As elections are nearing Pakistan’s power politics is showing its true colours. In the next few months there will be mud-slinging, blame games and plenty of rhetoric. Do not miss it. It is an excellent alternative of a sitcom. The ridiculous and the serious will merge to make a political potpourri both spicy and sour.
Politicians in Pakistan cannot work their way unless they vituperate, scandalise and indulge in low-bred propaganda. Khawaja Asif of PMLN initiates the pre-election rites of mudslinging. In a fiery press conference on August 1st he alleged Khan of gobbling and betting (the expressions are quite remote from facts) SKMTH’s endowment funds. In 1997 PMLN extracted hefty political mileage from the Sita White affair; profusely alleged Khan of swallowing hospital’s funds; consequently the donations for SKMT decreased and Khan’s political take-off was also curbed. But that was the time when PTI was minnows of politics and they did not have the effective media personae as they have now. This time around, the wicket and the conditions are different and Asif failed to read it.
SKMTH and PTI are two different entities but PMLN wants people to see it as one. Pakistani politicians do not wear philanthropy and altruism on their sleeve however in this regard Khan is an exception and that is why Asif thought of entrapping him by blurring the line between politics and social work. He shrewdly transmitted an impression that his intension is not to hit the hospital while actually he did. It is an over-ambitious move, perhaps well timed too, but poorly scripted, and on account of having no spadework ended in smoke.
Now, it looks like a one-sided street or neighbourly altercation which evaporates on a slight intervention. The swaggering PLMN front-liners are hell-bent on embroiling Khan’s image in corruption, and malfeasance. They have already tried sleaze but it did not work much. Amidst this crazy crashing did not they think that had SKMTH been a shadowy institution it would not have won the international accolades? The lesson: next time do your homework properly before lunging to such lengths. Asif was out of all charity in damaging a hospital which is of international repute. Politics is such a dirty business that it knows no bounds of common sense and ethics.
But the question remains as why Asif who is one of the most clean and seasoned politician goes to such devastating extent? Within party there is a competition for front slots. Asif contrived to sort out Khan in a typical way: the plan was to bring Khan down to an optimum mundanity and then to make him look vulnerable like an average politician groping for face-saving. That is why in the anti-PTI narrative Khan configures as a political novice. But Khan’s unwavering stance on politicians’ corruption sets him apart from others. PMLN wants Khan to adapt their ‘tone’ and ‘tongue’, which perhaps he fractionally did, but on the whole there is still a huge difference between PTI’s and PMLN’s politics.
But then the epicentre of PMLN’s recent attack on PTI lays somewhere else. A few days back PMLN was clandestinely manoeuvring for an alliance with the PTI however Khan dismissed them with a hubristic flourish perhaps further bruising their impaired ego in the aftermath of PTI’s October, 2011 rally in Lahore. PMLN is rightly wary of Khan’s rising popularity, but they countered it in a bad taste and exposed themselves rather prematurely. Perhaps this was a last-ditch effort to subjugate Khan into an alliance.
Khan often alleges Sharif family of money laundering therefore in PMLN’S counter-narrative of ‘off shore’ accounts the emphasis is on bungled foreign investment. But the technical aspects of the allegations hurled on Khan are beyond a layman’s comprehension. So what PMLN wants simply is to plant doubts in the minds of the burgeoning PTI voters. They failed to establish that Khan uses charity as a smokescreen to his politics. Sadly, for Asif an aplomb and rational rebuttal by the CEO of SKMTH dampened his hopes of running the show. Not all scandals have lives of kittens. But did not Asif know that he blew it already? In politics you become a mirror-image of your moral and ethical capitulation and yet you do not see it.
Will the PMLN’s uncalled-for shenanigans tarnish their political image? Since half of the politics like cricket,which is Khan’s forte, is played in mind and the PMLN has already shown nerves it seems the bigger chunk of the electoral cake may go to Khan’s palate. Can PMLN do the damage-control? This is yet to be seen.
Since the damage is self-inflicted its repercussions will haunt PMLN till the day of the ballot. In their arrogant stride PMLN forgets one thing that the PTI is a modern political party which may not have the traditional political armoury in their backpack but equipped with modish tools of communication their workers are set to counter these allegations in diverse ways. Khan’s decision to sue Asif sounds apparently a right counter-move however it will cost him a lot of time and energy which could have gone into organizing his party that still gives a scattered outlook.
The season of allegations is in full swing. There will be more drama and melodrama. One wonders when we will have a serious political
combat. These are not felicitous beginnings as the country is beleaguered by all sorts of issues however the public response on Asif-Khan episode testifies one thing that people of Pakistan are now far more insightful, informative, and rational in choosing their future leaders.