Bullies; we have all heard of them at some point in our lives, the more unfortunate ones amongst us have faced the wrath of bullies at no provocation at all. However, very few of us stand up to them. In fact, people who get bullied would lash out at their well-wishers who either point out the fact that they are being bullied, or tell them to bully their opponents right back.
Something similar happened with Najam Sethi on the eve of February 7. In his TV show, Najam Sethi ran a clip where Maulana Fazlur Rehman was alluding that Imran Khan was politicking at the behest of some nameless and faceless Jews. He also ran a clip of the PTI chief saying that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is one of the three people responsible for the mess the country is in. Sethi later said that Imran Khan should have been more vocal in his defence and should have denounced the Maulana more vociferously than he did because the latter will not let go of Imran Khan’s Jewish connection (Khan’s ex-wife and mother of his children is of Jewish, Catholic and Protestant heritage) and will use it against him again and again during the elections later this year.
Jemima Khan, Khan’s ex-wife, heard the words “Imran Khan, Jewish lobby, conspiracy” and without actually watching the programme or asking anyone with a better grasp of Urdu, jumped to the conclusion that it was Najam Sethi who was stirring up trouble for Khan. She was never considered particularly bright by anyone of note, and now even less so when she took to the microblogging website, Twitter, to start a personal attack on Najam Sethi where she wrote that — he had always been critical of Imran Khan except when his (Sethi’s) wife and him wanted an invitation to dine with late Princess Diana. Her intention, clearly was to undermine Sethi’s credibility as a journalist.
What followed was just as crazy as any other war of words on social media, but it is significant in revealing that politics based on religion is quite flourishing in Pakistan. No one is willing to take on this issue head-on, instead, they either try to shoot the messenger — in this case Najam Sethi — or join forces with the those spreading vitriolic hatred. It was Maulana Fazlur Rehman who first spoke about Imran Khan’s Jewish connection, but it was Sethi — an easier target who can perhaps only retaliate with arguments instead of something more sinister or dangerous — who got burned for just pointing his fingers to the bully in question.
Some really charged-up PTI members even started an online campaign demanding Sethi be removed from the air for “making some immoral remarks about Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Khan”. The fact that the campaign has received 631 signatures as yet, tells us a lot about how people form opinions — divorced from reason, nuance, logic — when deciding whom to vote for.
In the past, Imran Khan has been roughed up by the goons of the Islami Jamiat Talaba in Punjab University but we have not heard such vehement condemnation for them, either because of political expediency or because of the fact that the PTI was afraid of a repeat performance. Whatever the reason is, no one is calling out the real bullies who are getting away with all kinds of transgressions.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 11th, 2012.