Prime Minister Imran Khan opened himself up to blistering criticism after a sincere admission and a possible misspeak during his tour of Iran. The PM admitted Tehran had been on the receiving end of terrorist attacks from groups operating from within Pakistan. But he also emphasised that the “entire political spectrum agreed that no militant group will be allowed to operate from Pakistan”. Former defence minister Khurram Dastagir of the PML-N was the first to reference the comments while speaking in the National Assembly, slamming the government for making such a statement in the light of the FATF situation. PPP’s Hina Rabbani Khar, the ex-foreign minister, referenced the PM’s comments about Iran as well as Indian PM Modi being the better negotiating partner on Kashmir, insisting “this is not funny anymore”. Proceedings degenerated further as the House descended into whataboutery regarding former PM Nawaz Sharif’s approaches to the Modi-led Indian government, the memogate case, and allusions to the Dawn Leaks fiasco.
Eventually, Postal Services Minister Murad Saeed took the opportunity to take proceedings completely off course. He accused Bilawal Bhutto of “pleading India’s case”, being an accidental party chief, and being a party to massive graft. He even referenced Bilawal’s age, which was surprising, considering Saeed is just about two years older than him. The speech was only cut short by the Azaan. Along the way, Shireen Mazari tried to defend Imran’s apparent misspeak on Germany and Japan’s post-World War Two recovery. Imran spoke of industries being set up along borders to encourage economic integration and regional peace. He probably did mean Germany and France, as Mazari insisted, although his repeated references to Japan and the statements from the party’s media machine undercut Mazari’s defence. They claimed that Imran did not misspeak and Japan did set up border industries.
Except that Germany and Japan are thousands of miles apart, and more importantly, Japan is an island. It has no land borders and no such industries set up on shorelines for such a purpose. And unfortunately, such knee-jerk efforts to defend the indefensible will turn the PTI into an island.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2019.