WASHINGTON: The fluttering flags of Pakistan and PTI on vehicles with national songs played on high volumes and people with painted faces are common scenes in Pakistan.
But such occurrences in Washington DC are a rarity.
The enthusiasm in Washington downtown was reminiscent of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) sit-in (dharna) at D-Chowk of Islamabad in 2014 as long queues of cars, buses and rallies headed for Capital One Arena to have a glimpse of Prime Minister Imran Khan, who arrived here Sunday on a three-day visit on the invitation of US President Donald Trump.
The Arena is famous for hosting games, concerts and other international events to the jam-packed crowds.
But this time the stadium was filled by the US-Pakistani expatriates, who were yearning to listen to, see and know the concept of Naya Pakistan and the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan who arrived here on his maiden visit after assuming office.
People from across various US states, with some from other countries, travelled to Washington DC to set a record of the biggest ever gathering of Pakistani expatriates to listen to a Pakistani Prime Minister’s address.
They chanted slogans such as ‘Long Live Imran Khan’, ‘Long Live Pakistan’, ‘Imran tere jan nisar, bay shumar bay shumar’, ‘kon bachaye ga Pakistan, and Imran Khan, Imran Khan’, and danced to the tunes of national and PTI songs in Urdu and Punjabi. Most of them wore Pakistan-themed shirts or painted with portraits of Imran Khan and colours of the PTI flag.
The caravans also included the drum beaters to further enthral the already charged fans of Imran Khan who started to gather at the venue since morning, though it was a hot day in the city.
Social media pages were flooded with the announcements of the event, images and videos of the crowd and those travelling to attend the event. Several youngsters used their phones to go live on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or other social media tools.
A video showed a bus carrying mostly the women loudly singing ‘Jeeway Pakistan’ song while in the other a child was chanting pro-Pakistan and Imran Khan slogans.
Another clip showed men and women hanging around a jeep and singing ‘Tabdeeli aai re’ sung by now Sindh Governor Imran Ismail.
The 20,200-seat Arena was almost filled even before the start of the event. The management had installed huge screens outside for those who could not get in.
Senator Faisal Javed took the stage in his signature style an hour before start of the event to entertain the growing crowd with songs of Attaullah Khan, Junoon and Imran Ismail in the backdrop.
“We are so excited. Everybody is so excited. An Eid fair is going on here. Everyone is emotional too,” said a lady, with tears swelling up out of emotions to see a leader on whom the expatriates had pinned hopes for a brighter future of their motherland.
“It’s gonna go crazy. If you go outside and look at the lines, people are standing in the sweltering heat. I saw some people crying too,” another lady commented as she entered the Arena.
The American Pakistanis earlier given Imran Khan a rousing welcome at the Dulles Airport and at the Pakistan embassy where he would be staying during the visit to save public money.
A rally of over 100 cars followed the prime minister from the airport to Washington DC to express their appreciation for his commitment to Pakistan’s progress. Around one million Pakistani-Americans reside in the United States, which has also been a major source of remittance to Pakistan. During the fiscal year 2019, remittances from the US stood at $3.13 billion (Dh11.5 billion) indicating significant growth over $2.7 billion last year.