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Iftar Diplomacy

BY SAVAIRA KAWISH

It is the blessed month of Ramadan again. There is a switch from the mundane everyday routine business and social life during this period. Everything slows down to a lazy crawl. Offices often note a loss of work efficiency during Ramadan. Employees may often arrive for work late and leave the office early in order to devote the remaining part of the afternoon to their religious devotions and preparing for the iftari.

Iftaris form an integral part of the Ramadan routine. During this period, lunch meetings are no longer held. The social butterflies can now afford to sleep in late, as there are no luncheons to attend or host. Instead iftar-dinners are arranged, as it is believed that the host incurs great blessings for hosting an iftar for the faithful. Thus an invitation to an iftar-dinner becomes the main social event.

For the common people iftars simply provide an opportunity for the whole family to sit together and the children are given lessons in devotion, love, care, sharing and humility. Family bonding is reaffirmed.

On the official level it is socializing in the guise of doing business. Iftar-dinner has now become a status symbol. These grand parties continue throughout the month and millions of rupees are fixed for these special parties.

Many organizations host iftar-dinners for two or three different sets of people. The first one is of course on a small scale and is usually hosted during the 27th of Ramadan and it is only meant for the employees. The others are of course, for friends and clients.

In Ramadan, iftar parties replace political meetings. It has almost become necessary for any politician worth his or her name to throw a lavish iftar party, which provides an opportunity to build image and do favors in order to expand the vote bank. It also provides an opportunity for the politicians to make a political statement. The guests relish the moment to make contacts with political heavy weights. A lot of wheeling and dealing takes place. Interestingly, the majority of people invited to such iftars do not even observe fasts!

At such dinners, tables are set with sumptuous mouth-watering dishes for the guests to partake of. Great care is then taken to ensure that suitable photographs appear in the next day's papers.

Foreign ambassadors from Muslim countries also host such iftar-dinners. Over the years, even non-Muslim envoys have started hosting iftar parties. The people invited include a selective gathering of the foreign ambassadors and diplomats, top politicians, celebrities from the fields of sports, film and music industry, businessmen and media tycoons.

Services chiefs, judges and other categories of government servants have their own parties going on round the month. Separate ladies’ iftar parties are also arranged.

A lot of canvassing is done to ensure an invitation to two of the most coveted iftar-dinners: At the Aiwa-e-Sadri and the PM House. On the provincial level, the important iftar-dinners are the ones hosted by the Governors and the Chief Ministers. The cream of the political elite is invited to these iftars. Who did not attend whose party becomes the gossip topic for the guests to debate upon.

The original purpose of the iftar congregations was basically to serve food to the downtrodden, the deprived and the travelers. By indulging in iftar diplomacy, politicians make a mockery of this otherwise very solemn and dignified rite. These political iftaris should be done away with. If at all the politicians feel that they must host such an iftar-dinner, then it should be toned down. Better still, it should be hosted for those people who cannot afford to provide their children with even one decent meal and yet they are fulfilling their religious obligations.

This is that sacred month in which the rights of the poor should be given utmost importance instead of building up one’s image in society. This is that month in which our good deeds are multiplied greatly. Why then do we indulge in nifty-gritty mundane everyday routine?

 

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