Monday, October 31, 2011

MayN tau DekhooN Ga

A fellow-volunteer at TCF (The Citizens Foundation) asked me yesterday if I was going to the PTI rally. My first reaction was to laugh, and then wonder, 'Women go to political rallies?' Perhaps what I really thought was 'Do women like us go to political rallies?' 'Us' being 'shareef' and middle class, belonging to families who may have acquired almost-elite status over time, but whose middle class values dictate that the arena for women's political participation be the family's television lounge, not the uncertain grounds of Minar-e-Pakistan.

By the morning the momentum was clearly palpable on my Twitter timeline. I have always been ambivalent about Khan's politics but I am also a sucker for a 'mela' and this was promising to be a carnival like no other. Despite trepidation at braving such crowds on my own, I went out driving alone and joined the PTI caravan at Kalma Chowk, buoyed by the hope that harassment of women might figure low on the agenda of willing attendees of a rally for change. The optimism wasn't misplaced, for the most part. The Lawyer's Movement had brought the burger crowd to the streets before, but this felt different. For many of those following the caravan from Defence and Model Town, just going to Minar-e-Pakistan was an act of immersion and solidarity with the general populace, and a form of political awakening. Jeans and maila kurtas all powering forth in one direction.
Encroaching on PPP territory?
It was certain by this time that the gathering was going to be huge. People around me made victory signs atop buses belonging to private local colleges. Cars played Amanat Ali Khan's 'Ae Watan Pyaare Watan' but the most ubiquitous song remained 'Jazba Junoon', blared constantly from the leading truck in the procession. I wondered if other political rallies ever use music from a Pakistani rock band, and whether I was imbuing this act with too much meaning. But to children of Zia's era even small signs of 'progressiveness' are cause for some celebration and relief. This pop music motif continued till the end, an obviously deliberate attempt to soften the 'Taliban Khan' image and to keep PTI's strong youth base harnessed.

Not exactly voting age
I saw many of my Aitchison students along the way, most of whom will turn 18 next year. This means none of them is a potential voter because they are not eligible for vote registration yet. They couldn't have formed even one percent of the total number in the rally, but their presence did reinforce the Zohair Toru stereotype in my mind, possibly because I knew most of them personally. A democracy, however, for good or for bad, does not differentiate between a Zohair Toru and an Ardeshir Cowasjee

Aitchison's most illustrious son?
Upon reaching Oriental College, Punjab University, I parked my car inside (privileges of being the ex-Principal's daughter) and joined some friends in theirs. It was their first time at such a rally and the three middle-aged sisters had much of the well-intentioned, wide-eyed political naivette that seems to be the hallmark of the PTI supporter. Traffic was so choked by the time we reached Karbala Gamay Shah that we had to walk the last mile to Minar-e-Pakistan, carried along by the crowd's thrust. Some boys in front of me made suggestive thumkas and burst into raucous laughter at their own cleverness. On the other side men danced and marched to the beat of dhols while we weaved our way through the crowd amidst shouts of 'Let the ladies pass!'

Marching on to Minar-e-Pakistan
Once we reached the ground and had squeezed our way through to a decent position, it became impossible to see a panoramic view of the crowd, so it was not possible to make any kind of guess as to crowd numbers or even to take it all in in one sweep. One could only tell that there were thousands of chanting people on every side and Manto Park was so full that it was not possible for anyone to try and squeeze their way out of the stadium.

The crowd around me was impatient with the speeches of 'irrelevant' PTI leaders and its only interest lay in hearing Imran Khan, constantly chanting his name to urge him along. While this one-man-show has often been touted as a major drawback in Imran Khan's chances, I don't see it as a particular hurdle in a country where the politics of personality cult ensures people vote for Bhutto even thirty years after his death. Where the populace does not know the names of the candidates but votes for 'teer' or 'sher'.

Strings came on for one song to boost sagging morales. Half-way through 'Mayn tau dekhooN ga' I fished for the PTI flag someone had thrust in my hand earlier and I had promptly discarded under my chair, and waved it in thumping rhythm to Strings' lyrics; for that moment one with the crowd and just as starry-eyed and hopeful as them. For who so hard-hearted that can resist the adrenaline-pumped optimism of thousands of people singing along to 'Woh din phir aae ga jab aisa ho ga Pakistan', 'jab roti sasti ho gi aur mehngi ho gi jaan', 'jo duur gae thay bhoolay se, lotayN ge phir watan ko aek shaam' (this last one particularly makes me misty-eyed).

Here's my rather dizzying capture of the above with an extremely basic digital camera. If you make it to the end please also pardon my out of tune singing along.

video

Imran Khan finally took to the stage at around 7 in the evening by which time the crowd was getting increasingly agitated and several women and children were trying to unsuccessfully make their way out. The crowd, however, was too thick to allow anyone to pass through. Imran took the mike amid a deafening roar. His cricket analogies prompted gleeful high fives from the boys in front of me while those at my back chanted 'Jab tak sooraj chaand rahay ga / DJ Butt tera naam rahay ga' upon Imran's mentions of DJ Butt--again I suspect, a deliberate attempt to identify with a youthful, pop-oriented figure. Sound strategy, I feel, of juxtaposing Islamic rhetoric with identifiably popular elements of youth culture.

Mehmood-o-Ayaz
The speech was full of feel-good optimism as was expected and required. Talk of corruption, delivering rights to the poorest in the society and anti-Zardari sentiment elicited the most visible roars of approval. Personally speaking, I was disappointed at his resorting to lies about Hussain Haqqani's nationality but heartened by his passing mention of minority and women's rights.


The Lit Minar


I came away feeling that Imran's never-say-die philosophy seems to be paying off once again. I made yet another mental note to get my vote registered the next day. If I manage that, I will be voting in the next elections for the first time in my 33 years. And that right there is a victory for Imran Khan.


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The Faces

ET bloggers?

Aunties still have it for him




What's a third world anti-Imperialist revolution without its own Che?



Could that be the enigmatic @Kaalakawaa in a Stanford tee?
The new poster-boy for PTI
(Our dear @TheRealYLH turns lota)


73 comments:

  1. The mehmood o ayaz photograph is excellent.
    "While this one-man-show has often been touted as a major drawback in Imran Khan's chances, I don't see it as a particular hurdle in a country where the politics of personality cult ensures people vote for Bhutto even thirty years after his death. Where the populace does not know the names of the candidates but votes for 'teer' or 'sher'"
    This is what I've thought as well, an important point.

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  2. Fantastic read! Thanks a lot for that.

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  3. excellent post! although i did have a wtf moment when a guy from my gym popped up in the random photos, haha. he didn't seem the political type, but i guess that's the point you're making about immy k. :)

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  4. what a historical picture of the great YLH

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  5. still people thinks that imran khan is agencies guy...What the heck how can an agency gather such a crowd ...

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  6. Rolling on the floor laughing...ROFL...

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  7. I love this post and I am so jealous. I wanted to be there too :(.

    Che = WIN

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  8. thank you for providing a wonderful view of the meeting to those who somehow could not attend.

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  9. Amazing read i watching back at home on TV.. i have never been Lahore (always wanted to) n couldnt help to think i wish i was there..

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  10. Great post Sabahat! Gave me some flavor for the actual dhoom dhamakka and the crowds. I was disappointed by the speech itself. His biggest event, the whole world is watching and he can't even prepare a solid speech with which to rally his supporters for the future!!

    Fawad

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  11. Fantastic, that "over whelming feeling" you get when you feel amazing about something i got that reading it, and Energy in your voice singing "mein tu dekhon ga tum bhe dekho gay" was very moving :).... #Brilliant

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  12. Great read! Encompasses feelings of many who were there! :)
    & a pat for the fellow volunteer.

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  13. gud 1, but aunties wont b happy of a woman pic who holding a student federation flag... ha ha!

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  14. wow great imran khan zindabad

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  15. awesome words that can only be said and understand by a patriot...ho could the ppp and pmln understand these emotions...

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  16. Great write-up. Initial reservations and subsequent optimism and resolve, is just how I pictured it might have gone down for most of the "sharif" middle-class folks.

    But how do you feel now, a day after, when the old political guard and certain segment of the TV anchors are trying to belittle, mock and dismiss the jalsa and it's audience ?.

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  17. What a wonderful post. I too have never voted and will make sure to do it this time and my vote is for Imran Khan!!! :D

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  18. Great leader
    great speech
    he can explain
    what he wants
    PTI zindabad

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  19. wonderful thanks for sharing ...........i am feeling very why i was not able there............i like ur choice "jab roti sasti ho gi aur mehngi ho gi jaan', 'jo duur gae thay bhoolay se, lotayN ge phir watan ko aek shaam'"

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  20. awesome, i felt like i was there with all other passionate guys. Best of luck imran khan. I am also going to register my vote :)

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  21. Apologies, but the road to inqalab does not go through private & privilaged parkings.

    Unless we understand & get ready to loose/Scrify these small priviliges (i.e. knowing a DSP, knowing a waiter in pizzahut to tell our guests that we often come there), no khan or qurban could bring an inqalab.

    Yes, politicians are greedy but who never uses references to get the job done?

    Aplogies again.....long live pakistan.

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  22. ExcEllEnt Work .,..
    ThaTs THe Real Change .,.V Need As a NATION .,...

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  23. Good one! I would like to say one thing, there was a mention below a picture "Aunties still have it for him" for your information, He is uncle to you but he is all Aunties badge mate and same age. He and these Aunties have grown together. We were proud of him at that time and proud of him today too.

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  24. imran khan love u so much .......... u r our last hope......we r all wid u .....

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  25. Sadiq Ali Bohra, Hyderabad Sindh, 0333-2784852.
    I am also not a 'voter' kind of guy but i think, if this time I have to do something for Pakistan, I will go and VOTE. You can guess whom i will vote for.

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  26. a good read...did you get ur vote registered then?

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  27. a good read....did you get ur vote registered then?

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  28. Miss zikarya thanks portraying the true picture of gathering at minar e pakistan. this is an nice efort. and plz perform what you have thought to support Imran Khan.
    Thanks

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  29. great photos this is the beginning of change youth is aware and we can bring change and we are ready for that. IMRAN KHAN PTI & PAKISTAN ZINDABAD

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  30. i must want to appreciate u for such honest blog ...and that videos was worth watching and ur voice moved my heart so touching

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  31. You did a great report on this, great read and love your photographs too.

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  32. Great post Sabahat.
    Saw the whole 6 hours on the internet in Seattle.
    The speech did leave me thinking, would it kill this man to get help writing one and rehearse a little if he iss going to use urdu verses.Then I remenber what my father used to say; do not jjudge a man by what he says but, by what he does.
    I guess Iqbal would forgive him and so should I.

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  33. loved each n every word..nice blog

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  34. Really wanted to be there but being soooo far (USA) this article is what I needed. Reading it felt like I was there.

    Thank you!!!!!

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  35. LMAO at DJ BUTT..Great read, thanks for sharing your experiences. We made history yesterday :)

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  36. sabi u left out the national anthem part.. that was my fav part... singing it out loud... amazing feeling...or were u not there when they sang the anthem?

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  37. "Mulak bachao"
    plz send one message on youe phone
    80022
    plz wirte your name nd city name
    Waseem Baig pti

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  38. Well nicely written, but the music was not used to hide the taliban khan image. It wasn't. and i only hope that the Maila Kurtas had instead worn the Armani suits that were hanging in their wardrobes. why would they wear Maila Kurtas for you to comment on if they could help it. I can see that you would want write it as a descriptive tool. but i would say that "Maila" was excessive. and we were totally motivated, without the strings even. :) and DJ Butt was mentioned because his sound system was not working and the 60% of people (at the back) could not hear a single word and were starting to chant slogans against him. (P.S. i like the Che Guevara reference)

    "Cowardice asks the question, 'Is it safe?' Expediency asks the question, 'Is it politic?' Vanity asks the question, 'Is it popular?' But, conscience asks the question, 'Is it right?' And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one's conscience tells one that it is right."
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    I do desire we may be better off being strangers.

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  39. that was a historical really i ever seen in my life..... we wants change in this country .... we youth will bring a change in this country only we can a new idea of pakistan .............

    plz plz plz be sincere for the new idea as we are going to bring a change

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  40. Thank you Sabahat. Got the feel of the occasion after reading your blog...Wish I could have been there too! Let's hope change is really happening and our country really becomes the pyara watan we so desperately want it to be.

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  41. thumbs u made me cry at some points reading it.
    God Be with Imran Khan.
    Thanks for your Affections.

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  42. great write up Sabahat.missed Pakistan every single day for the last 7 odd years,while sitting here in the UK thousand of miles away from home.for the first time in my life I watched a political gathering live in anticipation that people of Lahore will show up in huge numbers to make it a big success and thats precisely what Lahoris did.proud of Lahore and its inhabitants,though,I am from Peshawar myself.at that very moment when the music was on, i virtually got misty eyed and was getting this strange feeling that as if 180 Million of my countrymen are thinking & feeling precisly the same way as me.will be voting for the first time in my life for a change.Long Live Pakistan

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  43. Thanks for sharing your PTI rally experience. I felt as if I was also there. I missed as I was in Pindi but I've attended PTI rallies in Peshawar, Multan, Attock, Pindi and Islamabad. I am so happy and proud that I am a part of this movement.

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  44. 'Silsila-e-Mah-o-Saal' allured me to pass, at least peripherally, by some of the older blogs of yours. Two things need a mention:
    One, the serenity and the placidity in the expression, no matter how hardhearted or callous is the subject. Two, the substance i.e. the essence of the writings reflects an uncanny sagacity and keen discernment.
    The two, when combined, undoubtedly bring up a treat for readers like me.
    Good Luck.

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  45. Utterly beautiful! Though captioning all the pics would have given it more humor. Loved the footnote..

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  46. That was great, thank you for sharing!

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  47. speechless,, today i am really weeping... i had only heard abut how a change comes in nation but today observed it.... zinda raho Lahore .. hamesha jyio....you have done it Lahorio...Imran you are the last of our nations against these bastered politicians...

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  48. Shabash to everyone who was there! WELL DONE!

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  49. Dear Author. i fail to understand why people like yourselves show 'any' sort of caution when talking about Imran. It is as if there are many other options, and it is a BIG gamble to give Imran a chance. As I see it, even if you elect a bunch of idiots, they cant do any worse job than ANY of the political parties out there. Then why people try to get analytical when thinking about Imran? People should have given him votes the FIRST time he asked for them 15 years ago ONLY on the basis that this guy is DEFINITELY more educated, sincere and least corrupt then ANYONE else out there. It can't be worse than the stooges out there, so why such a cautionary ambivalent attitude? I just dont get it - sorry, it is illogical and disheartening to see such hesitation for a man like Imran, when all the other options are beyond doubt suicide! - Haris

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  50. I was not there but wishing to be there. I actually cried yesterday!

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  51. I was all set to be there but surrendered to a usual irrelevant argument (tumharay aik kay wahan honay say kia furq pur jay gaa). I regret it! I wish I were there! But I will settle it during election campaign.

    'Woh din phir aae ga jab aisa ho ga Pakistan', 'jab roti sasti ho gi aur mehngi ho gi jaan', 'jo duur gae thay bhoolay se, lotayN ge phir watan ko aek shaam'

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  52. @ Haris:

    exactly! look at the people who were disappointed with his speech. what were they hoping for? Its extremely annoying to see the same attitude all around. Where were all these "analysts" and "critics" when NRO was signed, when mushee left the country, When zardari became the president, when benazir lied for the millionth time and when nawaz came back into pakistani politics?

    sorry to say this, but i believe imran really is too good for this country and these people. but then again, theres some very poor and needy/oppressed people who dont write blogs or comment on facebook or youtube. For them and for me, i hope he gets elected!

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  53. Being a pure Karachiite (born, raised and lived here all my life so far), I know the fact that Karachiites are so terrorized amid politics of arms, blood and coercion that despite their love for Imran Khan, they are afraid of making it public. But I am very hopeful that the day is not afar when Karachi will give our hero Imran Khan even a bigger reception, InsahaAllah! A very good read...thanks for it!

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  54. Gr8 article. LOVE it. Just read it on ET.

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  55. Wow we are waiting to watch next series. Great cricket is most favourite game.

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  56. Whattay post! Straight from the trenches! Loved it :)

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  57. Overwhelming... thanks for sharing :)

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  58. Great reporting Sabahat.
    Are you planning to cover other rallies as well?
    I remember Imran made a speech in Punjab University when he was gathering funds for the Cancer Hospital. I was very young at the time but I recall feeling a deep sense of disappointment at how shallow the man sounded in person. I hope he has grown up enough since then to take on the responsibilities he wants to take on.

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  59. Dear readers based in Pakistan,

    By sending just one sms to 80022 mentioning your name and city of residence, you will not only become a PTI member but also receive relevant updates.

    PS: The total costs incurred will be just whats the normal rate for sending one sms; costs are nominal and differ based on what network you have.

    PSS: Only people based in Pakistan with Pakistani telecom network phones will be able to receive updates.

    Thankyou

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  60. To k Nawakaf-e-adab-ghulami hey abhi!!!

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  61. luved the read and the pics; but lady, your seriously need to work on the 'sing-along' part ... :-)

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  62. Great day today. I had news exact search from you site. I really impress to read that article. I openly I said your site will go in peak.

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  63. Nice article ma'am. Maybe change is indeed what we need. But is that change 'democracy'yet again? Do we impressionable Pakistanis actually deserve a democracy? Just saying.

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  64. "Divvy up". Some guy has parceled out this article over my Facebook account.I would like to reserve my comment.People are very much emotionally attached with the ( much trumpeted )(to be coming ) change. The Khan has actually mesmerized the youth (many more segments as well) with the element of hope. He is successful in giving them another light at the end of tunnel. People feel elated to even think of the times when the change would have stepped in and Pakistan of that changed time would be more greener, happier, properous and developed. Some of same hopes were envisioned by the youth some times back in lawyers' movement as well. I am letting myself live the way I lived during ' Lawyers' Movement ' and I hope that you don't get disappointed the way I did.Establishment is a sucker.

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    Replies
    1. Bhatti Sb,IK will rock.:),heard publisher has refused to publish your book ,writing against army and taboo won't work in pakistan,the left wing has already ruined us.:)

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  65. Great post. Not a brainless rambling on the "Change" Imran Khan symbolizes. While I think he comes across as a better human being than the rest of our politicians, his politics leaves much to be desired. I thought his rally was a breakthrough for Lahori society, even though there were a few things he said that really ticked me off. e.g. hang corrupt politicians while negotiating with terrorists. I guess he's playing to the Taliban sympathizers which is an ok election strategy. Let's see if all this hype translates into actual results or not.

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  66. Loved the post. Can't get this sentence out of my mind somehow "A democracy, however, for good or for bad, does not differentiate between a Zohair Toru and an Ardeshir Cowasjee". How true, but never put by anyone that way. Way to go, and keep up the good work.

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  67. اچھا بلاگ ہے ٓپ کا
    اور اچھا لکھا بھیی ہے

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  68. Great post. I loved reading it.

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  69. A very interesting read. I really loved it! Do you still volunteer for the TCF?

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