A visual guide to the political circus in Pakistani media
Politician A will accuse Politician B of rampant corruption and then call him a brother who he has utmost respect for!
Five years of democracy has meant a great deal of ups and downs for the free media. There has been a lot of drama, and occasionally some substance. Politicians returned from the wilderness into a completely changed world and had to adapt quickly.
New phrases, techniques and protocols had to be developed and on most occasions, the result - apart from tragedy - was hilarity!
Here are a few of the best trends that caught on in the Pakistani media.
“Dekhein ghaltian tou sab se hui hein”
(We’ve all made mistakes)
The best of the trends came right at the start. Several politicians were stepping out of the darkness and back into the light under the protection of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). As they emerged, blinking, trying to adjust to this fresh new world, they pledged their support to this new reconciliation.
Whatever had happened, had happened; it was time to start over. And when the issue of corruption came up, they said,
“Well, we all make mistakes.”
I never quite got over this phrase (as you can see!) to describe the act of corruption.
I, too, have made several mistakes in my life, but I can say with certainty that none of them resulted in my bank balance being pushed up by a few million rupees.
In fact, most of my mistakes have been detrimental to me.
There was the time I failed to estimate the speed of an oncoming car when driving into a busy intersection; that cost me a pretty penny and an earful from my father. There was the time I accidentally converted bytes to bits by multiplying by a thousand (rather than eight, if you don’t know!) in an exam - no million rupees there. There was the time I missed a miscalculation on an Excel sheet at work – the company still did not hand over the million rupees.
These politicians have to be the luckiest people alive!
They make a mistake, and as luck would have it, they turn out richer for it!
You’ve got to love the image of a politician sitting in front of an illegal deal with a pen, signing it, and going,
“Oh, damn it, I’ve done it again! I really should be more careful next time.”
Or maybe just stuffing his pockets with bank notes,
“I'm such an idiot! I’ve done it again, oh well ...”
In the background, a cash register goes ka-ching! Alas, like the NRO, this line was not to last.
“Mein inn ki bohot izzat karta hoon”
(I respect him/her a lot)
This is another brilliant phrase that caught on like wildfire and is alive and well today. Somehow, the protocol of the Pakistani talk show now requires participants to assure each other - the host and the audience - of their great respect for (and maybe even reverence to) their opposition.
This little bit of etiquette might have been effective if this line wasn’t usually sandwiched on both sides by streams of accusations and abuse. As it stands, all participants come out looking like complete morons!
Here’s how it goes:
Politician A accuses Politician B and his party of rampant corruption, mismanagement, theft, coupled with whatever is the soup of the day.
Politician A then goes on to say,
“Ye mere bhai/meri behn hein, mein inn ki bohot izzat karta hoon”
(This person is like a brother/sister to me and I respect him/her a lot)
The effect, of course, is that a simple minded viewer such as me is left wondering why Politician A has such great admiration for Politician B’s presumably advanced techniques of corruption, mismanagement and theft...?
The scenario gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “honour among thieves”.
“Waqt aane pe bayaan karoonga”
(I shall reveal it when the time comes)
We have all been assured this. I imagine it to be a climactic moment when the nation shall be gathered in the old library and in the dim lights, all shall be revealed.
Presumably, this moment will have to last a good number of weeks because the revealing will have to be done by so many people and on so many diverse topics.
Of course, once the politicians got started with this tantalising phrase, everyone joined in. Even the ex-wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haider got into the act with his “conclusive evidence” against Kamran Akmal. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also decided to show some statesmanship when they stated they weren’t exactly sure about how they regarded Imran Khan. They, too, would only reveal their stance on him “when the time comes”.
So now, everyone gets up, makes a statement and promises evidence to be delivered “when the time comes”.
I, for one, can’t wait to find out if I am right.
Was it actually Colonel Mustard in the Billiard Room with a candlestick?
Any day now, we’ll find out. Actually, come to think of it, we even find out what really did happen at Tashkent!
"Hey, where is your *burp* etiquette?"
The talking over everyone else part is, of course, old hat and not very interesting. The occasional name-calling or ‘gaali-galoch’ is interesting, but not where the real entertainment lies.
The fun parts are the politicians’ somewhat vain attempts to appear respectable and cultured.
These involve excessively peppering their sentences with phrases like “guzarish ye hai” and “ghaliban”, they also involve accusing other participants of having worse manners. These tactics seem spectacularly out of place in the political Royal Rumble that is the Pakistani talk show, and make their users come across like the inmate at the asylum who insists on wearing a top-hat with his tattered vest.
A special mention here for the women politicians (you all know who we are talking about!) who have epitomised the adaption to television.
They couple these last two techniques with the deftness of an Olympic gymnast and the subtlety of a wrecking ball. After they are done talking over everyone else, if anyone manages to get a word in, they immediately switch gears and accuse him of lacking the required etiquette when addressing a “lady”. They then proceed to ignore his point on that account!
“Mufti Sahab, ye kya baat hui?”
(What the hell, Mufti sahab?)
I almost forgot one of the most amusing things we see on TV.
This one has nothing to do with politics and I think the most famous example of this was Veena Malik.
Every so often a scholar of some sort will entangle himself in a battle against obscenity. Some show will be denounced for its supposed low moral standards and the scholar and the defender of the show will lock horns. The arguments will fly back and forth, till the defender of said offending show will drop the bomb.
He/she will innocently ask,
“Kya aap ne show dekha hai?”
(Have you watched the show?)
The scholar is now well and truly ensnared; he has two possible answers,
“Yes, I am a despicable leech who enjoys the same things he is denouncing!”
“Err, no, I have no idea what I'm talking about and have just come to rail on about things I know nothing about.”
He will struggle against the current, trying to create a third possibility,
“I have heard about it from other people.”
However, all such efforts are rendered useless when this new possibility is quickly lumped into option two by both the host and the defender.
“Ah, so you haven't seen it yourself; you have been shamefully misguided. Please come back when you know what you're talking about.”
The past five years have, in fact, thrown up much more than this. The media ensured that we saw and heard every single absurdity that took place in the corridors of power, and to be fair, in every remote corner of the country.
I suspect they also ensured that we were too engrossed in the show to actually take things seriously; no mean feat.
The performances have been truly exquisite and all involved should take this time to come in front of the curtain and take a well-deserved bow!
ILLUSTRATIONS: IMAAN SHEIKH