Cocooned sit-in: Insaf activists prefer safety of DHA bubble

Friday, August 29th, 2014 1:22:36 by

LAHORE: Lalak Jan Chowk, famous for its cafes and ice cream corners, is in the news these days with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) sit-ins entering their second week.

The sit-ins started against alleged electoral rigging on August 20 on the call of party chairman Imran Khan.

Earlier, similar sit-ins were held by PTI supporters at the Lalak Jan Chowk and Ghazi Chowk immediately after elections.

The chowk is centrally located in the Defence Housing Authority (DHA). The DHA cinema is nearby as is the T-Block Market famous for its cafes popular with the youth.

Hundreds of protestors have been at the chowk since the protests started.

The crowds frequently chant slogans and party anthems play in the background. The mood is festive.

The protestors are seen taking selfies and recording video messages for Imran Khan. Many wear red and green scarves and paint their faces.

Imran Khan’s speeches are broadcast live on a projector screen.

“We have arranged this,” says Khalid Fazil, one of the protestors.

“Residents of the area donated for it,” he says.

News from the demonstration is regularly updated on an event page on Facebook (Dharna in Lahore against Nawaz Sharif and Rigged Election). The page is run by more than 10 people.

Nearly 42,000 invites were sent off from the event page and 6,000 had confirmed their acceptance.

The venue for the protest has not been free of controversy, with another Tehreek-i-Insaf protest being held at Liberty Chowk.

On Tuesday, the demonstration at Lalak Jan Chowk was moved to Liberty but on Wednesday, separate events were held at Liberty and Lalak Jan Chowks.

Muhammad Awais Riaz, an organiser of the Lalak Jan protest, is a student pursuing his master’s degree in London.

Riaz says the venue was chosen to ensure a “safe and secure” environment for families who wanted to make their voices heard.

“Our protests include families and we wanted to have a safe space to protest,” he says.

He says there have been no complaints by neighbours.

“The area is largely commercial,” he remarks.

HR professional Sharood Zafar, a resident of Phase III, says the demonstration disrupts traffic.

“These protests have made a mess of traffic,” he said. “At this point I don’t care about any political party, I want a peaceful life.”

Since the protest started at Lalak Jan Chowk, roads have been cordoned at Ghazi Chowk.

Traffic heading towards Lalak Jan chowk is directed to alternate routes.

“We respect people’s right to protest but there are other sites more suitable the purpose,” says Mudassir Haq, an IT professional living in Phase V. “These protests are practically at our doorstep.”

The DHA administration says no special security arrangements have been made by them for the sit-ins.

Ejaz Masood, of the DHA public relations office, says security arrangements were made by the police.

He says no complaints have been received from any of the residents.

Bilal Khan and his family, residents of Phase II, say they are stuck in traffic jam for 30 minutes near the protest site around the weekend.

“It is loud and crowded. There is chaos and confusion,” says Khan.

Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz activists also organised a rally last weekend in support of the government at Wateen Chowk, approximately 1.5 kilometres from the Lalak Jan Chowk where PTI supporters were gathered. Abubakar Umer, a software professional and a social media activists for the PML-N, says political parties were shifting their activities beyond traditional sites. Umer aspires to hold more activities in the area.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2014.

Lahore News Sources -2

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