By Ahmad Jamal Wattoo, BA Economics and Politics
Pride, one of the seven deadly sins, was found in abundance in one particular man. He was reclining comfortably in the back seat of a black Range Rover, a rare sight in a village as destitute as Faridpur. His enormous belly bounced as the car sped past cigarettes and wide eyes, honking at an unattended donkey that threatened to block its path. The man was famous in this country. The name, Aurangzeb Khan, echoed from the highest echelons of Pakistani government to the lips of the impoverished farmers and labourers native to Faridpur. A seasoned politician, Aurangzeb was a three-time Speaker of the National Assembly, a two-time Federal Minister and was on track to win another election in a few weeks’ time. Word had spread of Aurangzeb Khan’s arrival and the townspeople now flocked to the single dilapidated road which bisected the village. The people grinned, some even waved at Aurangzeb. He didn’t wave back. He merely wore his sunglasses, gifted to him by his good friend the Foreign Minister of Germany, worth twice the annual income of all the onlookers combined.
The sight of all the people disgusted Aurangzeb. The town didn’t vote for him five years ago in spite of the new roads, the schools, the electricity which he, only he, had provided them. But Aurangzeb was a practical man. He knew that he needed these people. A last ditch effort to win their vote was crucial and only a well thought-out speech with false promises, half-truths and whole lies would suffice.
Forty-five minutes had passed and the crowds surrounding the Range Rover only seemed to grow in size. Murtaza, the chauffeur, knew that the boss’s patience was diminishing by the second. Murtaza had worked for Aurangzeb for nearly three decades and knew that all the stories about him discussed on late-night talk shows and on the front pages of the local tabloids were true; the servant he killed in a fit of rage last December, the drugs and nude women alleged to be found in his mansion in Lahore, and even the torture and subsequent murder of rival political party workers by his paid goons.
‘Best not to keep the man waiting too long.’ Murtaza thought, as he honked ten times in quick succession and jammed on the accelerator.
They reached the political conference venue an hour late, and yet the crowds had not decreased in size. The major Pakistani news channels estimated that over fifty thousand people had congregated from all over the province to hear Aurangzeb Khan speak. But a crucial fact which the channels missed out: all the attendees would be paid for their attendance at the conference, about 1000 Pakistani rupees each. Aurangzeb knew that the millions of Pakistanis watching the conference on their TV sets at home had to be convinced that he stood for the poor and had earned their support. And so, he had left no stone unturned. Estranged party workers were bought back with brand new motorcycles. The news reporters were bribed to overestimate crowd attendance. The attendees were paid.
‘Assalam-o-Alaikum friends!’ Aurangzeb bellowed the Islamic greeting, as he exited his car.
As soon as he uttered those words, screams of ‘Mian Aurangzeb Zindabad! (Long Live Aurangzeb)’ erupted from the crowds.
A small army of elite commando bodyguards pushed the ecstatic sea of men aside as Aurangzeb made his way to the stage. Aurangzeb, meanwhile, waved at the crowd in Queen Elizabeth-like fashion and smiled ear-to-ear as he was escorted there, knowing full well that the whole country would be watching his every move, every gesture, every mistake. Pleasantries were quickly exchanged with the people who awaited Aurangzeb on the stage. All twelve men who received him had helped him reach the pinnacle of political success in the province. They were now growing impatient, sensing that Aurangzeb’s Cinderella story was about to end. He was growing old and did not have any children who would contest elections after him. The possibilities were mouth-watering.
‘I begin in the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful.’ Aurangzeb began, addressing the thousands in a deep, hoarse voice.
‘Faridpur, are you happy to see me?’
The paid mercenaries roared their approval.
‘In these past five years, I have given you so much. Electricity, gas, schools and roads. Me and my party, the Pakistan Tarakki League, have changed your lives for the better. And in a few weeks’ time, you will have your opportunity to say your thanks.’
A man on stage gave the signal: he scratched his balding head with grimy, sweat-soaked fingers before running off the stage. An explosion was heard. Loud. Nearby. The sea of people went into a frenzy, running out towards the fields. Meanwhile, Aurangzeb turned towards the back of the stage. He was alone. Before Aurangzeb’s facial muscles could contort to form a frown, a bullet pierced the side of his skull. He collapsed onto the stage. A pool of blood began to form around his motionless body.
In barely a minute, one of the most powerful men in the country was reduced to nothing. Aurangzeb would be succeeded by a man no less arrogant than himself. The next day, the newspapers would read that no suspects had been found in the murder of Aurangzeb Khan. The cycle of violence would continue. Pride begetting pride.