ISLAMABAD - Imran Khan looked calm and confident on Saturday while addressing his supporters for the second time but he seemed annoyed and disappointed on his first arrival to the thin crowd on Friday. During his Saturday's speech to participants of long march, Khan seemed a bit confident to see a relatively impressive gathering unlike Friday when the venue he had promised to be swamped by a million supporters was presenting a deserted look.
Visibly perturbed by the thin presence of supporters during his first address to the long march participants, Imran came up with more harsh demands seeking resignations of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
But on Saturday, when a sizeable number of supporters reached the venue, Khan looked calm and happy, besides making the crowd smile with his words. The scene of his arrival at the venue was worth watching when Khan found to his surprise a small number of supporters greeting him at a time when his PTI had threatened the government with the biggest long march of the history.
Occupying the front seat of white land cruiser that reached Aabpara Chowk late Friday night, Imran looked annoyed and disappointed after seeing a thin crowd welcoming him on Kashmir Highway.
Driven by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Lahore registered land cruiser was supposed to be parked at Aabpara Chowk where a space was reserved for the vehicle and guarded by loyalists as the entrance to PTI's rally was sealed in the evening for vehicles by installing walkthrough gates. According to organisers, PTI's chief Imran Khan and other leaders in the car including Sheikh Rashid had to park the car at the entry point of the rally and then would walk on foot to the stage as the road leading to the dais was occupied by participants.
A group of activists who stood near the walkthrough gates were tasked with showering rose petals on Imran who would be making his first appearance at the venue and would be escorted to the main stage on shoulders. But Khan was too late and participants who had been waiting for his arrival since Thursday had almost lost their energies to withstand the continuous rain that forced hundreds of activists to run for shelters. By the time Khan made it to the venue, he found a deserted road except a thin crowd near the stage triggering the organisers to direct Shah Mehmood Qureshi to hit the road straight towards Sports Complex as the venue was no more occupied by participants.
Clad in light blue shalwar qameez, Khan did not make a victory signal to supporters and instead was observed arguing with Qureshi as the car made its way through the thin crowd.
Suddenly the land cruiser stopped near the stage and Khan got off without waving hand to the supporters who had waited him for more than 40 hours. Instead, he posed an angry look when one of the participants, who were perched on roof of a container, extended his arm for a handshake.
Interestingly, Qureshi remained in the car and was observed sipping water from a bottle as Khan was being escorted by police and supporters to the main stage. Sheikh Rashid and Qureshi later joined the main speakers on dais.
Khan refused to take cover under an umbrella placed above him by a party colleague to shield him from the pouring rain. Seated in the midst of other party leadership on the top of stage, Khan looked at the crowd that seemed thinner while looking from the top of the container.
A close aide of Imran who had accompanied the long march from Lahore said that the PTI chief had anticipated a big crowd against the ground reality. "He is not impressed. I can read his face and gestures," he observed.
One senior PTI leader told The Nation that Khan had grilled organisers for failing to keep participants intact at Kashmir Highway, adding that Imran was not happy with the PTI's KP officer-bearers about the number of supporters from the province.
This is why PTI managed on Saturday to pull sizeable crowd ahead of Khan's second appearance at the venue as he had promised to spend the whole night with protesters.