ISLAMABAD: It must be a mere coincident that both Mian Nawaz Sharif and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari were wearing dark western attire with neckties of almost similar striking red colour.
Sitting side-by-side the two heads of rival political parties exchanged pleasantries, but refrained from whispering to avoid misgivings amid media glare.
Next to Bilawal was sitting his sister, Aseefa Bhutto Zardari, in off-white shalwar kameez. And just behind them National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman Faish Bukhari could be spotted.
It was an interesting luncheon ceremony to observe, hosted by President Zardari in honour of visiting Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
Most prominent among the guests was Owais Muzzafar alias Tappi, the foster brother of President Zardari.
His socialising and intermingling at the luncheon was worth witnessing. From exchanging jokes with news-hungry journalists to giving tight embrace to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, he seemed to be aware of the attention he was getting from friends and foes.
Tappi is being tipped as future Sindh chief minister, though a strong group within the People’s Party is opposed to nominating him to the highest political office the former ruling party would occupy in the aftermath of May 11 general elections.
Clad in light grey western attire, Tappi showed the demeanour of someone enjoying a great deal of power. He won a provincial assembly seat from Thatta despite the party refused to own Sherazi brother.
“There has been no decision so far who will wear the cap of Sindh Chief Minister,” Tappi told Dawn.com. He said the deliberations within the party were underway and they would soon reach a decision.
He is one of the aspirants along with Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Mir Hazar Khan Bijrani. President Zardari may also confer him the important home ministry if chances of him becoming the chief minister are diminished under party pressure.
At the ceremony, where senior party leaders like Aitzaz Ahsan, Maula Bakhsh Chandio and Raza Rabbani were sitting in second or third rows, Tappi shared the front row along with the diplomatic corps. Later, he joined Bilawal and Aseefa on table-2 when the meal was served.
The US Ambassador Richard Olson spent much of his time chatting with Foreign Secretary Jaleel Abbas Jilani. He made cautious diplomatic replies to flurry of journalists’ questions.
“It’s prerogative of the government of Pakistan to hold talks with Taliban. But we have to see on which conditions such talks would take place,” he said. He explained the schedule for the Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Pakistan had not yet finalised.
One of the most sought-after guests was none other than General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Politicians, diplomats, journalists and officials were eager to shake hand with the important man.
“Ask as many questions you want I won’t be giving any answer,” General Kayani politely replied to a journalist wearing his usual grin.
Among those who were eager to exchange pleasantries with General Kayani was Sheikh Rashid Ahmed of Awami Muslim League.
Earlier, Mr Rashid, who proudly calls himself Farzand-e-Rawalpindi (son of Rawalpindi), revealed he was lobbying to get Imran Khan of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf appointed as Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly. “If MQM behaves, no one can stop Imran Khan becoming the opposition leader,” he said without explaining how the MQM could forget the bad blood it developed with Mr Khan in the run-up to the general elections and even after.
Some were conspicuous with their absence. There was no one in the ceremony to represent the MQM. Even Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad did not turn up. Asfandyar Wali of Awami National Party was missing as well so as NA Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza and Senator Rehman Malik.
When approached chairman NAB Fasih Bukhari said he would continue to work. “I am not going anywhere. Let’s hope so,” he said and chuckled. He confirmed he requested the federal government to remerge crime and anti-corruption wings of FIA in NAB for better performance.
At almost every table the discussion on formation of upcoming government was heard. People were interested in knowing which cards Mian Sahab was keeping close to his chest.
To some it was nostalgic to see the PML-N president shaking hand with Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain. They used to be close friends before Mian Sahab chose to go in exile and Chaudhry Shujaat decided to join General Musharraf’s bandwagon.
– Author’s twitter handle is shahz79