“In a short while trumpets will be sounded. No ordinary trumpet it will be. For it will herald the walking hand in hand in slow and measured steps of two perceived political rivals into the Presidency’s auditorium.
An extraordinary auditorium indeed, bedecked with plush carpets, antique chandeliers and studded with hundreds of the nation’s elite all rising in unison to the playing of national anthem to solemnly testify, more than merely witness, transfer of power in a peaceful, democratic and orderly manner as never before. Journalists will look out for some aching hearts behind the contrived smiles and perhaps also glittering medallions. But are some hearts really aching today? I don’t know. I really don’t want to know. So you must come to witness.”
The message was sent to my cellphone at 4:05pm and by that time I had already entered the Presidency without my cellphone as per instructions on the invitation card, so I could read the message only while driving back after having witnessed the glittering swearing-in ceremony. Since the message is not for attribution as desired by the author I am not at liberty to disclose his identity, except that he is an important PPP legislator. But here is what I messaged back: “I had never known an outgoing government so happy at the loss. Intriguing.” Indeed, most of the members of the outgoing government I met or spotted on the occasion had a broad smile on their faces. The two former prime ministers – Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf – PPPP chief Makhdoom Amin Fahim and Faryal Talpur greeted people who approached them with gracious smiles.
Even the president had on his face his characteristic smile as he walked along with the thoughtful looking Nawaz Sharif into the auditorium heralded by trumpets. Nawaz read out the oath with a straight face which, however, broke into a genuine smile as he shook hands with the guests after the ceremony. And it was, indeed, a pleasant sight to see the close family members of the prime minister walking into the hall along with Faryal Talpur and Aseefa Bhutto Zardari. All sat closely in the same row. In the same row further up sat the services chiefs. And as we all waited for the ceremony to begin one saw Punjab’s incoming chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif almost besieged by what looked like a milling crowd of young autograph seekers. Most of the ambassadors and other VIPs were seen trying to get close to him for a word or two. Another pleasant sight was when one saw Khawja Asif guide Shahbaz all the way across the hall to meet the two former prime ministers – Gilani and Raja. I did not spot Chaudhry Nisar at the ceremony but was certainly disappointed not to see any representation of the PTI. Sartaj Aziz, Tariq Fatmi, Mehmood Khan Achakzai, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, Mumtaz Bhutto, Ghous Ali Shah and Arbab Ghulam Rahim could be seen greeting their friends and acquaintances.
The most satisfied looking persons at the event were Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, the chief election commissioner, and Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, Secretary, Election Commission of Pakistan. Both looked very happy and both agreed with me that electronic voting system could be tried for the forthcoming local bodies’ elections. Since, these elections are likely to be held at different dates in different provinces, this almost fail-safe system could comfortably be introduced in stages to minimise manual voting and counting to avert the usual complaints of rigging.
While most members of the outgoing government looked happy. Some of those from the incoming government looked contemplative. Perhaps the former feel happy because of being relieved of the enormous responsibilities of managing an almost unmanageable country and the later looked weighed down perhaps for the same reason. I could understand the feelings of the incoming government but I was really intrigued by the look of happiness on the faces of those belonging to the outgoing one. And I couldn’t resist asking Amin Fahim and Senator Saeed Ghani for an answer and both said the same thing: Look how smoothly we had managed the transfer of power phase. I am tempted to agree with them. But still find it not a completely satisfactory answer.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2013.