KARACHI: Ever since details of the legendary comedian Umer Sharif’s burial were given by television channels on Tuesday, it was expected that roads leading to Umer Sharif Park in Clifton Block 2 near Ziauddin Hospital, where his namaz-i-janazah was to be held at 3pm, would be clogged. That did not turn out to be the case on Wednesday afternoon.
There were a considerable number of people who were at the venue from around midday. But most of them belonged either to TV news channels or to the welfare trust that was one of the groups which had made arrangements for the funeral with their volunteers standing in queues to guide people to the park. The other big contingent was of the security personnel, particularly of the police force.
It was around 2.30pm that familiar faces began to trickle into the venue. The first among them were politicians. Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Rauf Siddiqui and Dr Farooq Sattar, Pak Sarzameen Party’s Mustafa Kamal and Anis Kaimkhani had come early. But it did not take Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani and Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab very long to make their appearance. They were followed by Governor Imran Ismail. As it always happens, government functionaries were escorted by quite a few policemen.
The spot where the prayers were to be offered was in the middle of the park towards the boundary wall. It was covered with shamiana (tent) in order to protect the mourners from the sun that was beating down pretty hard on Karachi on Wednesday.
It was the artist community, friends and co-workers of the late Sharif, which eventually outnumbered the known faces — as they should have. Individuals from the world of commercial theatre such as Hanif Raja, Shehzad Raza and Zakir Mastana were there to take part in the last rites of their great colleague. The most prominent among them was actor Suhail Ahmed who had especially flown in from Lahore for the occasion. He was instantly hounded by mediamen; and he answered their questions with grace and poise.
As time passed by, the general public, too, started to pour in. There were many of them; still, one was anticipating huge crowds. Apart from that, conspicuously absent were television celebrities who had tweeted messages of love and admiration for late Sharif the moment the news of his death in Germany broke.
The Edhi ambulance that was carrying the comedian’s body arrived a little after 3pm. Despite the fact that not one but two announcers, and later Sharif’s son Jawad, kept urging and requesting the attendees to make some room for the vehicle to reach the janzah gah, it took almost 20 minutes for the prayers to start.
When the prayers ended, it was the VIPs who left the park first. A large convoy of cars and the ambulance carrying Sharif’s body left the venue and arrived at the shrine of Sufi Saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi in less than 10 minutes where he was to be buried as per his wish. There, the number of those who had come to the funeral further decreased. Still, it took the ambulance some time despite entering the mazar premises to move towards the front yard where Sharif was finally laid to rest.
Published in Dawn, October 7th, 2021