June Issue 2015
Pistols at Dawn
Pistols at Dawn Even while facing multiple criminal cases, the possibility of arrest and exile from the corridors of power, Zulfiqar Mirza continued to play out his John Wayne fantasy — Stetson, pistols et al. Mirza not only dresses the part; he can talk the talk too. His rhythmic insults are worthy of legendary Western crime writer Elmore Leonard, his friendship-turned-feud with Asif Zardari the kind of plotline Clint Eastwood would thrive in. “I’m going to go ahead and make your day,” Mirza seems to be saying every time he addresses yet another press conference.
There is supposed to be honour among thieves, but someone forgot to tell Zulfiqar Mirza. He and Zardari used to be, to make literal use of a popular simile, as thick as thieves. Now the friendship is gone.
Zardari became too greedy, you see. There were enough sugar mills for everyone but Zardari wanted them all for himself. In his greediness he has lost not only a buddy in Mirza, but apparently a son in Bilawal too. Zardari will have all the money he made, but can it buy back his relationships? In a country whose politicians need money more than oxygen to breathe, he stands a fair chance.
He should have known better. Mirza had given him — and the rest of us — fair warning. Two years ago, when Zulfiqar Mirza was pontificating on Rehman Malik and how he confuses apples and bananas, and when he was balancing Qurans on his head, we all thought this was the peak of a showman’s career. Little did we realise that it was only a preview — the throat-clearing before the main act. We are all so used to analysing politics in a Machiavellian way. Every statement is parsed for meaning, every action closely studied to figure out how it advances the political actor’s cause and career. Zulfiqar Mirza transcends all of that. He is not here for personal and political advancement. He is not publicly breaking with the PPP so that the PML-N will offer him a cushy cabinet post. This is not politics as usual.
Maybe all Mirza wants is to be loved. Behind that cowboy tough-man exterior could lie a softie — a man who has been spurned and now wants the world to know that it hurts, dammit. We have all lost friends and been betrayed, but our betrayals do not generally take the form of multiple cases filed in anti-terrorist courts.
Mirza’s life is more dramatic than ours, which is why he comes off as such a dramabaaz (showman). He didn’t want to do it like this. He warned Zardari their friendship was on the rocks by taking aim at Rehman Malik. The hurt was clear to see, but Zardari didn’t take the hint. Zardari is one of the most cunning men of our era, but even he could not read Mirza’s soul.
All that’s left now is a Cain and Abel style tale of epic betrayal among brothers. Maybe to the victor the spoils. Or else maybe this is a feud for the ages — one both Zardari and Mirza will be telling their great grandkids about. Maybe the bitterness will be replaced by melancholy then. Maybe Zardari will regret cutting his friend off. Maybe Mirza will regret his wardrobe choices.
This article was originally published in Newsline’s June 2015 issue.
Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.