A tale of two Sharifs By Farrukh Khan Pitafi
This is the story of two Sharifs. One in khaki, one in mufti. And the narrator of this tale is no Charles Dickens. Both men live in two different cities, very close and yet distinctly apart. The one in mufti knows his town well. He has been here twice before. Last time he was displaced by someone else in khaki and sent into exile. During his exile he spent many years in serious introspection. What went wrong? What bad choices could have been avoided? Consequently, he is wiser today and committed not to make same mistakes again. Only trouble is no one truly understands this.
The Sharif in khaki knows his town even better. It is his first stint here, but the astute observer as he is, he learns from others’ mistakes. He comes from a long line of national heroes and knows what exactly is at stake. He has shown courage and a battle commander’s wisdom. But when you praise him, people think it is plain old sycophancy. Yet the truth is he is the best thing that has happened in many years to his country and his institution. But no one truly understands this either.
So do you see the pattern? Not yet? Okay. Notice this. Before his rise to the top position, the country was reeling under the unrelenting blows of terrorism. He worked for political ownership, launched an operation, pushed for a comprehensive strategy to combat terrorism. Sceptics were as usual, sceptical. But his country is infinitely safer today. So much for the scepticism. As a consequence, he is popular. Very popular. And the sceptics are cynical again.
Only a year ago, an attempt was made to ambush the Sharif in mufti along with his team. The siege continued for four months. Everyone thought that the Sharif in khaki was responsible. But he instead came to the rescue. Someone else would have easily taken the bait. But he did not. As a thorough professional should, he refused to be politicised. Look at the long list of national heroes in my family, he argued. Don’t ask me to do anything that might bring a bad name to them, he reasoned. Professionalism of this sort should be lauded. But who cares about that in a country where celebrating mediocrity is the new pastime. If he is popular, he must be ambitious, cried out the sceptics. And this theatre of the absurd continues to this day.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the divide, everyone was initially wary of the Sharif in mufti. Their institution had removed him from power and he is a man of vendetta, they said. He will get back at you. He is the one who removes Karamats and empowers Musharrafs. Be a Musharraf and not a Karamat. Get him before he gets back at you, they shouted. But to everyone’s surprise, the Sharif in mufti did no such thing. He found a way to work with the institution. Incredulous, his critics refused to see how much he had changed. But the Sharif in khaki did. While they might live in different cities, their country is the same, he knew.
The cooperation between the two is transforming the country’s landscape today. Terrorists are on the run, their attacks getting feebler by the day. The country’s security apparatus that was once badly demoralised now takes special pride in the achievements made and the sacrifices rendered. The world takes their country more seriously now. Economic revival, too, stands a chance.
But still there are those who are buying none of this. There are intellectuals who cannot process a simple equation and must see coups where there are none. Then there are troublemakers and job seekers. The kind of fellas that sit on your television screens and fear that if their mouths stop talking their minds may start functioning. Finally, there are those who consider themselves the aggrieved party. An exiled leader, who doesn’t want to be exiled from his party. A former president, who doesn’t want to be the former head of his party. An affluent thekedar, who is wary of an anti-corruption theka against his excesses. A former chief, who wants to sound presidential. Some men of faith, who think terrorists too are men of faith. A powerful neighbour that fears loss of power. Together, they and their fans are out to confuse you.
But all of this doesn’t deter the two Sharifs. They know that together they can leave an enviable legacy behind. So they work together and will continue to do so this year and the next, and the one that comes after that.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2015.