Living by the sword

This knight, with his personal code of honour, was trying his best to protect his master from troubles far worse than fire-breathing dragons

Wherever I went in Pakistan, his name came up in conversations. He was accused of corruption, threatening behaviour, bias in promotions/postings of high officials, and other things including running the government on his own. By the time I reached Islamabad, I could not take it anymore. I called him for a meeting.

We had met in London a couple of years ago. I had found him interesting in more ways than one. He had come across as someone who fancied himself as defender of faith in doing what he believes to be right and to be fearless in the battles that follow. I thought he was a knight, riding from tower to tower, seeking a princess to rescue. Either way, if you spend a few hours with a psychiatrist discussing most topics under the sun, nothing much is left to the imagination.

His driver picked me up. I asked him, “How far do we need to go?” “It depends” he said, and went quiet. “On what?” I asked after a pause. “On the traffic” he answered, and went quiet again. I decided to keep the peace and soon we arrived at what looked like a pigeonhole but was actually the Prime Minister’s Secretariat. I was whisked through corridors and a lift to an office with a view of Margala Hills. The big man walked around the table to give me a hug, “Nice to see you again Doctor Sahab”. Fawad Hasan Fawad was standing in front of me.

We were soon talking about weather, cricket, Tahira Syed and culinary delights. As he was doing most of the talking, I tried stealing a glance around the room. A stylish photograph of Jinnah overlooked him and he could catch the National Energy Grid Monitor and a TV (on mute — playing GEO) from the corner of his eye. I realised that this was not go down well because he expects total attention when he is talking to you. From then on, I even picked up my cup of coffee without looking at it.

Fawad could be his poet-name because he is into Ghalib, Iqbal and Faiz. We could not go there because we were interrupted by PM Abbasi’s unexpected arrival. This was the day of Nawaz Sharif’s first public appearance after being disqualified for the second time. This was followed by a series of interruptions, which gave me an opportunity to be a fly on the wall, observing the foremost player in the country at work. This knight, with his personal code of honour, was trying his best to protect his master from troubles far worse than fire-breathing dragons.

He was born and brought up in Rawalpindi. His father had anchored here after emigrating from Kashmir via Sialkot in 1947. Fawad, youngest of five brothers, drives inspiration from his father who graduated from Siri Pratab College in Srinagar in 1935. This was no mean achievement as there weren’t many Muslim graduates in those days. He recounts the hardships his father endured along the way while negotiating treacherous mountainous journeys on horseback. He downplays his Kashmiri origins but refers to an Ibne Khuldun theory that regional hardships prepare the genius until an opportunity comes along.

Fawad has had an interesting life. From cricket nets with Majid Khan to doing a morning radio-show, and from being a firebrand orator in College to his Corolla-1974-days at the Staff College — the excitement never stopped. He was handpicked for his flair and ability to work hard by Mr Sherdil who was Chief Secretary in Balochistan.

Fawad never looked back as he served as a Deputy Commissioner in two provincial capitals, Quetta and Lahore, and received prize-postings subsequently. Due to a planned DMG cull in the Musharraf era, he might have angled for career in the financial world but Musharraf’s unexpected fall brought Fawad back in the fold.

Fawad has proved his critics wrong by being extremely valuable in diplomacy, official arm-twisting, and crafting political strategy to the satisfaction of his bosses

It does not take long to know where you stand with Fawad and vice versa. He believes in linear relationships. People either love him or hate him — he does not care. He does not know that I might have played a part in getting him into PM office by default. He has, nonetheless, proved his critics wrong by being extremely valuable in diplomacy, official arm-twisting, and crafting political strategy to the satisfaction of his bosses. He would, however, take the blame to his grave that he could not save the king. But it had more to do with the king than anyone else — a knight wields no strength unless the hand that holds him has the courage!

Fawad is a stickler for detail but with his eye on the big picture. He knows that knives are out for him. But he is prepared to go down fighting in the knowledge that, among other things, he saved the princess once. He wishes to have an axe next time round because swords trick you into thinking you can ‘defend’. Meanwhile, I look forward to this summer when I will play Monopoly with him in my back garden in Chislehurst, a stone’s throw away from the palace where Napoleon-III was exiled in 1870.

The writer is a Consultant Psychiatrist and Visiting Professor. He tweets @AamerSarfarz

Published in Daily Times, March 8th 2018.