ISLAMABAD: A non-descript man seen sauntering in the hallowed premises of the President House on Monday may have looked ordinary to the glitterati attending the 18th Amendment signing ceremony, but is said to be all-important to President Asif Ali Zardari.
Presidency insiders revealed that he was the president’s Pir.
That would be nothing new or strange. Many of our rulers are known to have had their patron saints. Some of them claimed to have a divine right to rule, while others held on to their holy man even after being kicked out of power.
The present holy man, Mohammad Ejaz from Gujranwala, has a distinction, nevertheless. He is a resident Pir. His face covered with a scarf. The appearance of the Pir in a sophisticated gathering in the main hall of the presidency stunned many as he appeared to be a stranger, but was pacing up and down with an air of authority.
Clad in a normal Shalwar Qameez with slippers and sporting a greyish beard, the man caused much bowing and scraping from high and low alike, some politicians and bureaucrats included.
At one corner of the presidency, Pir Sahib was seen holding the head of a man, reciting some chants apparently to protect him from evil or sickness.
The presidential spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, denied presence of any Pir in the presidency. “There is no Pir or person like a Pir in the presidency.”
He, however, confirmed that there were some trustworthy personal servants of President Zardari who had been residing in the President’s House since long. “I couldn’t see any Pir on that day. Maybe the man who is believed to a Pir is a servant of President Zardari,” the spokesman said. Sources said the Pir had been living in a guestroom close to the residence of the president since President Zardari went into the presidency.
There is a practice in the presidency that almost daily a black goat is slaughtered as a ritual intended to protect the president from evil.
Hundreds of black goats have been sacrificed since Mr Zardari moved into the President’s House in Sept 2008. His trusted personal servant, Bai Khan, buys the goats from Saidpur village in Islamabad.
Former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, too, had a common patron saint called Tanakka Baba living somewhere in Mansehra. Both of them, at the time of their rule and after it, reportedly used to visit the Pir frequently to seek his blessings to prolong their rule. Like politicians, former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf also used to visit the Dargah of Eidgah Sharif, on Asghar Mall Road in Rawalpindi, often to meet Pir Naqeebur Rehman. His visits were a source of discomfort and trouble for residents of the area, especially for those whose houses faced the road.