The zeal for rhetoric

Published: October 10, 2012
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The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at
http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

Pakistanis are quite good at being critical, whether it is our personal lives or collective, we criticise with impunity and aplomb. However, some people and institutions, no matter how reprehensible and opprobrious their behaviour is, remain above question and mockery. Imran Khan is also turning into such an individual with perhaps, the most vocal supporters of all.

The best thing that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in general, and its peace march in particular, has done is that it provided us with an insight into people’s minds (using social networking websites as a medium to gauge public reaction). It has always been a taboo of sorts to question the actions of the great Khan. Now, however, it has become impossible to make harmless jokes at his expense because “he is that man who is doing something while people like me who dare to question, mock or laugh at him, are merely sitting in front of our computers busy ‘facebooking’ or tweeting about it”. It’s as though until and unless you have accomplished twice as many feats as Imran Khan, the person (not the politician), you have no right to either question or mock his politics. Why must one be chastised or trolled for not liking a particular political figure or joking about him?

What is most ironic is that the people, who jump to defend the honour of the great Khan, fail to realise that they are doing exactly the same — judging someone while sitting in front of their computers — as they accuse others of.

It’s amazing how, by just supporting a politician — we still don’t know how many of them will actually get up and go out to cast their votes come election day — the fans of the PTI think they have done something worthwhile, which makes them more morally correct than other mortals for they have the foresight to pick the right candidate. Even when you feel like mocking them for their fervent zeal, you are told that you should not do that because at least the PTI is different from other political parties and Khan is the messiah.

If you are a person who is easily appeased by words, it is quite easy to support Imran Khan whole-heartedly, especially when he talks about ambiguous things such as sovereignty. What if he takes a stand on an issue that is polarising? What if, God forbid, Imran Khan opposes the blasphemy ordinance or calls for the declaration of domestic violence as a crime punishable by the local courts? What if Imran Khan declares Federal Shariat Court a superfluous body that should be dissolved? What if he supports the construction of Kalabagh dam? I know it is wishful thinking on my part and being a politician, Imran Khan will do no such thing, but it is something worth pondering over whether he will go against mainstream rhetoric and focus on things that really affect people.

In their heads, people seem to have already turned Imran Khan into this harbinger of change, which is okay, but we also need to question whether we are ready to be confronted by the truth. The public is happy with Khan as long as he is making noise about things we’re all against but we will never indulge in real and open debate about issues that matter because we are either not ready or not willing to tackle them. We are happy in our distraction that at least Imran Khan is talking about them.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Mirza
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:17AM

    A very truthful and pragmatic Op Ed and thanks for publishing it. Actually half way through the Op Ed I was thinking that we take this approach not in politics but also religion. We can mock any and all beliefs but cannot tolerate any criticism at all. We are always right and we have a divine right to lynch any and all of our opposition. There are talks and ridicule about the elected president, PM and elected leader of the opposition but there are unelected sacred cows that are above all criticism. All politicians’ lives are fair game except a few which are forbidden.

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  • saleem
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:48AM

    A very good and important issue raised

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  • ET lover
    Oct 11, 2012 - 6:12AM

    increase in tax rates is that a very conventional and favorable topic? yes imran Kh ww n wants to raise taxes!

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  • Mohammad Assad
    Oct 11, 2012 - 7:01AM

    *yaawn *

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  • Shah
    Oct 11, 2012 - 9:48AM

    Any positive criticism is good but malice is difficult to tolerate. When anchors and media men keep on criticizing good steps that has not been taken by others and were long soughted then emotions also kicks in. We are recently seeing criticism for sake of criticism. InshaAllah, we will vote when the time comes and also take out others who never voted before.

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  • wonderer
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:53AM

    If only, in the name of Allah, we had known the importance of TRUTH, Pakistan would never have become what it is today. We tell lies, distort history to mutilation. accept all the half truths about our armed forces’ valour, coin all kinds of “conspiracy theories” in the face of incontrovertible proof to the contrary, and so much more similar mental gymnastics, and then fain annoyance when no one believes us. Let us from now on be TRUTHFUL in thought and action and also pass on this resolve to our children.

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  • Uqaab
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:34PM

    How Imran’s supporters behave is the best theme you could come up with to write an entire article about?

    He has had no say in the policies we have pursued so far (that got Malala shot) and you don’t give him more than 20-30 seats in the next parliament even before his relatively downward trend in the ratings which implies, as per you that he is unlikely to have any in the future as well. There are other important issues than this and even if you want to focus on Imran, focus your pen to his policies, negate them, argue them, challenge them. His supporter’s behaviour is probably the least important real issue for us, as a nation, at the moment. Imran’s naivety on a number of issues and his statements (or the lack of it) can and should be discussed (with arguments) and I think there are valid concerns there but only if you think he’s got a serious chance in the upcoming elections (most opinion writers, pundits and columnists don’t give him that a chance but still don’t get tired of writing about him).

    Getting rid of Taliban should be our top most priority but I hope you don’t relate any reduction in corruption, governance (or the lack of it) with terrorism. Write about them. Write about Imran’s take on these issues. It could be a valid piece of writing for your blog but an article? Come on!!!

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  • Uqaab
    Oct 11, 2012 - 1:54PM

    How Imran Khan supporters behave and what they think is a worthy enough topic for an article?

    He has had no say in the policies we have pursued so far (that got Malala shot) and most pundits, opinion and article writers were not ready to give him more than 30-40 seats in the next parliament as well even before his ratings started slipping which means that they beleive that he is unlikely to have any major say in the future as well. If you still want to discuss Imran, atleast focus your pen on his policies. Question them. Argue them. Challenge them. Imran’s naivety on a number of issues and his statements (or the lack of them) are valid discussion points and I must say there is enough to discuss there but only if he’s been part of the plicy making so far and/or you give him some chance of having any say in the future decisions which these writers don’t.

    Terrorism is our biggest issue but I hope these writers and the newspapers don’t weigh down corruption and misgovernance of our present rulers. Corruption and misgovernance are killers as well and need some space and time for discussion. Enough of discussing Imran and his followers even if it brings comments and readership!

    Maybe a worthy piece for a blog, not an article.

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  • Khan Jr
    Oct 11, 2012 - 4:18PM

    We are a nation of believers. We believe that our point of view is always right and anyone holding a different opinion is, of course, most definitely wrong. And furthermore, we also posses the inalienable and God given right to criticise that errant person, however this in no way implies that the one, being so justly criticised, has any right of protest.

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  • Khan Jr
    Oct 11, 2012 - 4:19PM

    We are a nation of righteous believers.

    We believe that our point of view is always right and anyone holding a different opinion is, of course, most definitely wrong. And furthermore, we also posses the inalienable and God given right to criticise that errant person, however this in no way implies that the one, being so justly criticised, has any right of protest.

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  • Jamshed
    Oct 11, 2012 - 11:36PM

    I think that the author is not putting things in perspective here. When you have Faisal Raza Abdi rabidly defending the policies that have brought Pakistan to the brink of catastrophe or when you have Chaudhry Ghafoor of PML-N beating up opposition members (ladies) claiming he has proven his loyalty to the Sharif clan, how do you suppose PTI supporters should behave? Turn the other cheek? You can only fight fire with fire or in Pakistani parlance, “kankar ka eenth say jawab” (if they throw a stone at you, you reply with a brick). So get a good helmet or move out of the way.

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  • Ok
    Oct 13, 2012 - 12:56PM

    @Uqaab:
    Bad governance and corruption are and have been significant contributors to the growth and rise of terrorism. I don’t have the patience to explain it but if you disagree then you are saying that these guys have become the way they are out of their own free will and without being influenced by others which is not true

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