The Qureshi question

Until Qureshi stops teasing us and finally reveals his destination, this is a question that will consume the media.

Nadir Hassan November 17, 2011

How many Shah Mehmood Qureshis does it take to join a political party? The answer, if you rely on the media for your information, is at least three. Even before the former foreign minister had officially left the PPP, we were told that that he was certainly going to join the PTI, was definitely headed for the PML-N and would most likely form his own political party with other PPP malcontents and cast-offs. Just about the only party Qureshi wasn’t linked to was the TTP.

In the interests of full disclosure, I had speculated on the Qureshi question myself a couple of weeks ago, relying on the same perennial, anonymous (un-)informed sources. But, I am too much of a coward to put what I fondly consider to be my reputation at stake by saying anything definitive and just hedged my bets by essentially saying that all three options were open and who really knows what he will up end up doing anyway.

Until Qureshi stops teasing us and finally reveals his destination, this is a question that will consume the media. Then he will give a speech, his new leader will cut a cake in his honour and we will never have to think about him ever again — or at least until he switches parties again.

The point here is not to criticise Qureshi; rather he is to be admired for his ability at turning his 10 minutes of infamy into 20 days. But this constant where-will-he-go speculation should be an embarrassment to the media. We pride ourselves on being hard-nosed reporters but in cases like these our desire to be the first with any bit of news overwhelms all good judgment.

The PTI, already busy picking up the flotsam of failing political parties, would love to add a relatively high-profile politician to its burgeoning line-up. Qureshi may not have joined Imran Khan’s party yet, but that hasn’t prevented party officials from presenting it as a fait accompli. The same applies to a beleaguered PML-N. The Qureshi camp, meanwhile, has been floating the forming-a-new-party rumour in the hope of giving their man leverage in his negotiations with the PTI and PML-N. It’s a smart game being played by all three but it relies on us, the media, to be faithful transcribers of their musings for it to have any chance to work. Luckily for them, we obliged.

This is not the first time Shah Mehmood Qureshi has treated the media like his own personal stenographer. Back in 2008, when it was thought the contest for the prime ministership was between Qureshi, Amin Faheem and Ahmed Mukhtar, with Gilani running a distant fourth, he strongly pushed his case to the media through his supporters, making it seem as if his appointment was a foregone conclusion. And as a WikiLeaks cable recently revealed, he didn’t limit his self-promotion to the media. A cable written by the US embassy in Islamabad on Qureshi’s chances of being given the office said, “He has been self-promoting his candidacy for prime minister with foreign diplomats”. At least the US was as gullible as the media, stating in the cable that he could be relied upon to be pro-American.

The moral here is that perhaps we should be less interested in speculation than actual news. It’s going to be a hard habit to kick. I know that I, for one, may not be able to do it. But at least we should be held accountable. For the record, here’s my prediction: Qureshi will join the PML-N, but my only reason for saying this is that their officials were so damn confident when they talked to me.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 18th, 2011.


Omair | 10 years ago | Reply

hmmm. wasnt PML-N involved in releasing Raymond Davis, the reason why SMQ took a stand?

Hassan | 10 years ago | Reply

Why do we think that changing political parties or affiliations is the most abject thing to do in our country? There are worse worse things than this.

And frankly, you really cant blame the guy for leaving PPP under a Zardari setup and his close coterie of friends who make all the changes, decisions, policies and effects. It is just like changing a job when you feel you are not geting satisfied with your work or that it has nothing more to offer to you than mundane routine.

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