Harold Lasswell, an eminent political philosopher and pioneer of the communication theory, described five basic principles of the communication process in these words: “Who says what to whom in what channel with what effect.” The PTI chairman, Imran Khan, sometimes ignores these fundamental elements whenever he communicates through a statement or speech. He should learn the art of articulation as most politicians do in the developed world. In his recent article published in Mail Online, on July 28, 2013, Imran Khan unveiled that his fall from a forklift had actually saved his life because the very next day he would have been killed by one of the Taliban groups hired by his political opponents. Imran Khan neither mentioned explicitly the names of his political opponents nor the name of the particular Taliban group. In my opinion, he should have uncovered the said alleged plot of his assassination without blaming his ‘political opponents’ unless he had concrete evidence.
Imran Khan has also made another unwise public statement on the assassination of Zahra Shahid Hussain, senior vice-president of the PTI, in Karachi on May 18, 2013. He directly blamed Altaf Hussain, the London-based MQM leader, for her murder. He should have shown resilience and restraint over the murder of his party’s leader and waited till, at least, some initial inquiry report came up. Political leaders shouldn’t be emotional when they speak. The concerns of the audience in front of them at that moment are less important than the effects of their words. It started not only a bitter duel between the MQM and his party but also brought the MQM and the PML-N closer to each other. Moreover, it started an unpleasant litigation in the courts over libel or defamation suits.
Another strange public stance of Imran Khan’s is not to attend the expected All Parties Conference (APC) over the terrorism issue, despite the fact that Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI has political control, is suffering the most in this war. His demand to sit with both General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Nawaz Sharif is unrealistic and rather provocative for leaders of other political parties. Initially, he left the country before the government announced the date for the APC and now has refused to attend the meeting. This is not a serious attitude towards the most serious problem of the country. Imran Khan should propose an agenda for the meeting but should not boycott the meeting itself.
Imran Khan’s statement regarding participation in the presidential election was also ambiguous. He himself admitted in an interview that he agreed with the PPP’s stance, considered the change in the election date as pre-poll rigging and favoured boycotting the elections. Why did he participate in the presidential elections when he had shown his grave concerns explicitly in the media regarding the massive corruption in the May 11 elections, declaring responsible both the Election Commission and the judiciary? How could the same Election Commission and judiciary be acceptable for presidential elections?
Imran Khan should have used different words to express his feelings regarding the role of the judiciary in the general elections of May 11. In the field of law, intention does matter but in politics, words matter more. A politician should know well the use of words as well as their power. The legal fight on the contempt of court issue would be a deviation or unnecessary diversion from the right path, i.e., preparing for the forthcoming by-elections and local government elections. Imran Khan should also be careful in announcing the mass movement after Ramazan against the government over the rigging issue. Undoubtedly, Imran has massive public support but he should use it as a trump card.
In a nutshell, Imran Khan has passed the major test of Pakistani politics that he is not Asghar Khan. The PTI is the second political force in the country and could be the number one any time in future. The alliance of the PML-N with the MQM and the JUI-F also indicates that Imran is a major threat for them. In my opinion, Imran Khan should focus on organising his party, particularly in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. The Shakespearean hero always has a tragic flaw but a Pakistani hero shouldn’t.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2013.