I wonder whether those who fling shoes in protest against public figures bring an extra pair or use one of the two they are wearing. If it is the former, it is understandable. But if it is the latter, it begs the question—Do they go shoeless for the rest of the day or buy a new pair?
A lawyer in Karachi, who was among some 20 others protesting against former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, threw a shoe at him on Friday. Musharraf, who has just returned to Pakistan after over four years in exile, was at the Sindh High Court in connection with a bail hearing. While Musharraf was granted a bail extension by the court, there was nothing in the order to protect him from flung shoes. This one landed close to him but did not hurt him. Of course, it will take much more than a few flying shoe to deter the former military dictator from pursuing his objective of leading Pakistan again. Perhaps he should have asked the lawyer to throw the other shoe as well to complete the pair because as he goes about rehabilitating himself he is going to have to walk a lot. An extra pair of shoes can always help.
I am reminded of the December, 2008 incident in Baghdad where not one but two shoes were hurled at the visiting U.S. President George W. Bush. Here is what I wrote then:
In a cruelly ironic reaffirmation of democracy striking roots in Iraq, a correspondent of the Al Baghdadiya TV hurled not one but two shoes in rapid succession at President George W. Bush who was on a farewell visit to the country he believes he freed up.
Television footage of the ugly incident is widely available. The good news is that the president’s reflexes are swift and impressive for a man under his kind of stress. When the first shoe is flung at him, he ducks with complete precision. It appears he was not expecting the second one. He seemed a bit flustered but managed to dodge that any way.
In many Asian cultures, including in India, shoes have been used as an expression of utter contempt. Garlands of shoes have been frequently thrown around politicians in India as an expression of extreme disapproval or displeasure. In the Middle Eastern culture too shoes are a tool of protest.
Bush was obviously unprepared for what he encountered. Unfortunately for him, the incident will be emblematic of his Iraq policy as he leaves office.
Unlike Bush, Musharraf seeks to return to office against formidable odds, including the cases of the murder of former Balochistan Governor and Chief Minister Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2007 and the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in December 2007. He may manage to sidestep a shoe but those charges would require much more skill and tenacity. Then there is the publicly issued threat of assassination by the Taliban.
As you can see, Musharraf must want to lead Pakistan badly. Why else would he expose himself to all this? Not too many others would like to be in his shoes.