On Sunday, January 30, 2011, a cross-section of the Pakistani youth gathered at Liberty Chowk, the place where a couple of years ago, a dastardly terrorist attack against the Sri Lankan cricket team occurred. This rally was arranged mainly by the citizens of Lahore, including some civil society organizations who stepped up with the arrangement and local mobilizations, and with gathering people who are not even computer literate. As per the attendance list on Facebook, around 600 people were expected to attend the rally.
What’s more important is that online netizens who joined this Facebook group page acknowledged the goal of this walk; that they “do not want our country to be hijacked by irrational hate mongers”. In this pursuit, they are not alone; people from all walks of life, especially the youth, were out to protest against intolerance and disharmony in society, and to condemn violence, terrorism and extremism.
The protesters in attendance chanted slogans against mullah’s and extremism, and stated that Pakistan is for all Pakistanis despite ethnic, linguistic, religious and sectarian differences. They blamed intolerance and corruption as
the root cause of ills and evils in society, because of which the common man continued to suffer and face horrible predicaments.
According to some estimates, 200 people in attendance is a verifiable figure. However, around 500 people were in attendance at Liberty Chowk, and it is understandable that a lot of people – seeing this ‘dismal’ turnout – left before the rally proceeded to Kalma Chowk. Between 100 and 200 people were present when the rally peacefully disbanded near Kalma Chowk.
Figures can be challenged and disputed, they can be argued over and corrected. But the most important thing is the idea that people stand for, and are willing to come out on the streets for. The Facebook attendance list seems to have been useful as far as the turnout shows. The turnout was a little less than those who promised via Facebook to attend the rally. There were many people present who were not computer literate, who had no access to the internet or to modern, new age facilities; all they knew was that Pakistan is facing tough times, that intolerance and extremism is on the rise, and that as citizens of Pakistan, as the youth, and as the future of this country, they must do something about it.
This is Pakistan. We are the sane, rational and nonviolent majority. We are the majority who yearn for a peaceful Pakistan with an equitable society for all Pakistanis. We are the majority because we resolve to protect our minorities and different sectarian groups.
We do not believe in the politics of murder, of oppression and of inequality.
Chaahiay aisa Pakistan
Baraabar ho jahan sab insaan