THE road leading to the Sharifs’ Jati Umra residence was lined with cars as far as the eye could see. They came in all shapes and sizes; tinted SUVs carrying prominent politicians and their burly security guards; regular sedans; and large coasters packed with party workers, some of whom had travelled 400 kilometres to catch a glimpse of their leaders.
“I’ve travelled all day to come here from my village,” said a visitor from Chishtian, hastily making her way to a segregated section for those wanting to condole with the women in the family over the demise of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.
Inside the ladies marquee, there was a crush of people. Getting past the entrance was a struggle and people elbowed each other just to move a few feet. The women in the family sat on a sofa in the middle, meeting visitors one at a time as they lined up to pay their respects. Former minister of state Saira Afzal Tarar, MNA Marriyum Aurangzeb and MPA Hina Butt made a protective wall around the handful of family members to avoid a stampede as everyone there wanted to meet only one person: Maryam Nawaz.
Women supporters of the PML-N from all walks of life stood impatiently in line, talking to each other while simultaneously trying to jump the queue. “She has become as thin as a thread,” said one woman, while another added, “We will not let them take her back to jail.”
It was like an obsession. “I’ve come all the way from D.G. Khan. I just want to look at her, even it is from afar,” said one woman, who refused to budge. Another surreptitiously took out her phone to turn on the camera and — despite several warnings from party leaders not to take photographs — focused on Maryam. The flash went off and her click caught the attention of Maryam who suddenly spoke out, alerting her protectors. They swooped in and momentarily confiscated the phone to delete the images.
Hordes of supporters throng family residence to catch glimpse of Nawaz, Maryam
“Is this an occasion to take pictures? What are you achieving? Don’t add to their misery please,” Ms Tarar pleaded with the offender, who sheepishly put her phone away.
As glamorous as the life of a public figure may appear, it was evident in the moment that — despite the passing of her mother and the unique circumstances keeping her from being with her in her final moments — there was little chance that Maryam could truly grieve. It was difficult to imagine what she was even thinking as she sat stoically before the swirling mass of people who wanted to touch her head, hold her hand and say how much she meant to them. Maryam was mostly quiet, occasionally breaking down when a familiar face approached.
In the men’s section, too, there was utter pandemonium — more than the ladies section as hundreds of men pushed and shoved each other to meet former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, out on parole from Adiala jail where he is serving sentence handed down by an accountability court.
As Mr Sharif entered the tented-hall, workers rushed towards him from all corners to catch a glimpse. As a result of the sudden movement, Mr Sharif was pushed over and his guards threw a cover for him. Former minister Ahsan Iqbal’s request to the workers to back off was ignored as they wanted to get closer to Mr Sharif to shake hands. “Mian sahib, I love you,” they chanted, charged and unwilling to listen to any orders for calm. The overzealous ones succeeded in getting close, and managed to take selfies with him in the background.
“I have come here from Shadbagh at 11.30pm to see Mian Sahib,” said one visitor, Wasim Ahmed, who works as a computer operator at a private college. “After a wait of several hours Mian Sahib came but I couldn’t get a chance to reach close to him to say Salam. I jostled my way to approach him but it was in vain.”
He said he took time off from his job to get to Jati Umra. “Like others I, too, got very emotional seeing Mr Sharif. [He is] not in good health because of jail. I hope he is freed soon,” he said.
Earlier, the Punjab government issued three separate orders in favour of prisoners Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar, according five-day extension in the short parole granted to them allowing them to attend the funeral of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz at Jati Umra, Raiwind.
The orders issued in favour of the three prisoners granted parole period extension from Sept 12 (4pm) till Sept 17 (4pm). The orders also mention parole conditions that the prisoners shall not leave the place specified in the parole permission order. The orders say the police escort shall be responsible for the safety and security of the parolee till their re-admission into Central Prison, Rawalpindi.
They also say the parole duration shall not include the time consumed for journey back to the prison.
Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018