Riding with the leaders of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf | Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf
<p>&#160;</p> <p>By Fraz Shafique [Courtesy Insaf Action Committee (IAC)]</p> <p class="MsoNormal">November 21, 2008<br /> <br /> We arrived at the Lahore Airport with Punjab President Ahsan Rashid and former ISF Lahore convener Mohammad Madni.&#160; Madni had his task cut out for him as he was receiving non-stop calls on his two mobile sets from Lahoris wanting to join the party during the membership campaign. <br /> <br /> "It takes me around 5 minutes to finish one call and by then there are a dozen missed calls in my phone log," stated the firebrand activist. <br /> <br /> As we approached the arrival section a dozen ritalin-alert military men, with raised rifles ready to pull the trigger at the hint of danger, emerged surrounding a short man dressed in a suit and wearing sunglasses.&#160; My first thought was why a seeming bureaucrat deserved such a heavy security dedication.&#160; <br /> <br /> "Who would waste time trying to do anything to him?" inquired Ahsan Rashid.&#160; <br /> <br /> Turns out, the VVVIP was the defense minister of the country.&#160; While the PTI Punjab President had a point, the minister had built a resume of consistent gaffes that at the very least warranted a slap or two from the general populace.&#160; While we were still weighing the basis for the unbelievable security provided to the defense minister, Chairman Imran Khan walked out by himself, without any fanfare - other than the excited porters who ran toward him for a hand shake.&#160; Chairman Khan would be shaking a lot of hands today.&#160; <br /> <br /> We got into Ahsan Rashids car with Information Secretary Omar Sarfraz Cheema taking the drivers seat.&#160; Lahore President Mian Mehmood ur Rashid and Political Secretary Saifullah Niazi completed the passenger list.&#160; Mehmood ur Rashid briefed the Chairman on the incredible success of the Lahore membership drive as we headed toward our first of six camp stops across the metropolis of Lahore opposite the General Hospital on Ferozepur Road.&#160; <br /> <br /> "Allah has really helped us with this drive," humbly stated Mehmood ur Rashid. <br /> <br /> "But Zardari has also been a big help," observed Chairman Khan in a tone not so much thankful as helpless.&#160; <br /> <br /> "People are so fed up of his government and that factor is also reflected in the big numbers were seeing join PTI!" <br /> <br /> We arrived at our first camp and were quickly surrounded by Chairman Khans admirers.&#160; One of the massive floats began blaring patriotic songs while PTI flags proudly rose into the air.&#160; <br /> <br /> Throughout the journey, the phones of the PTI leaders kept ringing.&#160; <br clear="all" /> <br /> "Khan sahib, you must have dinner with us!" declared Mehmood ur Rashid. <br /> <br /> "Yes!&#160; Sooner the better - I am famished!"&#160; <br /> <br /> Mehmood ur Rashid called up the owner of Butt Sweets family restaurant at Laxmi Chowk and ordered chicken karrahi to be prepared for the team.&#160; <br /> <br /> "Make sure the chicken you slaughter is no more than 1.5 years old!" thundered Mehmood ur Rashid for the xth time to the owner of Butt Sweets.&#160; Chairman Khan laughed and readily agreed with the Lahore Presidents taste.&#160;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">In spotless Punjabi, the Chairman heartily declared: "Sanu buddha kukarr naeen langda!"&#160; <br /> <br /> Our next stop was Chuhngi Amar Sadhu further along on Ferozpur Road.&#160; This was one of the camps that wasnt planned but due to the euphoria, residents emerged and insisted they too wanted to take part in the growth of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in Lahore.&#160; This is an area of the city seldom frequented by the media but bustled with the general laborers and transporters.&#160; The camp was also the most organized in terms of crowd management and the scenes of supporters seeking to have their membership cards signed by Chairman Khan were less chaotic.&#160; <br /> <br /> After an appraisal of the camp and congratulating those who had taken the initiative to launch it, we left for the stop off College Road.&#160; Located in Township, it was in the middle of an extremely congested market.&#160; The location also offered the most rewards in terms of memberships obtained.&#160; It was manned and run by Dr. Shahid Siddiqui who has been active in assisting with welfare activities in the city.&#160; As we left the bustling localities leaving behind the loud sloganeering in favor of the PTI leader, Mehmood ur Rashid wiped his forehead and revealed an interesting tidbit political adversaries were spreading, perhaps indicating a sense of panic in their ranks. <br /> <br /> "The latest word on the street is that the Jewish lobby and ISI are supporting Tehreek-e-Insaf," informed Mehmood ur Rashid.&#160; <br /> <br /> "Thats certainly news.&#160; Why would ISI want to support us if this government is proving to be more than sufficient?" responded the Chairman.<br /> <br /> Mehmood ur Rashid had ensured that PTI membership drive came in with a bang and while it continues, there is bound to be a reassessment of the party by the opposing forces.&#160; Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf was a tide that could only rise.&#160; How does an opposing party deal with an entity that can go nowhere but up?&#160; To repeat a phrase voiced during the Presidential election in the United States, "How does one fight a movement?" <br /> <br /> "I have ordered another 40,000 membership forms," said Saifullah Niazi after stating that the initial ones had run out in under one week.&#160;</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><br /> The issue of resources cropped up - it was bound to.&#160; Although well managed and within the limits specified by PTI Lahore, the amounts add up once the rest of Pakistan is brought into the picture.&#160;</p> <p class="MsoNormal">"If we had the resources the other parties have, we could have done so much more," stated Ahsan Rashid.&#160; However, he highlighted that for each member PTI takes in, it will translate into on average four additional household votes.<span>&#160; </span>Therefore, if PTI Lahore manages to secure 150,000 members during the two week drive, it will mean a whooping 700,000+ votes securely placing PTI in position to win the most seats from Lahore in the next elections.<span>&#160; </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">"Furthermore, since were seeing that 80% of the members are from among the youth, we have secured a solid vote bank that is most aggressive about seeking change as their future directly depends on it."<span>&#160; </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">We arrived at the Icchra camp to loud cheers and supporters sprinkling flowers at the Chairman and his accompanying leaders.&#160; At this camp Irfan Hasan, another young firebrand member delivered his speech imploring members of society to join PTI.&#160; PTI Vice President Ejaz Chaudhary was also persent to prop up the workers of the party.&#160; <br /> <br /> Often times during the trip Ahsan Rashid seemed preoccupied with the future strategies for the party - financial and logistical - as the Lahore membership campaign had proven to being exceptionally well executed and was delivering results in the main Punjabi city.&#160; <br /> <br /> "Go for Rawalpindi next.&#160; Weve got some good workers there like Sadaqat Ali Abbasi and the Islamabad team can assist as well," was the suggestion of the Chairman.&#160; "Faisalabad needs a proper ground force first." <br /> <br /> For Ahsan Rashid, the cities to target in Punjab were many.&#160; Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Gujranwala and Multan to name a few.&#160; While the PTI leaders were confident of sweeping NWFP, Punjabs status had been unclear until this membership campaign perhaps due to the role of the largest party in the province.&#160; <br /> <br /> As we disembarked from the Allama Iqbal bridge we entered the heavily populated outliers of Old City Lahore.&#160; This was a hardcore constituency of the provincial government.&#160; It was at least.&#160; Billboards, flags and posters were plastered in the area with pictures of the Chief Minister and his son who had gotten elected unopposed.&#160; The Lahore citys apparatus was unhappy seeing PTI launch this campaign but Ahsan Rashid had gotten the permission from the CM, who perhaps did not realize the PTI campaign would be so successful and launched with such methodical execution.&#160; The success of the campaign in the heart of the political capital can set the example and pave the way for the other cities of the nation to replicate.&#160; <br /> <br /> Unfortunately, and it was bound to happen, the PTI leaders were stuck in a horrendous traffic jam.&#160; Chairman Khan informed us that he had not had lunch and was extremely hungry now.&#160; Tempers also flared up with at the visibly poor behavior of the traffic which had turned a small road that could barely handle two lanes, into one with five lanes.&#160; <br /> <br /> "Why dont the traffic police go down the line and fine anyone who breaks the rules.&#160; That way there wont be any of these jams!" sensibly reasoned the occupants of the car.&#160; Mehmood ur Rashid looked vexed that so much time was being wasted.&#160; His mobile phone battery ran out while he was trying to ask someone at the destination camps for an alternate route.&#160;&#160;<br /> <br /> <span lang="EN-US" style="font-size: 11pt; color: #333333; font-family: Arial"><font size="2">In the meantime, different topics were discussed such as making PTI a strong institution by having elections within the party in a few months time.&#160; Chairman Khan was adamant about internal elections as this was the only way to establish a permanent change. &#160;Omar Sarfraz Cheema gave some damning statistics about the results of the emerging <span id="lw_1227545116_0"><span class="yshortcuts">water shortages</span></span> due to the <span id="lw_1227545116_1" style="cursor: hand"><span class="yshortcuts">Chenab river</span></span> being dammed by <span id="lw_1227545116_2"><st1:country-region w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on"><span class="yshortcuts">India</span></st1:place></st1:country-region><font size="2">.&#160; Millions of acres of <span id="lw_1227545116_3"><span class="yshortcuts">arable land</span></span> would be effected he revealed.&#160; There was also an emphasis on ensuring proper media coverage of the rally to conclude the campaign on <span id="lw_1227545116_4" style="background-position: 0% 0%; background-attachment: scroll; cursor: hand"><span class="yshortcuts">December 1</span></span>.</font>&#160;</span></font></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal">After half an hour the traffic began to move at a crawl and we turned toward Misri Shah from the Do Moriya Bridge, beyond which the Old City begins.&#160; The camp at Misri Shah and in Shadbagh were both run by Usama Rana who along with his boisterous supporters brimmed with confidence and courage.&#160; <br /> <br /> "I promise PTI will sweep this part of Lahore," he declared without any hesitation.&#160; <br /> <br /> After the upbeat tours of the last two camps, Mehmood ur Rashid insisted that Chairman Khan devout one day for the heart of Lahore, undruun city - the Old City, in the last day of the campaign before the December 1 rally.&#160; This has been the call of many PTI Lahore activists who know the symbolic significance of winning the walled city region.&#160; The undruun city is to Lahore what Lahore is to Pakistan.&#160; <br /> <br /> It had been a long day - perhaps longer for Chairman Khan as he rapidly emptied the containers of raita and mint chatni with a spoon while waiting for the karrahi - but an equally rewarding one.&#160; As the PTI leaders drove through the metropolis into the congested alleys and streets, the seeds they had planted, were beginning to germinate. <br /> <br /> "If Muhammad cant get to the mountain, the mountain will come to Muhammad" - with the launch of the membership drive, PTI has gone to the masses.&#160; The dedicated workers of the party have shown determination during the most difficult of times and stood by their leaders.&#160; We often hear of Chairman Khan inspiring the workers.&#160; But as this campaign continues, it is the workers who are inspiring the leadership.&#160;</p>