Amir Mateen

TANK: The culture of sycophancy that remains the hallmark of the Pakistani brand of politics is beginning to engulf Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf as well, perhaps a little too early.

A 48-hour journey along the PTI’s SUV-infested caravan leaves you with the impression that the Khan is surrounded by sycophants as much as his counterparts.

Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are both equal contenders as the most sought after people by this variety of people. To give credit to the President, Asif can smell a smooth talker from a distance and likes to scorn at them whereas Nawaz Sharif loves it. His usual fan club knows that a few pet themes like food, music, his immense popularity and good health can bring an instant glow on his cheeks.

Imran always had a middle class attitude and abhorrence for sycophancy. I remember him actually insulting a worker for overly buttering him in Washington. Not any longer. I suspect he is beginning to enjoy it now. Or so was my impression seeing the party culture from the sidelines in two days.

Of course, such being his demand that he is virtually harassed by a multitude of political wannabes. The electoral hopefuls will do anything to get his attention, and a party ticket if possible. I saw this great art of sweet talk in practice, particular the lethal — I apologize for saying this — Saraiki variety, never missing an opportunity to compliments him over, say, “How Khan Sahib may have conquered the tribals; how Khan Sahib’s may have vanquished his enemies.

The prospective candidate for DI Khan, Amin Gandapur, we were told, got 20 goats slaughtered for preparing the Rosh meat delicacy for over 2000 people. A black ox was sacrificed in the morning to save Khan Sahib from evil eyes. No wonder most of the foreigners left DI Khan seeing the blood cuddling bull. This was after suffering a terrible night not knowing how to use a Muslim toilet without paper rolls, besides the scare of Taliban attack and Dengue mosquitoes.

A finer spectacle of what Khan Sahib has to put up with was witnessed on the way back when the caravan stopped at the Dera of the Pir of Bilot Sharif Makhdoom Murtajad Shah, courtesy Ayla Malik. This lollapalooza of a person, the Pir had a turbaned Imran Khan on one side and an overly made-up Ayla Malik on the other. Before them on the table lay a roasted goat standing on all fours, its horns, eyes intact and a branch of leaves in its mouth. Half of the audience was the Pir’s devotees and the rest police constables.

Pir Saheb first extolled a 4000-old glorious history of his family living on Indus. I asked one of his cousins that perhaps Pir sahib was exaggerating about a few millenniums as Islam’s history is not older than 1500 years and that as Syeds his family could not have been here before that.

Perhaps he was mixing up history about the ruins of Bilot. Pir Saheb went on to add that he was not the kind of Pir “who take things from you—accusingly looking at Makhdoom Shah Mahmood– but the Pir who gives you everything,”–this time looking at ever-smiling Ayla Malik for some reason.

Imran matched his eloquence and in the process mentioned that he was a sinner (gunahgaar) Muslim but had managed to convert four people to Islam. This was after he had introduced former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth as “the one who had converted to Islam” in the Tank public meeting. Nothing wrong about it. But this might encourage more sinners to purge themselves by forcing Hindus and Christians to convert as they are doing in Sindh and Balochistan. It is about wearing your religion on your sleeves.

This also begs a few questions about Imran’s initiative about holding peace talk with Taliban. The argument that the Taliban are killing thousands of men, women and children just because they are being attacked by drones is too simplistic, if not frivolous. They have been at it—trying to impose their way of repressive, cruel living—much before the drones.

Assuming that we do that once the born-again Khan becomes the Prime Minister, what are the Taliban offering in return; what is the guarantee that they will abide by their commitment this time; who is he talking to; how can he forgive Taliban on behalf of those millions whose loved ones have perished. A lot of liberal Pakistanis who see him as the Messiah may have more such questions—more so after the treatment meted out to the young Malala. Imran definitely needs to clarify his stance about these issues to fill up the gap in what he says and what he does.

For a start, a little protest against drones outside GHQ may not be out of place. Now that it is established through deliberate leaks in the US media that the Pakistan government, read Army, is informed about drone attacks, which means they have a tacit understanding on the issue. Do it, Khan Sahib.

The News

October 11, 2012