were seen making tea. Volunteers distributed Chapatis and water among the participants.
“Allama Qadri is the only sincere leader in the country. His enemies have launched propaganda against him. I have known him for 30 years. He is a Wali, a saviour of Pakistani people,” said 70-year-old Shamim Akhtar, who had deep religious devotion for the leader.
Shamim continuously recited Qur’anic verses. “This is to keep you warm. The chilly weather has no affect when you recite these verses.”Women from Rawalpindi and Islamabad and adjoining areas were also there, as were those from the United States and Canada — all joining the call for change. “This is the change Pakistan needs at this point. The poor are in majority and when they have come out on to the streets to demand their basic rights, the change will definitely come,” said Sehr Azeem, a Canadian citizen of Pakistani origin.
Many women from far-flung areas had no idea about their leader’s charter of demands. “I do not know what change he wants. All I know is that he talks for us and he will not deceive us. I am sure he will bring the Islamic system where everyone will get justice. You will see the corrupt rulers fleeing the country,” said Tabassum Ahmed from Bhakkar holding her eight-month-old baby.
“This is the first time I have participated in any procession. I am prepared to stay here for as long as our demands are met. This is our country, not a place for Asif Zardari, Nawaz Sharif and others to loot this land. We voted for them hoping they would do good governance and solve our problems but they did nothing,” said Tabassum.
Tabassum had brought along her two sons — Hassan, 13, and Saeed, 8. “We are not afraid of bomb blasts. We all have to die one day, even Rehman Malik will go. They cannot discourage us by warning of terror attacks,” said Hassan. “All I want is food for my family and education for my brothers and sisters and me.”
Girl volunteers, wearing green caps and holding batons, lined up around the women’s section. “We have more than 200 girls responsible for security. Their duty is to keep an eye on the participants and not let anyone destroy the public property,” said Hina Ameen, a local volunteer.
Head of volunteers Shakira Chaudhry said there were around 12,000 women volunteers from all over the country for this march. “We have security, discipline and administrative committees. The administrative volunteers are looking after the supply of food and other basic needs of the participants whereas the discipline committee is responsible for ensuring they stay disciplined.”
Shakira said the traders had allowed them to use their washrooms whereas some have been temporarily set up.A special enclosure for old women was also there, just in case someone fell sick. “All participants were told to bring blankets, food and clothes along. We also have our own supply which will be provided to make them as comfortable as possible,” she added.