There was a chill in the air. Thankfully the windows of the room were closed as men huddled together to resolve a crisis that they had been trying to resolve for the last few years. As the conversation wore on, and flexibility was in short supply, one of the men — a powerful one — he took a decision that would trigger the flow of numerous undercurrents in the coming hours and days.

“Call Mufti sahib over to Islamabad,” he ordered his aide. Many hours later, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman, the 76-year-old former chairman of the Ruet-i-Hilal committee and a prominent Sunni cleric, was sitting on a stage in the Press Information Department on Zero Point in the federal capital along with the foreign minister of Pakistan, and holding forth as the key mediator in the nerve-wracking dispute between the government of Pakistan and the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan. The Karachi-based mufti who hails from Mansehra was well-aware that he was, once again, the centre of the nation’s attention. Not that he was a stranger to such intense interest by his fellow citizens. When you have held the nation rapt at least once each year for 22 long years and relished the suspense of the Eid moon-sighting, you tend to develop a certain chemical attachment to lights, cameras and yes, plenty of action.

Mufti sahib was itching for action. Having been dethroned from the moon-sighting committee by the-then science and technology minister Fawad Chaudhry, he had been nursing his grievance and not making a particularly valiant effort to hide how cut-up he felt. But that was the past, and past is another country, right?

Not always, it seems.

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