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Nihari politics: Diplomacy with a difference

Updated September 06, 2013

HOW heartening that notwithstanding the cut and thrust that is characteristic of politics in Pakistan, there yet remains room for old-school gestures. It had been just a day since the MQM had expressed unhappiness over the fact that the government, having invited the party’s Dr Farooq Sattar to an important meeting of the federal cabinet at the Governor’s House in Karachi, withdrew its invitation. Not many would have been surprised, perhaps, had the MQM decided that this was an affront. While there may or may not be further movement on that point, on Wednesday MQM Senator Babar Ghori sent lunch for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif as he prepared to chair the meeting. While the unkind may choose to find something sinister in the gesture — the dishes on offer included high-calorie and high-cholesterol favourites such as nihari and haleem — it would no doubt have gladdened the premier, who is known to be something of a gourmand and is not above having in-depth discussions about recipes with his chefs.

Food is quite a common currency through which relations and diplomacy are conducted. The size of the box of mithai presented on Eid can make or break a relationship, and many a snub has been delivered through the simple means of offering a vegetarian table in this country of meat-lovers. Keeping the ship of state sailing must of necessity be underpinned by more prosaic requirements, and this is all to the benefit of the workers of the catering industry. At the very least, the idea of the corridors of Governor House filling up with the mouth-watering scent of nihari just as the cabinet prepares to take on the conundrum of Karachi is enticing; we can only hope it didn’t leave the cabinet members in need of a siesta.