Telling Lies? Yes Mama

Telling Lies? Yes Mama

When you hear the look-alikes of our leaders in potentially irreverent television comedies, you know that it is a joke. When the leaders themselves make a statement or answer a question in a press conference or talk-show, you take it seriously. There is an instant ticker on the news channels. Headlines come in the next day’s newspapers.


Ah, but the caricatures may be more truthful than the leaders themselves. The real joke is how the leaders change their stance, statements and promises. Because the news channels have ready access to the relevant clips, the spectacle of how our politicians shamelessly renounce their earlier positions is now becoming a regular distraction.


Do I need to give any examples? For instance, we know what the likes of Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi had said about the PPP and its leaders. Likewise, Asif Zardari was candid about ‘Qatil’ League. There was that great Mushahid Hussain sound-bite about the stupidity of the Zardari-led government. And yet, they were willing to be partners in the ruling coalition. Remember Imran Khan’s crusade against the MQM? That stance has changed.


It is the same when leaders make promises. These promises have to be taken on their face value. Not only that the promises are not kept, the situation gets worse. It was in the National Assembly that Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani pledged that his security motorcade would consist of only four vehicles.


Now, politicians in other countries also change their positions. The dictum is that there are no permanent friends and enemies and a door is never closed in politics. Still, drastic shifts necessitate appropriate explanations and apologies. Politics, too, has its own code of ethics and behaviour. Some moral principles have to be respected.


We may refer here to the hallowed tradition of a high functionary submitting his or her resignation as soon as a credible charge or financial or moral corruption is reported. We read about it all the time. But our leaders do not seem to believe in any concept of accountability or personal integrity.


However, our media has traditionally been more attentive to what they say – rather than what they do. Statements make more news than events, at least in the newspapers. Every speech made by the prime minister or some prominent leaders has to be displayed on front pages. The joke is that the particular statement may be a repetition of what has been stated a dozen times.


I recall a story about a correspondent of a major daily who was posted in Quetta when Ayub Khan was our president. His life’s desire was to interview the president. So, when Ayub Khan was on a visit to Quetta, his newspaper received an exclusive interview of the president. It was, naturally, published as the main lead. But the interview had not been granted. The reporter had only shuffled some sentences from statements published earlier in the week. And the information decided not to contradict the story.

So, the next time you watch political satire on your news channel, take it a little more seriously than a statement made by the real person.

Ghazi Salahuddin

A renowned Pakistani journalist working for Jang Group. He has also served in the capacity of President of The Karachi Press Club in 2006.

  • Hassan.

    I will ask Ghazi that when he states in his article ” there are no permanent friends and enemies and a door is never closed in politics “, so what ethics he is expecting for characterless people.

  • S Nasrullah

    Here in USA, the Saturday Night Live program or The Splitting Images in the UK or Hum Sab Ummeed Se Hain or Hasbe Haal in Pakistan are brilliant Mimicry of contemporary politicians. The script writers make profound efforts to present the character in its hilarious and riotous Best. In so doing, they have to marinate facts with fiction and the end effect is not only surprisingly befitting, but outstandingly apt.
    Politics and Diplomacy are renowned for their profligate characteristic of confusion, complexity, chaos and cunning. There is nothing white or black in politics – there is the predominant hue of grey. Every ruler as a politician, is Pyramid of Patriotism, man of Impeccable focus and Vision on National Progress and Prosperity, a veritable Performer and Adroit Achiever and consequently, anyone opposing him is a Conspirator, a Traitor, a Nihilist, A Regressive Stumbling Block and what NOT. These are the illusionists who look into the mirror and repulse d by the spectacle or the specter of their own reflection.

  • Ujala

    Nice and coherent writing. Enjoyed reading. Like Mark Twain saying in Pak would be, “we have the best politicians that money can buy”

  • Anastasia Psarra

    I enjoyed reading your article, nice development of thoughts and interesting introduction to ethics.

    I totally agree with your statement ‘Because the news channels have ready access to the relevant clips, the spectacle of how our politicians shamelessly renounce their earlier positions is now becoming a regular distraction.’ Shifting the centre of attention away from the actual problem is a long-lasting tool of politicians. The whole chopping and changing of positions through the media coverage is only part of the problem.

    Even politicians should have a moral line that they should never cross, however, it does not appear to be this way. The blame game and the lack of transparent communication through the media, adds up to the confusion.

    I personally think that some politicians tend to use this as part of their political agenda. The media has simply given up their neutrality and politicians are taking advantage of the lack of ethics involved in the process.

    I have looked into this from a Western point of view, looking into Italy’s ex Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his current involvement in the media. Feel free to have a look and let me know your thoughts.