Strict security around Qalandar’s Aastana – armoured vehicles, anti-tank canons, ambulances, firefighting tankers, dozens of choppers, internet/phone services suspended. Qalandar comes out holding a centuries-old sword in his hand, thinking, “Modi has invaded Pakistan.” But he is disappointed to see General B coming out from tank’s hatches.
“Be careful or you will sprain your back!”
“Impossible! I am still young and fit for another extension!”
“Why did you dispatch the summary then?”
“Asim is own child – very obedient. He said I could always come back. He will present me the COAS uniform in a plate just like Sheeda Talli presented Nawaz Sharif his two Pindi seats. But I said no need for this drama. You will be just a puppet chief, de jure and I will be become the de facto COAS.”
“Why you are so heavily armed?”
“Oh – all these vehicles, tanks and choppers are full of sweets – offerings for the Aastana!”
“And why are you acting like a dog with two tails?”
“See for yourself!” B shows Qalandar a clip on his cellphone.
Host Maya Ali introducing B at the Defense Day saying: “You are the courageous officer who spent most of his life at the Line of Control and gave the enemy a tough time. History will remember you as the chief who fought the most difficult war.”
All the murids including Qalandar burst into laughter.
“What’s wrong Sarkar?” asks B.
“This lass was reading a written script. The words are never in her vocabulary. But we did not see signs of joy on your face when she was eulogising you. You were lost. Perhaps you were trying to figure out whom she was referring to. Stop sulking! Come inside, dip Gluco biscuits in tea and eat – your favourite!” Qalandar says.
Four are in the lounge: Qalandar, B, Reshma and Karela (spokesman).
“Against Maya Ali’s clip, I can show you hundreds. But two are enough to open your eyes,” Qalandar says. His spokesperson Karela switches on the multimedia.
The innumerable sons and daughters of Patay Khan are chanting slogans in the most sophisticated and literary language in B’s honour.
“They are performing extempore. What echoes in streets is always true! Next clip!” says Qalandar.
Civil society activists (Qalandar calls it “evil society”) are harping on the decades-old mantra: General Ayub and General Yahya were behind Pakistan’s dismemberment, not the politicians. Governance is the job of politicians, guarding frontiers is the army’s job.
B loses his temper when he sees the ex-army pet Jamid Pir repeating the same.
“Turncoat, brownnoser! He would lick my elders’ boots and now pretends to be the biggest champion of rights!” B curses Pir.
“He is still licking the boots but of others. And he does it in the darkness of the night. You hit the bed immediately after offering the Isha prayers, thus you never know!” answers Qalandar.
“Najam Sethi praised me to the skies despite the fact that I will be in the history’s dustbin in a few days. He is an upright journalist. I will let him write my automobile therapy (autobiography) and have it published by him. I repent not favouring him in six years. If Asim offered me his uniform in plate – as he promised – I will have Sethi as Vice Army Chief,” says B.
“Done with your non-sense?” Qalandar says angrily.
“Sorry Sarkar! I’m all ears!” B says.
“You could have kept your speech formal and to the point. Nobody’s father can defend your theory that 1971 was not a military but a political failure. Which idiot advised you to discuss it?”
“But Sarkar! Maya Ali’s tribute…” B tried to defend, but he was stopped by Qalandar.
“If she says tomorrow that Patay Khan is the greatest Maharaj Kathak who can dance with plasters on his both legs, will the world believe her?”
“What should I do then?”
“Set up ‘Retired Army Chief (Only Extension-Providers/Seekers) Welfare Association.’ Make yourself lifetime patron-in-chief like General Faiz Ali Chishti. Pakistan’s conundrums are innumerable and multiplying. You can pick one every day, take it to any press club. You can address an army of journalists/anchors, 4 to 5 – and lecture the gullible Pakistanis about conundrum-solving!” Qalandar advises.
B jumps from his seat and exclaims: “Vow!” but badly sprains his lower back.