ISLAMABAD - The huge presence of religiously motivated rather self-driven activists of Tehreek Minhajul Quran (TMQ) occupying Jinnah Avenue has stamped the fact that they could stay in Islamabad as long as Dr. Tahirul Qadri wants.

Their preparation, motivation and spiritual affiliation with their beloved leader, Allama Tahirul Qadri, show that they are able to bravely survive the capital’s severe weather conditions and other hardships associated with protest sit-ins in general for a long.

General public component is entirely missing, as those who are participating in the sit-in on Jinnah Avenue are mainly affiliated with TMQ. Even some travelled all the way from abroad on the call of their leader. Participants have come with their backpacks and carrying blankets under their arms.

Though, the participants are not well aware of the cause selected for them by their leader, but one thing everyone there knows is that they under the leadership of Tahirul Qadri are striving for a changed country.

“I am here with a demand of change in the Constitution of the country,” Dr Amjad, a doctor of homeopathy from Chiniot, naively commented when he was asked as to why he was participating in the protest. “If Dr Sahib says to stay here even for a month I will stay and if he asked to leave right now I will leave,” Amjad said.  

Being a non-political, non-sectarian and non-governmental organization, Tehreek Minhajul Quran lacks typical and popular slogans required to make alive the audiences at homes in particular and the participants of some political gathering in general. And this reality was reflecting from the overall mode of the gathering.

The popular slogans the participants were chanting time and again were ‘we want change’ and ‘Inqalab Inqalab, Mustafvi Inqilab’. Besides, from main stage the administration of the march was playing two different party anthems mainly sung in praise of Tahirul Qadri, depicting the participants’ devotion and loyalty to Qadri and dedication to the cause they were striving for under his leadership.

The external appearance of majority of the participants of sit-in is evident to their religion-dominated backgrounds. Most of the men including youngsters are light-bearded, while women and teenaged girls are dressed in gowns covering their heads with scarf besides several typical burqa-clad elderly women.

However, the presence of PTI leaders including Jamal Khan Leghari and Masood Sharif Khattak, former IB chief, and several office-bearers of Insaf Student Federal in the gathering astonished many.

Though, to some extent, the crowd was charged, but a lack of connection in terms of participants’ response to slogans rose from the main stage is witnessed. Less-responsive to main stage, the participants, however, found frantically waving national flags to party anthems.

While, young girls forming the starting three rows of the women-side of the gathering were enthusiastic while chanting slogans “Inqalab Lain Gi - Tahir Tayri Beteyan” and “What We Want - Change”.

Many families are also participating in the protest. Amjad Hussain, 39, is accompanied with his wife, Sobia, and six-year-old daughter, Fizza.

According to Amjad Hussain, he was participating the rally for better future of his children. “These ruling thugs have eaten up all the resources of the country. We can’t tolerate them anymore,” Hussain said.

Miraj Hamayon Khan, 56, said that she was participating in the long march because she did not see any ray of hope until the PML-N and PPP were present in power corridors. “I want change of government in result of this protest,” she said when asked about his demand.  

The main stage is set up on two huge containers with seating a capacity for over 18 people. Bulletproof shields are installed around the podium that is installed on the left side of the stage.

Since 11:00 in the morning, the people started pouring on to the Dharna venue. At first the activists of TMQ belonging to twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad rushed there and in later stages people from all across the country started reaching the place.

Till 7:00 pm around 15,000 participants including some 4000 women forming a charged crowd were present at the protest venue, but as Qadri delayed his entry, a considerable portion of the crowd started dispersing widely to nearby areas.

Several found their way to nearby hotels to have food, while many people lie down on the corners of the road covering their entire bodies in shawls and blankets they have brought along to restore their energies.

While many participants hailed from Punjab and Kashmir found rooming on the roads to have a look of the federal capital.

A team of 3000 dedicated young volunteers of Minhajul Quran, among them 2000 male and 1000 female remained on their toes, performing different duties assigned to them with great efficiency.

Sardar Safdar, head of administration at the venue and a party activist since 1987, said 3000 volunteers have been assigned security and other administrative duties in and around the venue of protest.

The entry to protest gathering was given from two different points. The volunteer are thoroughly checking the entrants under two layers security arrangements. While near the stage, media has been given a separate entry/exit gate. 

Sardar Safdar said for dinner on Monday the party had arranged meal for 200,000 people. “The menu has deliberately been kept simple so that people don’t use toilets unnecessarily. However, work on construction of 500 makeshift toilets is in progress,” Safdar said.

The workers till Monday night remained busy in construction of makeshift toilets at the greenbelts in Blue Area approximately a quarter mile away from the venue of protest.