The rather bizarre affair of the shoe allegedly thrown at the president as he addressed a rally in Birmingham has attracted a huge amount of media space. This is unexpected, given that we are currently facing a surging flood, a consequent food price hike and other crises in the still tense city of Karachi. It would not be too much to expect a focus on these events of quite enormous proportion. Why the shoe-throwing drama has captured our imagination is linked to the vilification of Asif Ali Zardari that has continued for months. People, who otherwise seem capable of rationality, believe all kinds of absurd tales about him. The fanning on of rumour continues through email and text messages. The instant denial by government spokespeople that the shoe-hurling event ever occurred has only added to the controversy and kept it alive beyond its time. A more-matter-of-fact statement regarding what had happened would have dampened the conjecture and the fuelling of exaggerated versions of events. Some, for example, talk of multiple pieces of footwear being hurled towards the podium.
On its own, the shoe-throwing incident is insignificant. The unoriginal act of protest, in emulation of the one staged in Iraq against George W Bush, could have been engineered by opposition parties who have a big presence in the UK, or thought up by an individual as a publicity stunt.
The incident comes at the end of a trip to Europe that has brought for Mr Zardari a great deal of criticism. There is question if his remaining in the country would have done anything to turn back the swirling floodwaters, given that the chief executive is on the ground tending to the effort. But the criticism, especially because of the visit’s timing, seems to have done some damage which the government could have done without.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2010.
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