On August 14, 2014 when I marched from Zaman Park I thought it would be my last march. As a seasoned marcher my focus was on reaching Islamabad with energies intact so I moved ahead of the group. On the way people had gathered to receive the soldiers of change.

The historic grand Trunk or GT road has seen marchers moving in both directions. It was Qayyum Khan who decided to march from Peshawar to Karachi the capital city in 1958. At the age of five years I stood with my father to receive him on the Mall, Lahore. Since then I have been a part of every long march. As the marchers reached Shahdara, Khan Sahib was arrested and taken to the dungeons of the infamous Lahore Fort. Martial Law was clamped and the democratic journey of the country stalled.

In a democratic dispensation peaceful protest is a basic right of the people. Unfortunately the rulers in Pakistan are unable to face the ruled because of the huge gaps. The forces of status-quo are entrenched and unwilling to change.

Around 4 PM I tried to enter Islamabad from GT road on Kashmir Highway but it was blocked by containers. I turned back to enter Rawalpindi, perhaps for the first time in the history of Pakistan the GT road was also blocked near the Ayub Park, I was advised to go through Bahria Town/DHA which I did not. Experience came to my rescue, I started looking for openings, finally a VIP car was allowed to pass through from the side of the container, which I followed and reached Westridge. There is a back door exit with a narrow bridge over the Nullah Leih, which was also blocked. Finally I reached the blockade at Golra the main entrance to the capital of the first Islamic Republic. The marchers from KPK were there, trying to get in. I found my way to E-11 sector through the back streets of Golra Sharif. As the numbers swelled the comrades from KPK were able to move the containers and get through.

On reaching the “Dharna” site on Kashmir highway near Serena Chowk we discovered that there were no arrangements on the ground. The main procession was expected to reach around 4 PM on August 15, 2014 whereas it made it at 3:30 AM on August 16, 2014. Most marchers with the exception of the Kaptaan looked dead. After speeches the stage was empty, while the crowed was there, the leadership was missing. At this stage the senior leadership from Punjab took change and reached the site around 11 AM on August 16, 2014. We occupied the stage and speeches were started together with music. The crowed was re-assured that Khan Sahib would return in a few hours. On the hope of seeing their leader, the marchers braved the weather finally the Kaptaan arrived around 8 PM in pouring rain. He then promised to sleep there with the marchers that he did and is still there.

From October 1958 to August 2014, there have been several marches. That is how the comrades of change have kept the struggle alive for Quaid’s Pakistan which was hijacked in 1958. PMLN has came up with a strange argument, ‘If the PM resigns Pakistan will be ruled by the mob’. If a government is formed on the a basis of rigged elections and then kills 14 unwarned citizens it has no right to rule, I will be the first to march against such a regime no matter which party it belongs to.

In 2007 when we decided to March against the fourth dictator it was not for Iftikhar Chaudhry but for the rule of law. Had the CJP not gone home after the expiry of his term we would have marched again. Let there be no misconception, the comrades are battle hardened and ready to march till the country is back on track. In the Naya Pakistan there will be no room for ‘Lotas’ and ‘Luteras’. The ‘Dharna’ in DHA Lahore in May 2013 against rigging was spontaneous and started by first time voters who felt betrayed and cheated. The old comrades joined them, the Kaptaan was incapacitated and in his absence no one could lead the charge.

PTI as a party decided to pursue the legal redressal processes which started with election tribunals. Instead of letting the tribunals do their work, PMLN stalwarts got stay orders against them, as such recounting and verification could not be done. When NADRA under Tariq Malik agreed to help he was forcibly made to resign. A tainted ballot does not produce a mandate, it calls for re-electionm as was agreed in 1977. Otherwise a long march is the only viable option.

Some lessons have to be learnt and recorded. While I salute the resilience of the marchers who are still there but I question the capabilities of the organizers. There are no short cuts to experience. The jazba and junoon do play an important role but so does planning and organization, which were missing. The people of Pakistan believe and trust the Imran Khan. After the speech of the leader when I was finding my way through the green patch at right, a young family was trying to reach the Dharna. The husband was holding the hands of two minors while the wife was carrying a toddler, they inquired about the direction to the gathering. I gave them a pragmatic answer to go home as it was late, wet, hazardous and the speeches were over, they did not even slow down and kept walking. Khan is right change has come. “Naya Pakistan” is now un-stoppable.

The containers have failed to contain the marchers but numbers are important in order to achieve expeditious results. To end the impasse and move in the direction of “Naya Pakistan” the oldies and their organizations have to be peacefully incapacitated as we have done in all marches in the past. The rulers of Islamabad have always failed to contain the ruled. The writing is on the wall, change is inevitable, and the days of the status quo are now numbered. After the march is over the comrades should get ready to present proofs of rigging followed by fresh election in 2015 for a “Naya Pakistan” to emerge from the ashes of ‘Lotas’ and ‘Luteras’.

    The writer is ex-chairman, Pakistan Science Foundation.