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Old heroes, new heroes

December 12, 2011

IT is not for nothing that Nawaz Sharif moves around with the 'most responsible' politician's tag. The two-time former prime minister who turns 62 this Christmas is a true veteran by Pakistani standards.

Benazir Bhutto remained a contender for power for 30 years — between 1977 when her father was deposed and her assassination in 2007. Nawaz comes in second in the list of seniority of Pakistani politicians with a genuine enough claim to the top job.

He has been around since the 1980s — since the early 1980s if you take his selection by governor Ghulam Jilani as Zia's heir as the starting point and since 1988 if Nawaz's coup against Muhammad Khan Junejo as PML chief formally announced him as a safe choice for power.

This is a long tenure. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto has a permanent place in Pakistani politics (partly because he was forced out while still young). ZAB spent 20 years in politics, including his years as minister in Ayub Khan's cabinet, his years as head of government in Islamabad, followed by his time in prison.

Nawaz Sharif has done it before and during a speech in Larkana — he doesn't mind reasserting his claim to the mantle of Benazir Bhutto. But experience in itself isn't enough and, in Lahore, Maryam Nawaz is being initiated into politics, pressed into service as a young flag-bearer of PML-N at a time when the party is not taking chances given the country's search for the new.

The search for fresh faces is infectious among power players. Last week, Bilawal Zardari filled in for his ailing father in Islamabad. On Sunday, Farooq Sattar demanded 'bringing down' the age limit for prime minister in the country to 35. The age for entering the National Assembly is 25, and any member of the Assembly can be elected as prime minister. Age is definitely getting to our hero and the switch comes at its own emotional price.

According to Abhishek Bachchan, his father Amitabh Bachchan need not worry that he is not doing a film or a television show right now. Amitabh has a full-time job looking after his newly born granddaughter.

Shahrukh Khan has been compelled to rely on all kinds of facial and technological lifts in his fight against advancing years. He is in a long line of heroes whose childish pranks readily give away their age.

Pakistani cricketers have won against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They are led by a methodical Misbah ul Haq who is apparently inspired by the dull PML-Q formula. The resultant game is high on strategy and low on excitement; it may be cricket that gives us victories, but no pleasure,

Ali Azmat, Junaid Jamshed, Inzamam ul Haq have all aged as would characters in early Urdu short stories with a moral at the end. They have seen the bad world and it is from this that they draw the fuel for their drive to protect the youngsters — from the big bad world. Bol

Shoaib Mansoor has aged too. He has grown out of his golden days and his bias for saying it lightly. There are no half measures on his part. He is possessed by the power of his message even when a few minutes into his his captive audience cries out for old-world relief from the real new world that he thrusts into their faces.

Shahbaz Sharif is not getting any younger. But this doer in the Sharif clan, the perennial younger brother, is not going to go down without a fight. He must woo the youngsters with all kinds of scholarships and insist on reading out a story to children at a festival in Lahore. neela jangia safaid jangia

Alternately, he sends out his son to patronise a wrestling match. Hamza Shahbaz, the third lion in the local Simba series, does make a good attempt, but the '' and '' arena is hardly a place where new aspirations take on old fetishes.

He needs to find a better forum for his performances and he needs a young, up-to-date vision to locate this forum. Just like the task Maryam Nawaz has at her hands, Hamza's job is to fight the label of being a new agent of the old. pehelwans pirs

The old have aged just as has Shahbaz's new friend, one-time-instigator, Habib Jalib who finds such universal acceptance and respect that every traveller belonging to any group is now willing to rise in reverence to him. His powers to instigate have been neutralised through co-option, his universality compromises his ability to reach out to the people who still need him. He is a bit like ZAB and BB, two political available to be used by anyone and everyone looking for a catchy tune for popularity. thara thara

Close to Jalib's original motley place, the political worker who would occupy the is another of our heroes who has become weak and feeble over time. The debate has shifted to the freedom and anonymity of the Internet, and nostalgia has given way to new possibilities. desis

The proud with proud links with the soil (and always too much oil) suddenly discover that the much-caricatured burger has a tongue of its own; dipped deep in the red of revolutionary sauce and crying out for a quick-fix for the old.

Imran Khan celebrated his 60th birthday on Nov 25 which, at the risk of protests by his ever-protesting fans, would lead to an assumption that he too is getting on in years. Age generally does greatly define decisions. As you get older, you may either withdraw or you may want to rush what you were earlier willing to wait for. In Pakistan, there is no bigger example of this than the one provided by the country's founder.

Imran is certainly not withdrawing. Bilawal, Maryam, Hamza and Moonis are here to stay. The alternative contender has thrown the party open to the mature. The mature politician is creating his own alternative.

The writer is Dawn's resident editor in Lahore.