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May 12, 2019

The lighter side of Islamabad events


May 12, 2019

Go to any hotel or restaurant in Islamabad and you will find that their halls are always booked for different seminars and discussions. In our university days, we used to attend these programmes and the most interesting segment used to be when the food is served.

There are many lighter aspects of such events that punctuate daily life of the federal capital, which should not be ignored as otherwise the city is abuzz with imposing ‘dignitaries’, talking ministers and sulking babus. These people live in swanky villas, and are supposed to be engaged in tense meetings, bitchy debates and cruel decision making process. But there are some like Maritime Minister Ali Zaid who have a way to smile tough situations.

Recently, he was the key speaker at a round table discussion on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Iran in which Iranian envoy was also invited. Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed moderated the session breaking off some questions that both Iran and Pakistan need to find answers to in his opinion.

The discussion got tense at a point related to the challenges between relations between the two countries when Minister Zaidi skillfully diffused it saying in a lighter tone, “The only thing I am concerned with is how do we spell this ministry: Marrytime or Maritime.” His remarks brought smile to faces of the audience.

But at the same time he was very clinical about answering critical questions. He recalled that he and the prime minister visited holy places in Iran with great reverence and regard.

The round-table discussion was arranged by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI). Another lighter aspect of this event was our entry. When I and senior documentary maker Ramzan Ali reached the hall, the receptionist told us that only those media persons who have a camera with them are allowed to attend the talk. At this point, we got to know importance of camera and Mr Ramzan Ali regretted leaving his camera back at home.

As the event concluded, Mushahid Hussain Syed’s lighter remarks about a speaker, a retired general, that he is a thinking general attracted much attention of analysts including Ifitikhar Sherazi, and Asif Ali Bhatti. Some senior people had taken affront to these lighter remarks and they had their reasons for it but majority of the participants enjoyed it.

Prof Sajjad Naqvi, who runs the IPI, was very kind and gentle in expressing his opinion. A retired academician, he looked very active for his age. His son Bakir Sajjad, a known writer and analyst, exhibited rare hospitality for everyone. Both father and the son were serious stuff, with no time to spare for anything off the agenda of the programme.

In a candid discussion, Ramzan Ali asked Gen (R) Noor if he will conquer country if he is provided with all the necessary resources. The good general did not miss the point and replied that he can conquer more than one countries.

Senior writer Mazhar Barlas shared his wisdom with the people in his lighter style which is communicative enough for audience of different ages. But Minister Zaidi’s remarks that his calling someone a Maulana does not mean that he means so take the cake. Such lighter moments need to be cherished as if you cannot escape Islamabad, you should learn to enjoy this city.

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