Asif Zardari, former president of Pakistan, and the will-certified co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has invited a group of other needy politicians who, like him, have been experiencing acute earnings-withdrawal symptoms since August last year.
Those present include his son, Bilawal [Bhutto] Zardari, his own party stalwarts senators Raza Rabbani and Sherry Rehman, Shahbaz Sharif, leader of the opposition in the national assembly and former Punjab chief minister, and president of his brother Nawaz Sharif’s eponymous faction of the Pakistan Muslim League, former information minister Maryam Aurangzeb, former Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah, and Maulana Fazlur Rahman, president of his eponymous faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam.
Before anyone could start, Fazlur Rahman moaned, “My dear brother Asif, the saddest part is that Imran Khan’s terrible hajj policy is being widely hailed by your dearest supporters, the secularists and liberals.
“They are rising in one voice that no government has ever given subsidy on hajj. Yes, they do accept that no one, except our beloved brother Nawaz Sharif gave this subsidy… and still my poor brother still the election.
“My dear brother Asif, your best supporters are saying that Pakistan is in debt up to its neck, and we should first feed the poor, fix hospitals, help orphans and provide drinking water. They are brainwashing people that we should clear our debts first! Of all people, my dear brother Asif, your dearest secularists and liberals have become muftis [scholars]… yes, giving fatwa, without my permission that hajj is never allowed on a loan.”
Rana Sanaullah quickly adds, “I tell you that Imran is worst than this [Indian prime minister] Modi who last year, ended this hajj subsidy [actually it was a non-transparent subsidy to the country’s ailing carrier, Air India].
“This same, hard-hearted Imran Khan who is stopping people from going for hajj, spent so much money on opening the Kartarpur crossing so Sikhs can visit their temple!”
Zardari, quickly finishes the cigarette at hand and offers, “My dear all, I was expecting that the media… yes, our beloved media that is dying because Imran Khan has stopped giving [government] advertisements, would help us get rid of this trouble, but even the secularists and liberals among them are applauding him for not giving hajj subsidy.
“Yes, my dear Maulana, they have become muftis. They are saying that it’s better to arrange halal money for hajj rather taking loan from IMF, etc.”
Shahbaz Sharif adds quickly, “Our brave senators called this increase in hajj expenditure as a drone attack on pilgrims. And Imran Khan is saying that 70 per cent of the hajj expenditures are incurred in Saudi Arabia and it has no control over those.
“Absolute nonsense. If my dear brother, the only three times prime minister of Pakistan, Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif was prime minister, he would have immediately gone for umrah with a planeload of family, friends and media people, and called on King Salman and would have asked him to waive off not only 70 but in fact 80 to 90 per cent.
“My dear brothers, Pakistan has lost its position. Even Saudi Arabia is not treating us with respect. It is all due to Imran Khan.
“You remember when King Abdullah, during the time of General Musharraf, invited our family to live in his kingdom as his personal guests, he ordered two helicopters to be parked in the palace that he gave us. I distinctly recall that one was AgustaWestland AW101, which retails for $21 million before taxes, and other was Airbus H225 Super Puma, which retails for $27 million before taxes, so we could go to umrah anytime we wanted. This is the way that a Muslim ruler respects hajj and umrah. But the blessed soul, king Abdullah was no Imran Khan.”
Maulana Fazlur Rahman offers more depressing news, “Sadly, I am hearing awful reports that even common people are supporting Imran Khan’s policy. They are saying that if the government wants to feed the poor and provide them with shelter from their tax money then they are absolutely fine and happy. But if from their tax money, the government plans to give subsidy on hajj then unfortunately they will be furious, as hajj is a compulsion on only those who can afford.
“Awful… awful… everyone is talking in Imran Khan’s favor!”
Maryum Aurangzeb has more depressing notes, “Yes, I am hearing that people are saying that no self-esteemed and true Muslim needs hajj either free or a loan based on interest.
“Indeed all of us miss the great times under our beloved leader, Nawaz Sharif. During 1990 to 1993, we used to put Zakat and ushr funds to good use for travel for umrah and hajj, and for our cabinet’s vacations trips! It was such joy!
“May God bless him, even Senate chairman Sadiq Sanjrani directed finance minister Asad Umer to offer subsidy for the hajj.”
Bilawal, silently signals, and upon receiving his father’s permission, offers, “This selected prime minister is always boasting that he is getting billions of dollars from these Arabs. So this hajj thing is their Arab thing, so why doesn’t he sanction all the hajj money from their funds. Anyone would love to have their money back.
“Even, I could for hajj.
“Indeed, with the 18th Amendment… and mind you of the very Constitution that my Ever-Living, Never-Dying grandpa [ZA Bhutto] gifted to the people of Pakistan. Yes, this 18th Amendment that Imran Khan wants to destroy, gives us… I mean, my family, to get all this money that the Arabs are giving… it belongs to us. Yes, the selected prime minister cannot do it, so the Pakistan People Party will send all Sindhis… yes, the real Sindhis for hajj… NO ONE ELSE. Everyone hear, the 18th Amendment is the fountain of our power!”