Fuel to Fire

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Attiya Munawer

If you want your children to do something, tell them not to do it. This is the wise talk of sages when they talk about child psychology. The present serial pursuit of gagging the voice of the youth and creating hurdles to prevent elections is actually showing the stunted growth of the government and its “engineers.” They are working against the grain of the young minds. Their crude and base strategy of “not letting it happen at all costs” is also creating this contest of the others saying “it will happen come what may.” This is a political wrestling match. For the first time, it is not fixed. It is not made up. It is not behind the scene. It is on the ground. It is in process. It is in the discussion. It is approaching the final rounds. For bookies, the odds would be 100 to 10 in favour of the government. But the odds are still not considering many odds that are there but not there.
The scenes of the PTI Chairman going to the Lahore High Court were remarkable. A 15-minute drive from Zaman Park took two hours. The crowd waiting since morning was the largest and most animated seen in any court appearance by any political leader in the history of this country. The government was building this up as a test case of the PTI leader’s upholding of the rule of law and pressurizing the courts in being hard/equal with him. They had been terming him as a fake, afraid and retiring leader. As it happened he became an even bigger symbol of genuine, fearless leadership. The more they hinder, the more it grows:
1. Divert, Deflect, Upon thyself- The brilliant PDM strategy. The government is in huge trouble. Dar Economics has put the economy and IMF deal in a mega-crisis situation. A hike in prices is inevitable. People are going to cry murder. Solution-Get them diverted. How? Make them and the media focus on PTI bad crap. Scratch the video archives. Bring something or anything out to create breaking news. Do press conferences. Dominate the chat shows. It will serve the purpose. Splash more mud on PTI and deflect the narrative from the economy. Result- Yes the audio was leaked. Yes, the chatter shifted to PTI loose balls. But No- the public is not fooled. They cannot pay their bills. They cannot buy their groceries. They cannot cook whatever little food they can afford. There is no gas and electricity but huge bills. Every minute of the day they are not only blaming the government for this price tsunami but also for not even bothering to give them hope and plan a way out. This assumption that by getting the media to talk about other things, the out-of-sight, the out-of-mind principle will work with the public is false. The daily struggle of having a mountain of bills to pay without getting public service, the agony of seeing the children not have basic food, and the stress of being unemployed is a reminder every hour and a moment. When the government tries to divert they lash out at the insensitivity of the government.
2. Dig the Dirt and get muddied- The Go to political posturing for PDM is to try to throw dirt on PTI. They have tried to get Imran khan and some other leaders muddied. The Audio leak show continues. Personal attacks on the Chairman of PTI are a norm for them. The attempt to make him look immoral through some doctored audio leaks has not yielded results. The more they dig dirt on others their past catches up on them. The audio leaks on Maryam are still circulating and resurfacing as people compare them with the ones coming out of PDM archives. The dark web audio leaks in which Maryam is asking Shehbaz Sharif to close down the health card are now back in circulation. The reason is that this huge facility for the poor has been shut down. As the government tries to close Ehsaas scholarships for the students, Ehsaas Rehribaans for employment, and Panahgah shelters, the backlash is intense. The audio leaks voices are drowned in the protesting shrieks of the marginalized poor whose small food carts were thrown away as they had Ehsaas name written on it.
3. Tighten the legal noose and it ensnares you-The NAB and FIA combo is in full operation. They have taken a list of top PTI leaders and have started an investigation into them. However, just building fake cases is counterproductive as was proven in the tosha khana case. They have been aggressively building up the tosha khana case. Cases have now been filed against PTI Chairman and his wife. The problem with the Tosha khana case is that when the judge asked them to reveal the list of gifts in previous terms too PDM had no answer. They had to take a stance that it is a secret and can only be revealed with the PM’s permission. If it was a secret then, the list of the gifts of ex-PM Imran Khan is also a secret and revealing it is a violation of the official secrets act law. This has made PDM’s own situation awkward. That is why they are now shifting their focus on the Tryrian White and foreign funding case. The problem is that whatever case they try to put on PTI, their own taming of the NAB law and previous scams puts them in a quandary. As they shift their allegations from one case to another their narrative has become grey and ineffective.

4. Clampdown dissent and multiply dissenters- The most ridiculous strategy is to shut voices. Tweets by Arshad Sharif resulted in his death. Azam Swati’s tweets resulted in personal torture and family harassment. A young boy Sikandar Zaman has been sentenced to many charges for tweeting about some incident. He was apprehended last year by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) after a complaint against him was lodged under sections 20 (Malicious code) and 24(c) (Legal recognition of offences committed about information systems) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. It also invoked sections 500 (Punishment for defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The boy had only 185 followers. After penalizing him his stuff has been now retweeted, reported and discussed on hundreds of thousands of forums. This is how you make a mountain out of a molehill.

The biggest sin is not ignorance but to know and not to do. This happens when egos, fear and panic overtake your mind, sanity and logic. The above actions have all served the purpose of fueling the passion to resist and react. For ten months the lesson has been that you cannot stop the public by punishing and restricting them. Look at how the insistence of the Lahore High Court to make Imran khan come to the court has been responded to by the public. The whole campaign on PDM that Imran Khan was running away from was dashed by the outpouring of people on the way to the court. Institutions are under immense pressure. The NAB Chairman, a personal appointee of PDM, has resigned. The reasons he has given have crashed all PDM narratives about cases against PTI. He resigned as he was asked to frame fake cases while their people were stowing billions abroad. This resignation is an indicator of things to come. The President has given April 9th as the date for provincial elections. April 9th is the day the PTI government was removed. Just a coincidence!

The writer is a columnist, consultant, coach, and an analyst and can be reached at andleeb.abbas1@gmail,com. She tweets at @AndleebAbbas