KARACHI: One would normally associate images of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Allama Mohammad Iqbal or Sir Syed Ahmed Khan with Independence Day celebrations. But this time around, there is a new face on the block: General Raheel Sharif.
The chief of staff of the Pakistan army is proving to be a bestseller, with badges and stickers of him in the military uniform selling like hot cakes at stalls in Karachi's Paper Market in Saddar.
Like every year people are pouring in from different parts of the city to buy Independence Day-themed paraphernalia. Shopkeepers say the clear winner among the items bought are those with the army chief's photographs on them.
They also add that they have sold scores of Independence Day paraphernalia featuring General Raheel since they set up their August 14 ware.
There is no doubt that the current military chief is a popular figure in Pakistan. The hashtag #ThankYouRaheelSharif is commonly used when citizens appreciate a positive development in the country.
One shopkeeper says “the nation’s hopes are centered around him.”
Another too has a colourful analogy: "A person's good work is obvious like the sweet fragrance of flowers. When someone performs, people will always like him”.
Luckily for the shopkeepers, people are keen on showing their admiration for the army chief by buying these badges and stickers. There is an array of choice; some badges have his photo only, while some stickers also have Jinnah and the Minar-i-Pakistan alongside. Some have messages of support and gratitude as well. "The badge might be Rs50, but don't ask us what Raheel Sharif's price is. There is no price on him; he is priceless," says one seller.
There are also some T-shirts with an image of his face printed on them.
It is not clear who came up with the idea that has now caught on like wildfire. Some shopkeepers say they make the designs themselves and get them printed from printers in various parts of Karachi.
In perspective, this is certainly less controversial than the banners that appeared in the city some time back that appeared to be calling for the army chief to take over the country.