Where Are The Entertainers?
Hafiz Hussain Ahmed may or may not have read Hamlet, yet he mastered the art of brevity. His snappy comments adorned the parliamentary diaries and news reports, when people were not accustomed to 24/7 private news channels.
Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan once complained to Ch. Amir Hussain, speaker of the National Assembly in 2002, and said, “Yeh toh jugut bazi mein apna sani nahe rakhtay. Aur aap nay aneh itna waqt diya. Ab aap sakoon say bethein aur mujhe bardasht karein (He is a master of spewing sarcasm. And you have given him a field day. Now you sit back, relax and bear with me).”
I do not intend to jot down a biographical note of Ahmed and ilk. I just want to share some interesting eyewitness accounts I enjoyed during my brief journalistic career.
PML-Q organizing secretary, Azeem Chaudhry, was fond of holding regular seminars at the party office. Zafarullah Khan Jamali was the prime minister. Once Chaudhry invited Hafiz Sahab to represent Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) in one of the seminars and very soon realised his mistake.
Hafiz Sahab began his address by grilling PM Jamali and glamourising the then opposition leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The PML-Q activists were furious. One of them interrupted Hafiz Sahab saying there was hell lot of a difference between PM Jamali and Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
Hafiz Sahab smiled and snapped, “Bhai dono mein bus aik farq hai. Hamaray leader agay say bhari hein. Aur aap kay leader peechay say (Brother, the only difference between your and my leader is that mine has a big belly and yours has a big behind).”
Late Abdus Sattar Lalika, who had also joined the General Musharraf bandwagon, never showed an iota of remorse while defending the military dictator. Once Khawaja Asif could not resist while listening to late Lalika’s flattery. He stood up and said: “Janab speaker jitney pyar say aaj Lalika Sahab General Musharraf ka naam lay rahe hein, itnay hee pyar say yeh kabhee Nawaz Sharif ka naam liya kartay thay (Mr Speaker, the way Mr Lalika is expressing his love for General Musharraf, he used to do the same for Nawaz Sharif in the past.”
Years later Khawaja Asif coined another famous phrase ‘Koi Sharm hoti hai, koi haya hoti hai’ that still tortures Insafiyans.
Senator Enver Baig was a precious addition to the parliament post 2002 general elections. Once he brought an edition of Friday Times and compelled the then law minister, Dr Khalid Ranjha, to read a paragraph from paper’s Such-Gup section. Ranjha began to read and soon realized that it was a satirical comment about a chief minister’s dance parties. The chief minister was known for dancing for his close friends wearing sari. “You want me become devil’s advocate,” Dr Ranjha giggled and handed the newspaper over to Senator Baig.
It was also entertaining to listen to Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan. He was one of best speakers who blended literature and satire in his otherwise long speeches. When Ch Amir Hussain nominated Maulana Fazlur Rehman as opposition leader, despite the People’s Party having the constitutional right and mandate, Aitzaz read him Sufi Tabassum’s famous poem – suno gupshup, suno gupshup; kay nao mein nadi doob chali – making him embarrassed in front of the entire house.
Ambassador Teresita Schaffer called him a man with a golden tongue; Husain Haqqani used to be a known player in Pakistani politics. Once John Stewart tried to burn him referring to Pakistan’s support to the Taliban government, Haqqani reminded him that it was Reagan who had called Afghans a moral equivalent to the founding fathers of the United States.
Altaf Hussain was unique among all. Critics of his speeches called him a buffoon, who without any substance, used to speak for hours. His flow was matchless. During the last few years of his fledgling empire, he lost touch with the reality and annoyed his so-called creators. The rest is history.
Listening to those gentlemen was as entertaining as hearing Paxman, Colbert or Dildar Pervez Bhatti.
Except a few exceptions, not everyone was witty and entertaining. However, amid corny speeches of self-righteous political elite, those few voices added sweet and sour flavour. They were the storytellers. The eloquence was though a common quality they shared, and their style of expression varied.
Gradually, erosion overwhelmed the fertility of our politics. Abuses replaced satire. And monotony defeated the brevity.
This writer is a Lahore-based satirist.