Clearly Imran Shah isn’t the sort of representative Imran Khan promised in his Naya Pakistan
I’m sure every Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) member, in the leadership of Imran Khan, watched the full Rocky Balboa saga before initiating their election campaign. However, instead of only being inspired by the motivational rhetoric to push forward, a PTI MPA of the Sindh Assembly recently took his Balboa skills for a test... literally. As popularised by a viral video, in an altercation-turned-thrashing, Imran Ali Shah can be seen slapping the Senior Deputy Director for Coordination of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Dawood Chauhan. The reason being an alleged touch-and-go between both their cars.
As a citizen of Naya Pakistan, I’m a little shell-shocked, a little relieved, and very disappointed.
In a recent video, the MPA claims that the viral video does not show the full picture of the story. He explains that he unmounted his vehicle to “resolve matters” with the motorist. However, as per his alleged story, one of the motorists began to curse at the parliamentarian, in response to which he pushed Chauhan and matters “escalated from there”. Conflicting him, the viral video shows Shah repeatedly slapping the CAA’s Deputy Director of Coordination.
For an educated MPA to physically abuse anyone, despite whatever reasons, is simply appalling. Resorting to physical violence represents a lack of ability to rationally process situations in a civilised and organised manner, which leads to questions regarding Shah’s potential and credibility as a leader. A person who can take the law in his own hands today, can do much worse with it when the law is on his side tomorrow. No excuse justifies the actions of Shah, no matter what clarification he presents, and regardless of any apology or action taken by the PTI disciplinary committee, this does testify to an abuse of power.
What makes the matter worse is an explanatory note posted by Chauhan’s son, who claims that his family has known Firdous Shamim Naqvi, the president of PTI’s Sindh chapter, for years. And thus, asking his fellow countrymen to ponder over what would have happened if his family had not known Naqvi. It clearly suggests that the family’s relationship with Naqvi, and the fear of consequence is the only thing that eventually lead Shah to seek Chauhan’s apology. If a member of society with such affluent friendships can be thrashed, this situation cautions the common man of their standing.
Yet, this is also what fuels my slight relief. Asking a sitting member of the parliament to present a version of their story and suspending their membership till a final decision is made by PTI’s provincial disciplinary committee is unprecedented in a country such as Pakistan. Leaders like Rana Sanaullah have publicly abused, cursed, and religiously, politically and racially profiled hundreds of men and women without any consequence. They have gone on to vilify women in profane language, indulging in sexist, misogynistic commentary without any fear of “the law”. This represents a strong deterrent for “masculine men” like Shah, who believe that they can rage out on anyone in public without any consequences.
However, while PTI’s actions are commendable, this is not where the story ends. The matter does require proper and deliberate investigation, which should ideally result in a harsh punishment for anyone who is willing to resort to physical violence. At the very least, it is evident that the MPA needs some anger management classes, and a tour of a therapist’s office. In Imran’s Naya Pakistan, this abuse of power, especially by men who are meant to be model citizens, leading and representing their constituencies, should not be tolerated. Furthermore, while Shah did apologise, his apology and explanatory video are clearly not heartfelt. A lack of honest remorse is pungently observable in the parliamentarian’s body language which further needs to be addressed.
The shell-shocking part of this story, though, entails of an alleged National Identification Card (NIC) stating that Shah holds dual nationality. An image of the alleged NIC went viral on social media showing that Shah might be a British national as well. But there has been no official validation of the fact as of yet. Nonetheless, if it does come to be true, it could lead to Mr Shah’s removal from the Sindh Assembly, as well as a great deal of trouble for PTI.
Further twists in the story come in the form of a video by Shah’s stepmother. She has alleged that he has indulged in illicit activities, document forgery, and acts of physical aggression before. She claims that he and his brother never “accepted” their father’s second marriage, and threatened the widow after his death, eventually forging false documents rendering her ineligible to any inheritance from her husband. If true, this reiterates that Shah isn’t the sort of representative Imran promised in his revolutionised Pakistan. Therefore, whilst this matter needs to be investigated objectively, Shah should be made to understand that he has no right to threaten, physically harm, or even curse at the public. He is a representative of the people, and in turn a servant (as emphasised by Muhammad Ali Jinnah), and not the oppressor in a typical monarchy.
Nonetheless, whilst this video-war-drama fuels ratings for top media outlets, Pakistan is clearly a long way from being Naya. A few weeks back, Pervez Khattak, the former chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), had made some very questionable comments himself. Although he too apologised for his actions, this trend of making blunders and quickly showing remorse seems all too familiar. As aforementioned, while the disciplinary committee hearing and suspension of Shah’s membership for the time being shows a road to progress, it can only truly lead to the materialisation of Imran’s dream if some concrete action is eventually taken. Per trends of the past, if this event too is forgotten over the next few days and another mistake-then-apology breaks the internet, Pakistan won’t be moving quickly enough in the right direction.
We, as a nation of individuals responsible for our actions, need to get our act together. Physical violence in response to situations that can be easily handled, such as a minor accident, are way too common in Pakistan. Beyond the scope of just one incident, we must address these issues at an individual, familial, cultural and societal level, ensuring that coming generations understand the consequences of aggression, and only resort to civilised discussions to handle such situations. And no matter how much more money or comfort he has on his parliamentary seat, Shah is no exception to the lot. He too needs to get his act together!
May Pakistan prosper, and the Pakistani people learn to handle their anger better. Pakistan Zindabad!