It was a few minutes after 8 PM that we started getting impatient - wondering, when Pakistan’s twenty second Prime Minister would address the nation on television. As if in answer to our restlessness, we saw the ticker quoting the Information Minister designate that the long awaited appearance would be at nine thirty. A quick decision was taken to speedily visit a popular Pizza outlet and watch the event on their television screens, but on arriving we found that the place did not have such a facility. We therefore decided to head for a relative’s house, a very short drive away and have our dinner delivered there.
I knew that Khan Sahib would take a departure from the formal lines that his predecessors had rattled off from a speech writer’s script, but I was certainly not prepared for the broadcast that night. What we saw and heard for the next one hour and nine minutes was not a Prime Minister ‘addressing’ the nation, but a passionate patriot sharing his burden and talking to every Pakistani man, woman and child. Each one of us felt as if the man on the screen was speaking directly to us – as if he was sitting opposite us, in our home. It was after a long time (Ayub Khan’s speech on 6th September 1965 was perhaps the last occasion) that we felt individually important and capable of turning things around.
The first effects of what was said, manifested themselves, when my niece in law (a term I use for my nephew’s better half) called to say that an overseas based doctor of medicine, who was her brother’s colleague in the US, had decided to liquidate his assets and bring them home. An hour later, I got another call from a school mate, now prosperously settled in the Land of the Stars and Stripes. In a voice choked with emotion, he told me that he too was bringing all he had, back to his native land.
As the first reactions of the two parties, who had taken turns to misrule this land went on air, nauseating disgust began to rise inside me. A leading light of the PPP, who had long held the seat of the Opposition Leader in the Lower House termed the speech as “childish” and detached from reality, while a PML N leader from Lahore ridiculed its contents in his typical manner. I can assume that the thought of losing palaces, corruption opportunities and perks in a changed future, ruled by simplicity and merit was perhaps too much to digest, for these individuals and their cronies.
The PM’s interaction with the people (I am finding it increasingly difficult to call it a speech) had some unexpected results. A colleague in my office (who has been a viscous critic of PTI and its leadership) came to me just to say that he and his family tuned in to find grist for their criticism, but stayed riveted to their television, oblivious of time until at the end of it all, they got up with a totally changed opinion of Pakistan’s new team captain. While leaving my office, the gentleman remarked that if he could be affected the way he had been, millions of others with animosity towards Chairman PTI would have been effected too.
I can in all honesty cannot detach myself at a personal level from what is happening. I can now see myself traveling abroad and telling the people I meet that Pakistan’s new PM lives in a modest three bedroom house (or perhaps home), is using only two vehicles and his domestic staff consists of just two individuals. I can tell them that traffic is not blocked, when he moves from one place to the other, because the other day, I had the refreshing experience of crossing his unbelievably reduced motorcade on Korang Bani Gala Road without being stopped. I can puff out my chest, wave my green passport and declare that I am a Pakistani – the proud member of a team consisting of 200 million members.
At the end I am reminded of a long ago prophecy that spoke of something called ‘Nishat e Saania’ or ‘a revival’ with reference to a Muslim state carved out of undivided India. The notion made me wonder if we were privileged to be witnessing the fulfilment of that prophecy.
n The writer is a freelance columnist.