Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has invited the former three times prime minister Nawaz Sharif to lunch at the French restaurant La Maison located in Islamabad’s F7 for another discussion on the on-going political situation.
A visibly irritated Nawaz Sharif, eyeing the menu, mutters to himself about the absence of nihari; oh, and not even lassi is there.
After intense consultation with his host, he opts for Steak au Poivre, which is beef tenderloin fillet topped with three pepper sauce. He sighs and declares, “I hope this Poivaa… poivayy… is not just a little bite. Asif, you remember before we got kilograms, we used to have saer and pao. Even ladies who were dieting would not order a pao of meat.”
Zardari is quick to get down to business, permit or not, his drink Capitain-Gagnerot Clos Vougeot Grand Cru 2012 is discreetly served.
“My dear Nawaz, what is killing me and surely killing you too is the sums coming into the treasury. With UAE matching Saudi Arabia, it is six billion dollars parked in Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves.”
Nawaz Sharif is quick to add, “You are right, my brother. I am nearly awake all night counting these dollars. And mind you Imran Khan is keeping the amount of Chinese funds a secret.”
Zardari continues, “We know that the Chinese are not small players. It hurts. Just think. I would have put in bids for properties in Luxembourg and Hong Kong.
“My dear Nawaz, your Saudi friends did not even a blink an eye and wrote their checks. What rush, I mean. They could have waited a moment.”
Nawaz wistfully eyeing the solitary medallion of tenderloin, “Yes, my brother Asif, I too am really surprised at the Saudis. I lived in their country for about ten years. And they rushed into Imran Khan’s lap! What do they know about him when they don’t even know how to hold a cricket bat?”
Zardari, on his ninth cigarette, adds, “You see that although your little brother, Shahbaz has said all the nonsense about me, but we got him the public affairs committee chair. I know that he had to accept not to audit your era projects, but although there is no bar on our party’s audit, I expect civility. We need to keep standing together.
“The are filing a disqualification reference against me for what they say is concealing my assets in the Election Commission of Pakistan declaration. Oh please, that is one-bedroom place in New York City… less than three million dollars. Should I remember everything I own, and everywhere?
“See how I have told Imran Khan that I will get tough with him.”
Nawaz Sharif, silently longing for a streaming naan, adds, “It is good that both of us have given the same message to him.”
Zardari continues, “These are dangerous times. At least in Sindh, they can’t get even an atom worth of evidence to touch me, but you need to take care. I see that you too are ready with a worst-case scenario. But why a thirty-member caretaker board, my friend?
“You know, I am not too far behind. I too have setup a board, which has my siblings because people not related to you, should never be trusted. My board is Faryal [Talpur], Owais Muzaffar, Azra [Fazal Pechuho], and Fouzia [Zardari]. I know Owais… our Tappi… is away in Dubai but he has the resources.
“Yes, as if other depressing things are away from sight, there is this [information Minister] Fawad Chaudhry and his foul language. If I get into any heart trouble, I am going to name him responsible. My dear Nawaz, you must have heard that they are following on this case against Ayyan Ali. Poor little girl… Think of it, you can’t even transport a carry on bag without customs checking it.”
Nawaz Sharif adds, “Thank God, the Senate speaker Sanjrani has banned Fawad’s entry, otherwise he was sending all that disturbing things from there.
“My dear Asif you know, and every Pakistani knows the reasons behind these graft cases against me… because I had made motorways for the comfort of car owners. You know how hot is our country and people sitting in traffic jams and getting exhausted. I wanted to turn the whole country into motorways. And you know, there is money too in motorways.”
Zardari seconding him says, “I think, I did better. First of all the JIT [Joint Investigation Team] is getting nothing on me from Sindh. Yes, then what is the use of being in government?
“Yes, they are targeting me for money laundering and land and what not, and they have started asking that in the last ten years during two tenures of our Pakistan People’s Party governments, we spent some Rs1,600 billions rupees on Sindh development projects. Of course, they are not visible. But really should everything be visible!”
Nawaz Sharif continues, “My dear brother, I think that I made the mistake of doing visible projects like motorways, so I am getting asked more questions. And we lost Punjab too, but you have Sindh, which is good for you.
“This Imran Khan is taking out the life of being prime minister. Now he has turned the Prime Minister House into a university. What next?”
Zardari adds, “My bear brother, I think we should order another round of main dishes.”
Nawaz Sharif, downcast over having a single medallion of filet, says, “My dear Asif, I have no appetite left. I become more depressed with just the thought that so much funds in the treasury… that so much in sight and we are starving.”
Zardari, signals for the check, and adds, “Nawaz you put it succinctly. The bad days must end. So much in sight and we are starving.”