“The audience accepted her entry and her (long), incongruous incumbency good-humoredly. But when she sang, they did not appreciate it at all.”
Suddenly, again, as expected, the dramatic political saga of Ayesha Gulalai has resurfaced. Recently, she appeared on at least two national talk shows promoting her moral defence of a controversial issue. But people are asking: why now? And why so persistently? And why not then, three years ago? And, of course, these questions are not without merit and moral justification. She’s also hurling new accusations against Imran Khan and the PTI. Let us attempt to offer a rational explanation.
It is my professional interest and intellectual orientation to deliberate on every national issue of importance from different and various perspectives. This is a universal norm of a social science approach; having a rigid and predetermined view on any matter of importance prevents us from developing a true understanding of it. We simply cannot pass an absolute judgment on any matter from a purely personal view rooted in established social and cultural norms. In doing so, we, as human beings, are likely to prejudice our own comprehension of an issue.
Having made that point, let us deliberate on this issue that captured the attention of the entire Pakistani nation several weeks ago, prior to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s dramatic homecoming to Lahore after being disqualified from the office of prime minister. In the pandemonium created by the ex-PM’s four-day march to his hometown, the accusation of immoral conduct and alleged sexual harassment against the PTI chairman had receded into the background. But it has re-surfaced as expected. Hence, it is important to discuss it now before it becomes a national debate again.
Fundamentally, at the moment, there are two prevailing views on the young parliamentarian’s accusation: both are politically motivated.
The accuser, a young woman parliamentarian on a PTI ticket, has publicly accused the PTI chairman of sending her lewd messages over the telephone. She claims that the messages started coming some three years ago in 2014. Immediately, the PML-N leadership and its jiyalas have accepted the accusation as gospel truth (without verification of facts or evidence provided by the accuser) and have demanded the application of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution of Pakistan for a lifelong ban on the PTI chairman’s political activities on the basis of being an immoral person. It appears that this is the means to an end to the PTI leader’s movement.
On the face of it, it appears a convenient ploy for the character assassination of a prominent political actor who is popular with a large segment of Pakistani masses and is directly posing a serious threat to the status-quo powers in the country. In absolute earnest, it can be argued that the PTI chairman, at the moment, presents a political movement that is a menacing force and an outright threat against the powerful vested interest-based ruling elite in the country. Hence comes the desire to outmanoeuvre the PTI leader through fear or unfair means. And, amazingly, a female PTI parliamentarian suddenly appears on the political stage with accusations of moral misconduct.
However, the accused political actor and his supporters claim that they know the entire reality. They see this as a willfully engineered ploy: it is the PML-N leadership and its jiyalas who planned this campaign to character assassinate the PTI leader.
Let me suggest that we do not sit in arbitrary judgment over the above stated fundamentally different perspectives on the issue.
The point I wish to make here is that whereas the entire world has moved from an age of sentimentalism to an explicit age of rationality, Pakistan as a society and nation has stayed permanently unmoved by the common global discourse of rationalism — meaning that our society looks at life, culture, politics, and nearly every aspect of our existence with an overbearing emphasis on emotional and sentimental slogans, with awkward and unnatural social cultural clichés, including furious reactions against perceived sexual misconduct.
Let us consider the issue from a third perspective: to be termed a humanistic view, or the human factor.
Let us for the sake of discussion believe that the PTI chairman, in fact, had sent her a message, followed by many more messages, some three years ago.
Let us look at the female accuser, a young parliamentarian. Attractive, single and extremely ambitious, articulate, holding dreams of leadership (by her own admission), resourceful, brave, blunt, determined, supported by her affluent family and courageously walking into the murky environment of male-dominated politics with determination, skillful maneouvres and full of promise endowed with self-confidence.
Keep in mind that the accused is a healthy individual, a bachelor, wealthy, a celebrity nearly all of his life, a rising political star with a real possibility of emerging as the political leader of the country if his party wins at some point in the near future.
We all understand it — the temptations were there, and seemed pretty much within reach with one stroke of a daring adventure by the accuser! Now, is it beyond the realm of all human possibilities and with dreams and ambitions of touching the ultimate heights of worldly success, the rising political female star might have, like a human being, thought of matrimonial union with the handsome leader, who has attained lifelong stardom and now seeking national leadership? Could not she have disregarded the age difference because the benefits outweigh the compromises? Could not this ambitious woman dreamed of being the first lady of Pakistan? What is so improper and devious about such an idea? It’s just being human.
Equally, it is plausible that Imran Khan may have been attracted by her personality, political ambition and energy.
Nonetheless, Imran Khan’s supporters have impeccable faith in their leader’s moral, ethical, financial and political credibility. They believe that Imran Khan, at this stage of his life and in his struggle against corrupt political leadership in the country, is prudent enough not to indulge in the kind of moral turpitude of which he is being accused. And so, they say, this entire accusation against him must be politically motivated and engineered by his opponents to malign him morally.
But by the same token, Ayesha Gulalai has a solid background rooted in traditional strict family values and defined and determined goals and objectives in her political life.
Political behaviour is one thing, but not completely detached from one’s overall personality traits. Political psychologists will tell you that one’s overall behaviour is harnessed in the individual by extensive existential experience throughout life. An upright, honest, credible political personality or a leader is most likely to reflect the same level of credibility in moral issues as in all other traits of his/her personal behaviour.
However, Imran Khan and Ayesha Gulalai, like all of us, are human beings ruled by human factors and capable of erring. We all can make mistakes.
Imran Khan is wisely silent on this issue, and we hope that Ayesha Gulalai, upon reflection, will also now desist from turning this issue into a national debate again.
Peace is upon those people who seek it.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2017.
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