Fighting Cannonballs with Pebbles

The latest in political scandals falls slightly short of an actual scandal. An audio clip of a conversation between Chairman Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf and Mr. Arif Alvi has landed on television screens after doing the rounds on social media. Seemingly desperate for an Imran Khan scandal, media and a certain “victimized” political party jumped on this opportunity and tried to make the most of it. Several web sites and channels have dubbed the conversation “shocking”, “revealing” and “the real face of PTI”.

I for one fail to find any shocking or revealing aspect to the audio recording. In this one minute conversation you can hear Khan and Alvi talking about the PTV attack and some sort of joint press statement by PTI and MQM. MQM has taken this opportunity to malign PTI and avenge Khan’s anti-MQM stance in its ongoing “victimization”.

Since the audio is easily available and has been played repeatedly on tv channels, I will not reproduce it here. Following are a few aspects of the tape that I deem noteworthy;

  1. First off Mr. Arif Alvi, or anyone in the PTI ranks need not call this tape a fake. It only sheds doubt on any credible defense or rebuttal to allegations springing out of this audio. Imran Khan’s tone and words are obviously consistent throughout the conversation so it is difficult to believe that these were actually two or more different conversations edited and presented as one.
  2. In first bit of the conversation Mr. Alvi is heard informing Imran Khan of the attack on PTV and shutting down of its transmission. It is not clear if he is talking about PTI or PAT workers or if it was a joint effort. He doesn’t say “we have…” or “our people have..”, words that would have been incriminating. He is just informing his party Chairman on what has happened. What’s clear is that this might as well have been the first time Imran was informed of the PTV attack, reducing the probability of him or PTI having planned this move to attack a State institution.
  3. Next comes Imran’s reaction, where he appreciates the action as it is bound to put pressure on the government and Prime Minister to resign. Shocking? No way. Imran Khan had not taken his workers to sit in at D-Chowk to enjoy the weather or be in a better position to eavesdrop on Parliament. His march, the sit-in and everything he was doing were to put pressure on the government and PM. The conversation does not prove that it was PTI or Khan who were behind the attack on PTV, it only proves how Khan saw it as beneficial to his cause, which was to create pressure. To refresh our very short term memories I would like to remind the readers that this blunder by Khan got its due coverage on the media when Khan first appeared on his container to victoriously announce the taking over of PTV and only later, after being wisely advised on how he should not be condoning an attack on a State building, condemned the attack and asked his party workers, if any, to withdraw. So his reaction in the “revealing” phone call does not reveal anything really. He had condoned the attack publicly when it was happening, was grilled for it, and then retracted. So what is so shocking or revealing about the same reaction in a private conversation he probably had before condoning the attack publicly and retracting later?
  4. Then comes the foul word “probably” used for the sitting Prime Minister. Again this was a private conversation not meant for the public. Khan or Alvi were obviously not aware that they were bugged and being recorded. Khan was right in the middle of a very rigorous move against the government, the Prime Minister in particular. During that tug of war he used a foul word for an adversary in a private conversation. Shocking? Revealing? Think again.
    One can only imagine what words were being used for Imran Khan by Ministers or PMLn leaders in private gatherings, meetings and conversations. Some words used for PTI women publicly, implied far worse meaning than what Khan used in his conversation with Alvi.
  5. The last part of the conversation is about some press release that had been agreed on by PTI and MQM and was awaiting final approval from MQM chief. Now this could be anything from a joint statement against the government or MQM joining the PTI protest to MQM refusing to support government in the joint session of Parliament. From Khan’s keenness on trying to contact MQM again before the joint session, it is probable that the negotiations were to take MQM on board against the government, something that obviously did not materialize. Again, not very revealing. PTI had extended an open invitation to all political parties to join its move against PMLN government. If anything, this recording reveals that MQM was at least considering the offer.

In the wake of revealing statements by Saulat Mirza and Uzair Baloch, this was a poor attempt at bringing PTI into the ambit of shocking scandals. But it seems the attempt was too meager. You cannot reply to cannon balls with pebbles.

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