Reality check: How many in Imran Khan’s PTI rally in Lahore?

“Imran Khan’s Lahore rally was the biggest-ever show of political power in decades.”

The above and similar discourse is currently being injected in Pakistani and international media in the aftermath of a PTI rally in Lahore (30 October 2011) which was successfully engineered and enacted by Pakistan’s security establishment as a warning message to current democratic set up and also to demonstrate to the US and West that Pakistani masses are anti-USA, anti-drone, pro-Taliban and pro-Army.

Not surprisingly, the above discourse is being injected and spread not only by right wing friends of the establishment (mostly in Urdu media) but also by (fake) liberal affiliates (mostly in English media) who usually work in close coordination to promote the establishment’s interests and objectives.

A few snippets from local and international media:

Declan Walsh (sounds familiar?) writes in in Guardian (citing, of course, Najam Sethi and Mosharraf Zaidi):

“Declare your assets or face the wrath of the people,” Imran Khan shouted, drawing roars of approval, in the largest rally for decades in Lahore, Pakistan’s political heartland. The crowd reflected the vein that Khan has tapped – young, urban and mostly educated Pakistanis who have grown disillusioned by the chaotic politicking and inept governance of the traditional political elite. “It’s an activation of the upper middle class – people who, over the years, haven’t had a voice in Pakistani politics,” said political analyst Mosharraf Zaidi. “It’s been slowly taking root. People are getting disillusioned, they saw Imran as more dynamic and focused,” said Najam Sethi, a veteran journalist and analyst. “I think Imran and the army will get along very well – if he ever comes to power,” said Sethi. (Source)

Next, known pro-Taliban and pro-establishment journalist Hamid Mir offers a discourse which is not much different from Declan Walsh, Najam Sethi and Mosharraf Zaidi’s narrative.

A mind-blowing public rally of Imran Khan in Lahore on October 30 made it very difficult for the Zardari regime to give new commitments or accept any demands from the US to push its decade-long war against terror. Imran Khan has not only become a threat for traditional political parties inside Pakistan but is also going to become a big hurdle in the implementation of demands made by US during the recent visit of Hillary Clinton to Islamabad. The PTI leader criticised not only President Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif but also blasted US policies in the biggest-ever show of political power in Lahore in the past 25 years. His opponents often declared him “Taliban Khan” or the “modern face of Jamat-i-Islami” but hundreds of thousands of people enjoyed the songs of many popular singers in the Lahore rally. Imran Khan is becoming the voice of the common Pakistanis who are neither religious extremists not secular fascists. He is becoming a ray of hope for those disgruntled youngsters who have started hating democracy due to bad governance and corruption. These youngsters can now bring about a change in Pakistan through their vote power. Youth is the real power of Imran Khan and this youth belongs to the lower middle, middle class. This is the most disillusioned class in Pakistan but now the youth of this class is becoming active, which is a positive sign. Hillary Clinton needs to realise the wave of change in Pakistani politics. She cannot understand this change without engaging Imran Khan. October 30 was just a beginning. World will see more changes on the political map of Pakistan and Imran Khan will play a leading role. (Source)

Three groups of propagandists

There are currently three groups of media persons who are acting as propagandists of Imran Khan’s (ISI-backed) PTI:

1. Those who personally attended the PTI rally on 30 October 2011 and visibly demonstrated their support by being seated behind Imran Khan on the main stage.

2. Those journos who could not attend the rally in person but actively highlighted and promoted the rally in the mainstream media (e.g., Talat Hussain, Kamran Khan, Hamid Mir) and also on Twitter (e.g., Mosharraf Zaidi, Tammy Haq, Omar Waraich).

3. Those media persons who are not propagandists of PTI but are influenced by systematic lies and propaganda of the first two groups.

While we are sympathetic to the third group and hope that they will soon realize their mistake, it is the first two groups who are cunningly trying to deceive the masses through lies and tactics.

Such lies and propaganda tactics include but are not limited to:

1. Exaggerated account of total number of participants: According to most accounts, the rally comprised at the most 100,000 participants, which is per se no less an achievement. However, it is important to consider three factors:

a. For many live-hearted people of Lahore, the rally was no more than a free concert in which they could see their favourite singers (Strings, Shahzad Roy etc) perform without paying a single rupee.

b. For PPP and PML-Q supporters, it was a convenient opportunity to dent PML-N’s alleged stronghold in Lahore.

c. For activists and affiliates of Jamaat Islami, Sipah Sahaba / Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, TTP etc, the rally offered an excellent opportunity to demonstrate their support for Taliban and Al Qaeda and hatred for the West.

2. Some of the propagandists are making funny claims, e.g., the attendance at the Lahore rally was the largest ever political crowd in decades.

Benazir Bhutto’s historical reception in 1986 during General Zia-ul-Haq’s military regime, her other rallies and most importantly the 2007 rally in Karachi of one million plus supporters is conveniently ignored by such propagandists.

BB’s arrival in Lahore 1986

BB’s arrival in Karachi 2007

3. The propagandists are conveniently ignoring the most important (and most disappointing) part of the said rally, i.e., Imran Khan’s speech which according to several objective political analysts was a huge failure. According to Nadeem Paracha, the speech was nothing more than a mix of feel-good sloganeering and hollow revolutionary spiel. According to daily Mashriq, there was nothing in Khan’s speech which might represent his promised revolution or change. According to Daily Times, by keeping quiet about the military’s role in Pakistani politics and the consequent mess we are in today, Mr Khan has certainly aroused suspicion. Many believe he has the blessings of the establishment.

End product:

Here’s a specimen of end product of the pro-establishment operatives’ systematic lies and propaganda:

Finally, this reality check:

Asad Kharral in Express Tribune provides an objective estimate of total number of participants in PTI rally based on various agencies reports: The Special Branch of the Punjab Police estimated that the PTI rally on Sunday attracted between 40,000 and 45,000 people. Provincial government figures suggest that about half of the PTI rally’s attendees were from Lahore while the remaining were from the rest of Punjab and even Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and the tribal areas. The numbers from the federal government’s agencies, on the other hand, are higher. The Intelligence Bureau – the only agency directly answerable to the civilian government in Islamabad – estimates that the PTI’s crowd may have been as high as 60,000. The IB also estimates that, if the number of people unable to reach the venue due to traffic are counted, the total number of attendees at the PTI rally may well approach 100,000.

The same 100,000 (maximum) figure has been reported by various sources (ironically including some of the propagandists e.g. Hamid Mir and Declan Walsh) in their reports and columns.

To claim that PPP, PML-N or MQM have not been able to attract more than 100,000 people to a political rally in decades is a joke which must not be taken seriously.

For an example, we do not have to go very far. Right on the same day (30 October 2011) when Imran Khan was fuming against the democratic governments in Punjab (PML-N) and Pakistan (PPP-ANP-MQM coalition), the MQM in Karachi took out a massive rally in support of President Zardari which comprised a bigger crowd than Imran Khan’s political show cum musical concert in Lahore.

Unfortunately, MQM does not enjoy dedicated services of Mujib-ur Rehman Shami, Declan Walsh, Hamid Mir, Najam Sethi, Shirin Mazari, Mosharraf Zaidi etc. Thefore, MQM’s massive rally was not given due attention by certain media analysts and commentators whose current brief is limited to promoting Imran Khan and his PTI.

Here is, however, a picture of the MQM rally published in daily Dawn on 31 October 2011.

A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words. Enjoy!



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