I doubt if I could have chosen a more terroristic way of spending this 9/11, the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Twin Towers, but due to a coincidence of the Muslim lunar and the Christian solar calendars, I spent this day in the plain of Arafat with three million other Muslims, instead of some other commemorative activity, like a candlelight vigil.

I chose this year for the Hajj, of which this is the focus, ignorant even that there was a chance of the dates coinciding. As a result, Last Sunday, there I was, seeking the mercy of the Almighty, for a lifetime’s sins of commission and omission, and not a mention of 9/11 did I make. Why not? Because I didn’t feel responsible.

This was though the people fighting the terrorism that had caused 9/11 were being mistreated by the Highway Police, supposedly a totally honest and un-police-like body. The SSG personnel supposedly responsible for kidnapping an NHP inspector and roughing him up are being castigated, even though they were only obeying orders and following the example of another SSG man, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who did to the then elected government what they did to the policemen.

This was the Big One, the proverbial irresistible force meeting the immoveable object. Police versus Army. And not some backwoods cop meeting some poor broken-down old soldier, but the elite of the two institutions, the Motorway Police versus the SSG. From the social media noise, it seems twoviews were emerging. One was that the government was attacking the Army; the other was that the Army deserved a break.

Look, this is the Army that has distanced itself from the 1971 disaster, so it seems logical for it to think a bye was there for the taking over the actions of mere captains. The police is understandably frustrated, because its usual method, of killing the criminals and then announcing they were being freed by accomplices, could not be used. The publicity means also that the usual police method of solving any problem, by taking a backhander, cannot be practiced. In fact, the registration of a case by the district police was probably so they could get a share of any money flying around.

After the Waqoof-e-Arafat, the Hajj Is over, and yet not over, for there are the Jamraat to be stoned. In between, one must spend a night in the open at Muzdalifa. I wasn’t expecting it, but I slept well that night, perhaps as well as at home, lucky to escape any downpour. I know Makkah is supposed to be a dry place, but I was caught in one downpour, where I was in the midst of the faithful, who continued with their Maghrib prayer, which they must have started with drops fallingas a token of the storm that was to come. Well, if we had caught rain like that, we would have been pretty soggy, but the Almighty was merciful.

After the night in Muzdalifa and the stoning of the Satan comes the tawaf-i-zirat, naturally at the Haram. We went there with a Saudi Arabian taxi-driver, who did not seem a frustrated Formula One driver, as Pakistani drivers are, but a frustrated camel racer, down to the encouraging exclamations meant to egg the camel, or rather car, on to go faster. I asked him about his family, and not only got the information that he had three kids, and that his parents lived with him, while two younger brothers had gone off. A very Pakistani story.

This universality of the family unit stressed one of the messages of Hajj. It is about Ibrahim, but Arafat, where the Parents of all Mankind received the first pardon for their first sin, Mina, where Ibrahim was ready to sacrifice his son (and Ismail to be sacrificed), and Safa and Marwa (Where Hajira ran to and fro in search of water for her babe); all make it about parents and children.

Anyhow, on leaving, we used the services of a Pakistani taxi-driver, with whom I spoke about the Pakistani workers stranded in Saudi Arabia which they couldn’t leave because of arrears of pay, after their construction companies collapsed. They hadn’t collapsed because of the crane collapse disaster last Hajj, or because of the oil pricescollapse, but both put together has made the Saudi government stop construction. Maybe it was the subject, but he showed no inclination to be either a Formula One or a camel racer.

It wasn’t a good time for the police. If the Motorway Police learnt that stopping Army officers in mufti meant a beating, the Sindh Police was learning that arresting MQM MPAs could get you suspended, as SP Malir Rao Anwar was. He had been a particular favourite of the Sindh government, and there was more than a hint of his suspension being despite the military agencies, even though he said KhIzharul Hassan, the MQM Sindh parliamentary leader, was also a leader of target killers. Rao Anwar apparently has it in for the MQM, having held a press conference only last year to say that MQM took money from RAW.

I pity poor KhwajaIzhar, for he will never live down the accusation. I hope he is already married, for now no one is going to give him their daughter. Heck, I hope his wife stays loyal. I’m not sure if a sinner is owed any loyalty, though.