Year of the Ass


*Recounted “off-the-record” by ex-IGP Dastagir to our intrepid correspondent, Munna Manhoos.


HOURS BEFORE THE DISMISSAL:


I knew CM Buzdar was the silent type, some would compare him to a headless village scarecrow, but his preoccupation with the paperback-wide picture frame ground my gears. Is this what Punjab’s top official does in his princely office all day?


I’d cleared my throat enough times to form an ulcer. And yet he kept his beady, deep-set eyes fixed on the frame while buffing its acrylic cover with the focus of a cardiac surgeon.


He hummed sometimes, too, in a tone-deaf mousy voice that belied his mustachioed pumpkin head and portly carriage.


My boot tapped the sheeny hardwood floor as I eyed him quizzically. How long would he leave me standing in full regalia before his sequoia-thick desk with the gilded side carvings? I’m still the ranking cop in Punjab, goddammit!


Sigh, it’s all my fault. Three decades ago, when I announced my desire to join the police service of Pakistan, my father begged me to inherit our family samosa stall.


You wait, he raved. An educated young man like you’ll become a respected restaurateur in no time with your own floodlit marquee in the ritziest part of town.


But, stupid me, I wanted to serve the nation. Instead, I’ve served a procession of Philistines driven by whimsy and an insatiable lust for power.


Still, I’d comforted myself with the thought they’d never install a mindless bobblehead to helm the province. Oh, how wrong I was, how mother-loving wrong.


CM Buzdar’s plump chin raised toward me and he wore a surprised look as if I’d teleported a twinkle earlier.


I recast my grimace into a crooked smile and offered him a tired salute.


He motioned me to take a seat with a limp swat of his wrist and returned to the frame, all the while sighting me blankly as is his trademark.


The thorough professional that I am, I ground my jaw instead of allowing my displeasure to manifest as loud cussing.


Only this fool could rid me of the leech his government installed as Lahore’s police chief. Humph, that shithead of a sheikh. He’s lucky I didn’t deck him the last time he called my mama fat.


Nothing should surprise me anymore, but what were they thinking? The motormouth on that knave could deep-six the Rashidun Caliphate.


The CM’s throne-like swivel chair squeaked asudden as he sat upright and glanced from me to the picture frame several times; his brows pinched in concentration. Then he murmured while somberly shaking his head.


I made a serious face. “Sir, I must bring the CCPO’s past conduct to your attention. We cannot risk him sowing discord in the force.”


The corners of his lips drooped. “If only you were an ass, Shoaib,” he said wistfully.


My nose wrinkled. “What?”


He flipped the picture in my direction. A bright-eyed donkey with perky ears smirked as if he’d just sacked a field of carrots.


Is that his pet? How apt. “What’s this?” I asked dryly.


He set the picture on his desktop. Then he steepled his hands over the desk’s edge and peered at me overlong. “You’ve got the conk of a pelican, I feel. We need an ass round here.”


My eyes narrowed in disbelief. I’m in the right place, so why’s he monkeying about? He can’t be an imposter. Who’d want to play this dunce?


“Sir, the CCPO,” I continued coolly.


He nodded. “Yes, we must keep him here. The First Lady insists.”


My palm sandpapered an ear. “Why? The man’s toxic,” I moaned.


“It’s the year of the ass, she says,” he said with a shrug. “We need him to stay in power.”


My heart pit-a-pat as a fish threshing out of water. Lamebrains, the lot of them. Think they can run the country on omens and enchantments.


“Aren’t there enough asses in parliament?” I blurted.


He set his hands in a teapot pose and deadpanned, “The lord works in mysterious ways. Unlike you, that man looks and acts the very definition of an ass.”


A tsk escaped my tongue. “Even if the police force goes to hell? I must speak to PM Khan myself.”


On a dime he flushed crimson and his outspread palms trembled. “No, no, he cannot meet pelicans this week!”


My nails dug into the padded armrests and I snorted. “I, sir, don’t give a gnat’s backside about your superstitious hokeypokey. If he doesn’t see me, I’ll go to the press!”


His features flattened to their natural dopey state. “Sorry, you’re fired.”


I tipped forward and threw him the stink eye. “You’re kidding.”


“We promised to solve people’s problems, Shoaib. What’s Naya Pakistan for if we have no problems?”


The bullet lodged in my thigh from years ago throbbed anew. Astagfirullah, they want the CCPO to cause mischief so this dolt can step in and smell of roses. Start a war to act the savior? These schemers are Satan’s equals!


A wry smile cracked his stony lips. “We’ll send you somewhere comfortable. Pity you resemble a pelican. Pity, pity.”


Barf arose from my bowels and raced for the throat. A spotless work record and they kick me sideways to accommodate a bumbling idiot. Crap, I should’ve stayed in the samosa business.


“And where is that?” I grumbled.


His face turned pensive and he tapped his chin. Then his fingers snapped. “I know, narcotics!”


The laughingstock of the bureaucracy. Of all the godforsaken places…


I gaped at him, breathless. “What the hell will I do there?”


Grinning, he trained his finger at me with a flourish. “Exactly.”


THE HEADLINE NEXT MORNING:


Shoaib Dastagir removed after alleged row with Lahore CCPO, Inam Ghani new IGP Punjab


Inam Ghani has been appointed the new Inspector General of Police for Punjab, in the latest development to arise out of an alleged dispute between the former IGP Shoaib Dastagir and Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO) Umar Sheikh.


The development comes after Prime Minister Imran Khan, in consultation with Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar, approved Dastagir's removal from the post, sources told Geo News.


According to a separate notification, Dastagir will now serve as Secretary Narcotics Control, with the former secretary reassigned as the federal ombudsman.


Umar Sheikh will continue as Lahore Capital City Police Officer (CCPO).



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