WAZIRISTAN: PTI’S GREEN OVER RED

By Brig Samson S Sharaf

As I drove at nerve wrecking speed towards Dera Ismail Khan in the milieu of an unending line of vehicles, bumper to bumper, side to side, I kept contemplating on the vigour of emotions that gripped the participants on all roads leading to Waziristan. They came from all over and all walks; Land Rovers, Toyota Land Cruisers, Lexus, cars, rickety loaders with people precariously packed on roofs, buses, rickshaws and motor cycles. A lapse of concentration and suddenly I see an 80 years old politician overtaking me from the bumpy shoulder of the road at a speed over 100 KMPH. My God! Where does this old man get his energy and alertness with no margin for error?  How does one describe this trendsetting tide of a rising, controlled and disciplined energy in the people of every age group and description?

My explanation is that this is a reflection of a tide sweeping all corners of Pakistan; a country Imran Khan envisions to remodel on the clarity of its founding father Qaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s vision. To the people who follow him, it means a new temperate quality of willpower that constructively channelizes the continuing rush of adrenalin to political romanticism; an ability to flirt with danger and dance on the edge; conquer fear in pursuit of a mission impossible and rally where patriotism is forlorn. As the Green continues to sweep over the Red, so will the stakes of the people in the future of Pakistan. Symbolically, this march was a manifestation of an egalitarian, self reliant and a proud Pakistan, a mission for Peace at Home and Peace Abroad. This is the Tsunami.

This Peace Rally was neither for the chicken hearted nor those who harbour a vested political stake. It was for the brave and lion hearted. Self aggrandisement was the least of motivations to dance on the edge with a tag on one’s life. The dangers were unknown and threats grotesquely exaggerated. As imaging of dangers grew the rally gathered steam, momentum and a purpose on its way to Waziristan. This was an indomitable march of romantic revolutionaries.

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First, the challenge of physical safety of individuals speeding on narrow pot holed roads and cross country? It reminded me of a soldier’s charge in a battle field and an espirit de corps that rallies them into a single efficient battle group.  How else could one describe the moments when containers were removed with physical force, imagination exercised to bypass obstacles and circumvent the contours of Tank to bypass a city where the administration wished to halt the rally in its tracks.

Secondly, the rally was a threat to the space occupied by other political groups for decades. There were announcements from the mosques in Dera Ismail Khan and Tank that a Jew and Christian sponsored group was coming to fool the people and must be resisted in the name of Islam. Leaflets were distributed to demonise the rally. As if this was not enough, a night earlier there was a symbolic rocket attack on a police post in Tank to scare the participants. The continuing chatter on walkie-talkies, some real and some propaganda, warning Fidayeen attacks on the forces of Zionism with devastating effect failed to dent the psychology of the people. Tank and hamlets along the way waited with warm hearts and high expectations.

Thirdly, at Mian Mehram Sultan, the local administration scared the rally of impending dangers. The purpose was to impose a fear of unknown and subdue the will of the people. Once the rally got restive, they cocked weapons and loaded tear gas guns. Yet their arguments lacked persuasion and conviction to make cognitive dents. Administration’s hearts were writ large on their faces; that they belonged to the cause. Many policemen surprisingly joined in slogans and even offered cold water. By the time we reached Manzai on the outskirts of Waziristan and over 50 Kms ahead of Tank, the resistance of the legendary disciplined and battle hardy Frontier Corps was symbolic. Their body language, candour and the way they held their weapons indicated the shallowness in the order of the day.

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Fourthly, the character of the rally was ‘do or die’. As I witnessed highly charged and emotional scenes at Manzai, my inquest on Imran Khan’s leadership and charisma grew. Each individual had conquered fear. Amidst heated arguments with the Agency officials anything could have happened. Leaders like Azam Khan Swati, Admiral Javed Iqbal and Masood Sharif Khattak offered themselves to be shot. The Pathan, Punjabi and Sindhi motor cyclists throttled their engines to charge into the barrier of concertina barbed wires. There were recitations of Surah e Fatah. It was a do or die!

Then suddenly came a moment of introspection; amidst the chaos echoed the National Anthem of Pakistan. A local Mehsud had a complete sound system fitted on his motorcycle. There was an eerie silence; patriotism came to fore.  Every individual including the law enforcement agencies were spell-bound holding back tears. When the trance ended, the Pushto chorus of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf blurted; everyone moved into a rhythm of a Mehsud Dance. The mountains landscaping Waziristan echoed with slogans of Pakistan Zindabad, a rarity in this part of the world. Empathy for apathy was significant. The Political Agent of South Waziristan merely going through his routine of law and order lectures permitted the vanguard of the rally to proceed into the Valley of Death; Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf had finally reached its destination as the sun was setting behind the ablaze and oranged mountainous horizon of Waziristan. In a rare display of patriotism, controlled energy, discipline and high state of morale, Imran Khan had conquered hearts and minds and his Cheetas and Tigers the frontiers of South Waziristan.  As a testimony for history and sceptics, I kept calling and tweeting through GPRS, thereby the geographical coordinates of where we were that late evening.

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At Tank, the entire town housing millions of displaced tribesmen had turned out to greet the caravan. Pathan Ladies of a tribal society dared out to shower the rally with petals. For security and administrative reasons, it was decided to hold the public meeting in a ground nearby. It was a fervour and frenzy beyond the epoch making gathering of 30 October 2011 at Lahore. Here they were in even numbers proudly carrying the National Honours and with it the sea of Green over Red.

Reaching South Waziristan and holding a public gathering at Tank is not the end of the road. Imran Khan has once again displayed his ability to infuse a spirit and devotion in his people that generals in a battle field envy. The major challenge for him is to harness this sea of emotions and patriotism into a people’s revolution pursuing the vision of the founding fathers. People have entrusted their lives in him and he has no option but to reclaim Pakistan for Pakistanis. The impetus of National Well Being with Peace at Home and Peace abroad must not be allowed to die down.

Well Done Kaptaan!

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