I have never been a big fan of our national flag carrier so it took a bit of convincing to book myself on the Karachi – Islamabad 10 am run three Thursday’s ago. Given the state I am living in it took another set of coincidences that landed me in seat 1C (rather than 1D) on the 777. It was empty, I was sleepy, no one noticed. So I dumped my laptop, my pen, writing pad, newspapers and the other assorted trash that I carry with me while travelling and settled down for an hour’s worth of work, hopefully chargeable.
The first sign that this would not be an ordinary flight came with a mild commotion behind my seat. I had noticed Zakir Mahmood, the President of HBL working on a file on my way in. I heard him stand up and respond warmly to someone with a mild baritone. Quickly followed by an orderly carrying a small brief case not too dissimilar to the one used by my late grandfather and a frown as sharp as the crease on his pressed whites triggered by my mess on the seat of someone who obviously merited more respect.
I did what I have been doing for the last thirty years when it comes to cleaning up my room. Picked the offending pile up in a full swoop and dumped it beneath my feet, which is when I noticed that the Gentleman in question was none other than Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan circa 2002-2005.
I don’t know about you, but I have only had limited exposure to fame. Hanif Khan on the hockey field, Messaq Rizvi on the 800 meter track, Junaid Iqbal at CNBC (now ex CNBC), Bilal Maqsood in class 7 (just before he started fiddling with a guitar and a keyboard) and Faisal Qureshi (Dawn AM show) and Sohail Hashmi at T2F (only recently). So my first reaction was obviously an offer to move elsewhere so the ex-premier could be more comfortable which was declined politely.
As lame as it sounds, all I could manage was “And how are you doing today” and we were off. It took a few minutes to build momentum but before the aircraft had taken off we were already speaking about grandchildren and grandparents. Here are some snippets from our chat at 30,000 feet above sea level.
On the state of the nation: There is always light at the end of the tunnel. My religion does not allow me to give up hope
On listening to parents: Get their blessing in the morning before you leave for work and once more when you return home
On service and life: Help whoever you can in whatever shape and form. There is only question that you have to really worry about answering. I (God) gave you this, what did you do with it? How did you make a difference?
On grandchildren: One always cares more about the profit on the principal, rather than the principal itself. Grandchildren are the best return on your investment in your children
On status: I am neither a Sardar nor a Nawab, I am just an ordinary middle class zamindar.
On Pakistan: This is home, that is all that really matters. Where else can you run off to?
On anger management: Losing your temper is the first sign that you have accepted defeat.
We exchanged numbers and a promise to keep in touch. I walked thinking that I had never met a politician that I really liked and meeting Jamali sahib was the one exception that proved the rule. In his words, there is always hope.