The perennial willing loser

Nawab Dr Ambar Shahzada will be remembered for his jovial, half-serious, attention-grabbing antics around elections

The perennial willing loser


awab Dr Ambar Shahzada, a frequent candidate who had grabbed immense attention during successive elections because of his unique getup, slogans and manifesto since 1988, passed away on March 27. He was 59. While he never bagged a large number of votes, he was fun during the nominations and the campaign season.

This scribe met him for the first time during the 1993 election campaign during his visit to the offices of The Frontier Post, where half a dozen of his college fellows from the Government College were working as reporters and editors. He entered the reporting section, wearing a Turkish cap, a silk shalwar qamees and a waistcoat. He carried an unlit cigar in his hand and was always twisting a sword-shaped moustache. His friends received him enthusiastically, hugged him and cracked some jokes about his getup. Shaking hands with this scribe, he introduced himself, “Nawab Dr Amber Shahzada.“ He also handed me a pamphlet. The pamphlet read, “Apkay Vote Ka Saheeh Haqdar, Aalmi Zameer Farosh, Nawab Dr Amber Shahzada, Chairman Aap Janab Sarkar Party” (the person truly deserving of your vote, global compromiser of conscience). The meeting was quite amusing.

Shahzada was born into a business family in Faisalabad. He had started participating in political activities during his days at the Government College, Lahore, which was not the university he obtained a master’s in philosophy from. After passing out of the college, he contested his first election in 1988. He continued participating in the electoral process till 2018. Shahzada claimed that he had contested all elections since 1988 and been a candidate in more than 45 constituencies for National and Punjab Assemblies and the Senate. He had alo submitted his nomination for the presidential race. It was rejected. Calling himself a semi-corrupt person, he promised in his manifesto to legalise ‘necessary’ corruption.

Shahzada claimed that he had contested all elections since 1988 and been a candidate in more than 45 constituencies for the National and Provincial Assemblies and the Senate. He had also submitted his nomination for the presidential race, which was rejected.

In 2018, he attracted immense media attention after he wrote a letter to the then chief justice of Pakistan, Saqib Nisar. In his letter, he requested the CJP to appoint him the caretaker prime minister. He claimed that he would make for a great replacement for the outgoing prime minister. He wrote, “I am a corrupt person to the extent of my necessities but wish for a corruption-free country. I can handle all the problems Pakistan is faced with. Please appoint me the caretaker prime minister to ensure free and fair elections.”

Some of the people close to him said, “It was not a joke, but a taunt. He accurately reflected the country’s situation in his letter.”

Shahzada used to come up with some inimitable slogans for his campaigns. Here is a sample: “Thori rishwat, kaam ziyada. Wazir-i-Azam, Amber Shahzada” (Once you elect Amber Shahzada as prime minister, small bribes will go a long way). Shahzada would also have funny things to say or suggest about election symbols. On one occasion he requested for and was allotted the spoon. In local usage, a chamcha (spoon) is an implement to scoop food as well as a person known for obvious flattery. On another occasion, his symbol was tawa, a flat pan for baking and frying as well as disk used for playback recording and a reference to mockery and ridicule (tawa lagana). His pleasant nature was at its brightest following electoral defeats. He would typically say, “Ustad, punj vote milay nay, agli wari sahi“ (Friend, I got five votes; there’s always a next time).

Shahzada was also an occasional poet and a rather skillful versifier. He enjoyed reciting his poetry mostly to his friends in Lahore. A collection of his poem, Jurman Nalon Wad Sazawan (punishments exceeding crimes), has been published.

Shahzada suffered a stroke in 2022 but made a quick recovery and resumed his fun sittings with friends. However, he did not survive a heart attack on March 27 and was laid to rest in his dear Lahore. He is survived by a wife.

The writer is a senior journalist, teacher of journalism, writer and analyst. He tweets at @BukhariMubasher

The perennial willing loser