Social media-led Clifton protest againt VIP culture | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Social media-led Clifton protest againt VIP culture

Pakistan Press Foundation

KARACHI: It started off as an angry post on Facebook against the ‘VIP culture’ increasingly taking space in Karachi and eventually culminated into a proper protest at Clifton’s Teen Talwar on Monday evening.

A number of civil society activists, teachers and students surrounded Teen Talwar around 5pm to speak up against the “privileges allowed to the VIPs who think themselves above the law of the country,” as one activist put it.

Within the boundaries of NA-250 constituency, Clifton’s Teen Talwar has seen many a protest by activists of political parties in recent times, specifically those belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

PTI’s Dr Awab Alvi, son of PTI leader Dr Arif Alvi, was also present at the Monday protest for a while. But the activists at the protest said: “This is an apolitical protest, as it is something that affected all of us at one point or another,” while some activists chanted ‘Go VIP Go’ slogans in the background.

Speaking about how the protest came about, Samya Kadri Paracha, who teaches economics at a college, said it had been bothering her for a long time. “We all have such stories where we have been stopped for a VIP to pass, instances where they were let off at airports without a proper security check etc. Earlier, we thought of filing a petition in a court but that’s too time-consuming. Then we came up with this idea at a meeting where everyone decided on protesting about it on streets. This is our way of creating awareness, as most Pakistanis, including the educated ones, are unaware of their basic constitutional rights,” she explained. She added that the protests were held under the Citizens Trust Against Crime, a not-for-profit trust made by citizens, and the PTI.

The protests came a few days after former interior minister Rehman Malik along with another minister was offloaded from an aircraft after reaching it late. Nodding in agreement, Jahanzeb Effendi, a teacher at Jinnah Sindh Medical University (JSMU), said it sure gave them a push in the right direction. “We recently met at a doctor’s home who works at Aga Khan University Hospital. We came up with a plan to hold at least one protest every week where we can speak up against the VIP culture of gun-toting men angrily pushing people away from a passing convoy of a minister. The police officers are hired for a common man’s security too. A lot of money is spent on the protocol of a VIP while the common people suffer and remain unsafe,” he explained. He added that most of the protests would be held in Clifton or Defence “as a majority of such people live here”. Just then a car with a police van went past the protesters on the opposite road, hooting at them and the protesters. In another instance, a motorbike rider made a victory sign for the protesters holding placards. Most of the placards were inscribed with slogans such as “VIP culture corrupts society; they are pests”, or “VIPs are a burden on Pakistan.”

Flyers were also distributed at the protest site which had a detailed ‘Citizens’ Charter for de-VIPsation.’ It asked for the “rights of the common people to be respected, VIPs be body searched at the airports, VIPs violating traffic lights, private individuals carrying guns and goons in their vehicles, behaving like VIPs and violating road laws and those carrying fake, personal or no registration plates on their vehicles be arrested by the law enforcement agencies.”

As Naeem Sadiq, a consultant for health and safety, said: “This message and our protest is against those who do unlawful things under the garb of being VIPs and for those who empower them by remaining silent to come out and give voice to their opinion.”

Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2014