Sardar Mohammed Shamim Khan, the man who threw his shoes at Asif Ali Zardari in Birmingham had terrible aim, despite being armed with a size ten shoe. But even though missing to get a good trajectory, the shoe has had some remarkable glue. It’s as if he did hit his target.
Zardari’s ill-timed visit to the UK was doomed from the start, the Pakistani public had found an unlikely ally: the British press. Even before his visit, articles critical of the president appeared across the spectrum of tabloids and broadsheets.
Shamim Khan gave the British press a nice ending to their vents against Zardari. And it’s here why the actions of this elderly man have created so much resonance.
Despite running the country into the ground, the president has truly been a Teflon man, nothing seems to stick. In a time where there is a degree scandal, the man who is the first popularly known scammer with illegitimate credentials has gotten off the hook in the storm against the fraudulent.
How does he do it? Sycophants. Federal Minister for Education Sardar Assef Ahmad Ali, an Oxford graduate and with a worldly disposition, is happy to do the indefensible to ensure the hordes of legislators go scot-free, to the extent of open and transparently timed blackmail against Dr Javaid Leghari.
Then we have the governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer. The perpetual perma-sun glassed federal representative has begun to speak like Don Corleone. Statements that justify the persecution of Geo because people value their lives, while in the same breath claiming it’s not the government behind the closure, are veiled threats.
And of course, ‘Dr’ Babar Awan, the religious scholar who sees ethics and Islam as different entities, and feels no embarrassment in doing so. It is he who majestically decided that the real need of the country is buying off bar councils to break the lawyers through greed. If needed I am sure the erstwhile ‘Dr’ will some day also claim he can perform root canals.
The truth is: we have a democratically-elected president. But even our democratically-elected president knows the impropriety of his “proper” elevation. That’s why he bunkers himself. It may be a legitimate fear for his life, but what it probably is that the further he is away from contact, the lesser the chance he can be confronted.
And quite frankly, there are times when the president has to stop his personal spiel of loss. The murder of Benazir was a tragedy for this country, but only a sociopath feels his own pain in the largest natural disaster this country has ever seen.
After the photos of the grand residence in France, the president needs to understand that the democratic fashion in which he was elected does not give him impunity to perform poorly. The 18th amendment means nothing when the law and order system is breaking down.
So, his proxies are what have helped him for so long. The people can shout all they want, but he hasn’t given them a “Go, Baba Go” moment yet. That is, until Sardar Mohammed Shamim Khan and his size ten feet.
I can understand why the government has panicked, and continues to do so. The irony is the ire of the public was demonstrated by a member of the diaspora, acting on behalf of those trying not to be swept away in the torrent, both literal and figurative.
And moving from irony to tragedy, if the same was done in Pakistan, well let’s just say Shamim Khan wouldn’t have gotten off with a warning, free media or not.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2010.
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