One must be grateful for small mercies and be thankful to God — even though He can do little about what is known as load-shedding — that occasionally some of us do have a welcome break from watching the awesome awfulness of the unfolding of the Pakistani political panorama. The Football World Cup gave us sleepless nights, and Wimbledon happy afternoons and evenings — and there is always cricket. Now, the distractions are few and back we are to the national scenario.
The Mian from Raiwind, the first among non-equals, is having a rough time, not that he normally has not had one. But he has found himself this week under attack even from a close buddy, Asif Zardari. Mian Nawaz Sharif (MNS) is a lamentable politician and worse prime minister. However, putting aside politics, he can (or at least used to) have his gentler moments when one would have liked to have patted him on the head and said ‘good boy’.
Once in his second coming as Pakistan’s supreme, he decided to ‘grace’ Ardeshir’s Karachi home and come calling for a chat over a cup of afternoon tea and, of course, accompanying edibles. He was politely asked to limit his entourage to the minimum possible — most of our countrymen favour moving around in herds.
It was all movement on Mary Road from the morning of the visit onwards. Firstly, generators arrived to be set up just in case a spot of load-shedding should coincide with the prime ministerial visit. Then came the security experts and their accompanying hordes. The premises — house and garden — were given a thorough going over, making quite sure we had no devious designs. But there was a problem. There is a wicket-gate (a door built into a larger door) which serves as an entrance from the parking area into the garden. It necessitates that those who enter need to bend to avoid banging their heads.
Well, security asked that the entire door (large and small) be removed so that MNS could drive in. No, they were told, not possible. But, we were told, even if the gate remains, MNS will then have to bend to enter — not on. But, they were told, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, a slightly taller gentleman, managed it without demur. The gate remained. Mian Sahib negotiated it quite happily. He was accompanied by a handful of companions, all eminently forgettable (Dollar Dar being one of them who did not utter a word throughout). MNS was undoubtedly taken aback by the old stone house, with its interior bereft of gilded furniture or chandeliers. Up close, he is a shy man, extremely polite and soft-spoken — not easily drawn out. His eyes lit and he perked up when the subject of motorways and Mercedes was brought up.
Tea and conversation having been partaken, we rambled out to see him off. The dogs, out of deference to MNS, were all ‘secured’ as was the Australian sulphur-crested cockatoo, Ben, a resident of Bath Island since the early 1980s (who had been endowed by Tumandar Akbar Shahbaz Khan Bugti with the honorary title of Sardar Binyamin Gorghez). He was in his large cage in the garden, and on the way out, MNS was asked if he would go over to the cage and have a word with Ben, who would be highly honoured to meet a prime minister. And this is where one warmed to the man. Without hesitation, he went up to the cage, Ben raised his crest and said ‘hello’ and MNS responded. Ben lives on, surviving his master, with the memory of his one and only meeting with a head of government.
Those were better days — marginally, but it was fairly soon after the visit that MNS met his second downfall, through sheer stupidity and stubbornness. He handed over the country, on a gilded platter, to the army. How could he even vaguely have hoped to get away with sorting out an army chief by endangering a planeload of passengers? And it is now apparent that, sadly, he has learned nothing.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2014.
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