Keep Hope Alive

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of his eponymous faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), and president of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) – an alliance of five religio-political parties – has invited the MMA executive to his temporary accommodation with Sen. Muhammad Talha Mahmood, the JUI-F deputy parliamentary leader in the Senate.

Besides the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) president Maulana Sirajul Haq, his audience includes MMA and JI general secretary Liaquat Baloch, MMA deputy secretaries, JUI-F’s Ghafoor Haidry and Islami Tehreek Party’s Allama Arif Wahidi, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan (JUP) president Shah Owais Noorani, Allama Sajid Mir, the Jamiat Ahle Hadith president and MMA manifesto committee chief, and Allama Shabbir Hassan Maismi of the Islami Tehreek-i Pakistan, the MMA finance secretary.

The fare is goat biryani, roasted goat leg, qorma, seekh kabab, reshmi kabab, roghni naan, and a dessert offering of kheer, halva, and qulfi. Cream-loaded tea is flowing.

Maulana Fazal, pulling out a chunk of meat from the goat leg, starts the conversation, “Dear brothers, today, I have to invite here with the hospitality afforded by my dear Muhammad Talha Mahmood at his farmhouse. I have never found him a wanting host. May God always keep him blessed and prosperous.

“I seek your forgiveness for any discomfort. Of course, the house at the Ministers’ Enclave was another world. I had a sixteen-year association with that place. You could smell leadership and perks in the air!

“God be praised, I enjoyed the facilities and incentives equivalent to a federal minister, although I never accepted a cabinet post. As the wise saying goes, ‘Why keep a cow, when you can get the milk!’ From my being the leader of the opposition in National Assembly during General Musharraf’s era to my services to the ruling coalition alliances with Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) in their respective tenures. Ah, I have seen the golden age.
“The Pakistan Public Works Department (PWD) that manages those properties once issued a conservative estimate that the market value of the residences’ monthly rental was Rs. 100,000. You all know that the PWD is more than conservatives when costing for public servants. I deserved every penny of public money spent on me!

“I have always told you that this Imran Khan is a threat to democracy. I am sure this hullaballoo he put up him about not living in the Prime Minister’s House unnerved the PWD because they have to find a residence for him in the Ministers’ Enclave. They uprooted me to create additional housing there. I ask, why this hurry, why this injustice! If Imran doesn’t like the Prime Minister’s House, then instead of kicking out Maulana Fazalur Rahman to this farmhouse, they would have moved me to the house that Imran has rejected. I will repeat that I deserve every penny of public money spent on me!

“Indeed, I left the residence with a very heavy heart, and think of it that now I could not even be taken to the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences where our leaders are taken there after their heart attacks.

“Yes, I was talking about Imran being a threat to democracy … now tell me who with a head on his shoulders … I mean a head with something in it, would care to join public service when there are no perks.

“Just think of it … just the absurdity of it. If Imran never intended to live the Prime Minister’s House why did he get our poor Nawaz Sharif thrown out of that house! Just ask him!

“I will tell you that tomorrow Imran will say that he will return the Prime Minister’s specially kitted Boeing 777 to PIA for commercial use. I pity that poor airplane … imagine from flying our honorable leaders to being stuffed with labor going to the Gulf countries. As the Quran, 3:26 says, Say, “O Allah, Owner of Sovereignty… You honor whom You will and You humble whom You will.” I hear that the Bible also says a similar thing in Job 1:21, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” But I pity that poor 777.

“Someone was trying to assure me that this Chak Shahzad is a bit closer to the city, approximately 12-15 minutes from the Zero Point Interchange. What do I need this proximity for? I don’t need to spell it out: I don’t have a seat in the National Assembly. I can’t even claim accommodation in the Parliament Lodges, which are luxury flats … the Americans call them apartments … each of them comes with five servant quarters

“My dear Sirajul Haq, you did the right thing by taking Imran Khan’s party’s help to get a Senate seat. I would say that we should continue and deepen our cooperation with our brothers Asif Zardari and the Sharif brothers so at least they get me elected to the Senate.”

At this point, Sirajul Haq shatters his pipedream, “My dear Fazal, the next Senate elections are in 2021.”

“Oh, yes, I forgot this date. Thank you. But I am one who never loses hope. God bless, that my host leads the Senate Standing Committee for Narcotics Control and Interior. He is also a member of the Senate standing committees for the Cabinet Secretariat and Capital Administration and Development, Petroleum and Natural Resources, Finance, Economic Affairs, Statistics, Planning, Development and Employees Welfare Fund.

“Did you note, he is on the Senate standing committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources? Given my expertise in dealing in diesel, he can surely recommend me for the issuance of diesel import permits. There is always a thriving market for these permits. I tell you my friends, always keep hope alive!”

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