Anatomy of a Pakistani election rally

February 17th, 2008 - 4:53 pm ICT by admin  

(Pakistan poll diary)
By Devirupa Mitra
Rawalpindi, Feb 17 (IANS) In India, it would be like a small neighbourhood corner meeting. But security concerns in Pakistan turn even a small rally into a major headache for the local police. On the last day of the election campaigning Saturday, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Shahbaz Sharif came to address a rally in Rawalpindi’s Dhok Saiyala Kalan, an empty expanse of land among dense, but random construction of houses and shops - almost a mirror of Delhi’s illegal colonies.

He came, but only after the rally premises were sealed off completely by bullet-proof vest wearing police sharpshooters. There were only two entrances for the swarms of male-only crowd, who had to come through a metal-detector and were then manually checked.

The high dais consisted of four containers stacked together, with the speaker protected by a bullet-proof glass. The party apparatus had hired their own gunmen, who stood around with menacing double-barrel shotguns.

And before the leader arrived, the audience were asked to remove their heavy woollen chadors - often their only protection against the cold wind.

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Media-saturated elections

Even as the ordinary voter seems lukewarm about the Pakistan general elections, television channels are giving blanket coverage of the polls, with reports on candidates, constituencies and campaigns. While the main news bulletins are filled with various announcements, there are also extensive interviews with individual candidates on their views ranging from the sewerage system to war on terror.

But after the end of campaigning Saturday night, the channels Sunday had to do special programmes so that there was no violation of the election code of conduct. Aaj television had a programme on how elections and their results were distorted by army authorities and the ruling government since Pakistan’s formation in 1947. On the other hand, Waqt TV resorted to satirical short skits to show humourously the state of the country, and conducted mock interviews with actors wearing masks of major candidates.

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Tiger or lion?

For a political party, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)’s election symbol is one of the most sought after symbols that can be easily interpreted in rhetorical terms - a tiger.

But, while it has strong rhetoric reasons, it is not so easily drawn on a poster. The actual symbol shows a black and white line drawing of the entire length of a tiger on its right side.

But, on a poster, it turns into a head shot of a royal Bengal tiger, a crouching tiger ready for a kill or even sports a mane and shifts shape to become a lion.

In contrast, the Pakistan Peoples Party and PML (Quaid) have much simpler symbols - an arrow and a bicycle.

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