Superstitious leaders, naive public

  • Rauf Klasra
  • Nov 28, 2023

May Allah bless our political leaders who never let us get bored. Pakistani politics consistently provide engaging narratives, ensuring there’s never a dull moment. Pakistan stands out globally as a subject of numerous books, particularly in major bookstores across London and New York, where shelves are adorned with best-selling titles delving into various facets of the country.

International journalists spend considerable time in Pakistan, crafting compelling narratives that not only sell for years but also earn them substantial royalties. Their insights often highlight the unique political engagement of Pakistani youth and the constant discourse on politics, providing ample material for captivating storytelling. Interestingly, while foreign journalists enjoy open conversations with prominent figures and institutions, local journalists are often left without such access.

The media frenzy in Pakistan, driven by the perpetual need for news and scandals, has resulted in a daily race to break stories. However, the escalating number of news channels and stories has led to a diminishing impact, with news losing its influence over time. Scandals that once had a profound effect on the public and rulers have become fleeting moments, overshadowed by the relentless pursuit of breaking news.

This media spectacle, while providing content for journalists worldwide, has inadvertently benefited rulers and politicians. Despite facing corruption allegations, leaders find themselves defended by the public rather than being held accountable for their actions.

Thus, the competition has become that of big thief versus small thief. The general public comes to the defence of their chosen leader by pointing out flaws of the leaders’ opponents instead of holding them accountable. Political leaders in Pakistan have been doing corruption and people have been defending them. Where in the world will you find people who instead of holding the leaders accountable or making them answer for their actions or decisions, turn towards defending them?

Recent discussions sparked by Khawar Maneka’s interview have PTI supporters concerned about potential damage to Imran Khan’s popularity. However, the historical resilience of leaders in the face of scandals, exemplified by figures like Nawaz Sharif and Zardari, challenges the notion that personal character or corruption significantly impacts political fortunes in Pakistan. It was only after their reputation was damaged that Imran Khan became the prime minister and only after the money laundering scandal of 60 million dollars that Zardari became the president, and now after getting his reputation ruined, Nawaz Sharif is on his way to become the prime minister for the fourth time.

When the discussion ensued after Khawar Manek’s interview and debate ensued on social media, supporters of Imran Khan started looking for justifications themselves in the same traditional way, without waiting or needing any response from Imran Khan or his spokespersons. They preemptively jumped in to defend their leader lest he suffers from accountability. I too, wrote on this issue, on my social media, “If Khan’s supporters feel that their beloved leader will suffer a great political or personal loss due to Khawar Maneka’s revelations, then they should rest assured that nothing will happen, except that Khan’s popularity might increase even further.”

In this country, people do not vote on merits of personal character, morality, or honesty – or lack thereof of all these attributes. On the contrary, public enjoys displays of such things. If these things accounted for the vote bank, Imran Khan would not have become the prime minister in the first place and he would not still be so popular despite all these allegations. Neither would Nawaz Sharif be on his way to become the prime minister for the fourth time. This nation is so tough and resilient that it is not affected by ‘minor’ character flaws like financial or moral corruption.

This is such a generous nation that those who are facing moral or financial accusations, are defended by the people without asking them tough questions or even waiting for their answers. This nation invents explanations in defense of its leaders of which the leaders themselves do not know. Surely then these leaders must have a good laugh after hearing and reading those explanations by the general public.

The bottom line is that our nation can accept anything, as long as the leader is of our choice. So I would reiterate that do not exhaust yourself on social media or tire yourself out worrying thin about your favourite leader’s reputation. Another day and a half of this Maneka circus and then there will be a new performer and new spectators.

However, let’s look at Khawar Maneka’s caliber for a moment. An astrologer whose interview I heard was saying that Bushra and Khawar Maneka had come to him to ask about the fate of Imran Khan. He said that their emphasis was on whether or not Imran would become the prime minister. The astrologer had told them that from his calculations it appeared that Imran would only become the prime minister if he married into Maneka family.

Since then, everything that has unfolded, includes Khawar Maneka as an equal player and partner. Today, all of a sudden, he simply cannot paint himself as ignorant or oppressed. When Imran Khan became the prime minister, this very Khawar Maneka and his family were ruling over entire Punjab. There were rumours of Khawar Maneka’s son getting awarded massive contracts.

Khawar Maneka had become so powerful that once when he was stopped by the patrolling police at a bridge, his armed guards drew their guns on the police. Later an inquiry was called in Lahore over the DPO and RPO as well. The inquiry of RPO Shariq Kamal was carried out by a property dealer named Ahsan Jamal Gujjar, in the presence of the then chief minister Usman Buzdar, and in the CM House. The property dealer chastised Shariq Kamal but Kamal did not have the courage to get up and leave instead of sitting through the inquiry.

The same officer was then asked to go to Khawar Maneka’s “dera” to save his job. Khawar Maneka was responsible for all of these. At that time, the Maneka family took all the pleasures of the Imran Khan and Buzdar’s government power. When the Maneka family got angry with DPO Pakpattan Rizwan Gondal, it was decided that he would not get another posting anywhere from Punjab to the federal government.

When former DG FIA Bashir Memon gave Rizwan Gondal a posting in admin in the FIA, it was Maneka who went to his office to fight him over Gondal’s appointment. When Bashir Memon’s refused, Maneka went directly to the Prime Minister’s House and got Rizwan Gondal finally removed.

RPO Shariq Kamal patiently sat through his inquiry and also pleaded for his job, but he had to leave Sahiwal.

Today, after taking all the pleasures of the power of Imran Khan, Bushra Begum and Buzdar-era, now Khawar Maneka is painting himself as an oppressed person. I remember the same words of Khawaja Asif, which he said to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf MNAs after they resigned from the assemblies during the sit-in days, “Have some shame, some grace” (Kuch sharam hoti hai, kuch haya hoti hai).

Imran Khan and Khawar Maneka, who used to defend each other beyond any doubt of innocence, are at least no longer capable of insulting each other either.

Klasra White

Rauf Klasra

The author is a senior Pakistani journalist and anchor. He posts on X as @KlasraRauf

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