This is a number which can be herded by the lawyers and the parties and civil society supporting them and will be considered respectable enough to make a political statement. The protesters would be able to claim a figure multiplied by five which the government would divide by the same number and claim they were a few thousands indeed. But the numbers game should be of the least importance for the sit-in organisers. What should be bothering them are the three lakh meals a day they will need to serve to the squatting ladies and gentlemen if they were indeed anywhere near one lakh.
In all likelihood the sit-in could be of this size as a tenth of that could easily join in from the capital and Rawalpindi itself. The sit-in is promised to last till the government gives in to the demands. This may take several days during which the attendance is likely to soar with the media spurring on the spectacle and fresh caravans from all over joining in, replacing some of the participants leaving the show. Of course part of the grand feast will be arranged by the sponsors while some of the participants will not depend on the langar and rely on the hospitality of friends and relatives. Vendors and nearby restaurateurs will make good money if the event remained peaceful.
But the story does not end with feasting on the Constitution enclave. Islamabad like other places in Pakistan has no essential amenities like toilets, washrooms and latrines. Not even public water taps. The wooded outlands around the sit-in venue that used to be there a couple of decades back and which could serve the purpose are not there any more. The entire surrounding is now built up. There is no way the sanitary requirements of a long sojourn by a crowd of the expected size can be met by the city administration even if it were inclined to provide a helping hand. With a hostile government looking on, a prolonged sit-in could be an imaginable disaster for the city. Weather is another factor for nocturnal concerts in the open. Though winter has been mild this year, spring is still young. It is warm only under the sun. Nights are still cold and the chill can get to your bones if you stay out late. It won’t be a bad idea if protesters came with a cushion to sit upon and a light blanket to wrap around. These items can also come in handy during skirmishes with law. The organisers must have taken account of these practical aspects of the Dharna. There is still time, and no need to baulk at the idea, but it would be useful if the organisers consulted the Tablighi Jamaat for their expertise in providing for mammoth outings of this kind. Add to this the Ijtamai dua at the end in the bargain which even the government may join.