Imran Khan, a former prime minister, is not pleased. In a speech yesterday that was apparently addressed to “the people,” the PTI chairman said that the only reason he has remained silent about individuals who were behind the plot to overthrow his administration is because he does not want to harm Pakistan. Imran, who was clearly upset, remarked that, if pushed to the limit, he may start “naming names.” Imran used up the entire conspiracy handbook that has been occasionally employed by governments and leaders in Pakistan, albeit perhaps not with as much gusto, from comparing the current state of affairs to what is occurring in the occupied territories of both Kashmir and Palestine to alleging that the current government will recognise Israel, give bases to the US, get involved in another US war, not buy Russian oil due to US pressure, and call those in government “traitors.” Ironically, he also mentioned journalists’ rights while claiming to have never witnessed “such fascism” in the nation, oblivious to the PTI’s troubled history with press freedom.
When it comes to the PTI, speaking one’s mind is nothing new, but it appears that the PTI chairman’s broadcast outburst on Tuesday was brought on by the most recent audio “leaks.” It’s interesting to note that the supposed audio leak of the former first lady is likewise about being labelled a “traitor.” According to the audio recording, Bushra Bibi, the wife of Imran Khan, instructed Dr. Arslan Khan, the former prime minister’s chief digital media advisor, to use PTI social media to brand those who criticise Imran, Bushra Bibi, and her friend Farah Gogi as “traitors” and associate them with a “foreign conspiracy” to topple the PTI government.
The PTI’s position on the allegedly leaked audio has not been made clear at this time. Some have claimed that the audio is fake, while others have claimed that the tape is edited and demanded an investigation into who was secretly recording private conversations. Fayyaz Chohan, however, has stated that there is nothing wrong with any directions labelling those who left the party as traitors. In all honesty, the PTI has a right to know who made the recordings as it is against the law to listen in on people’s private discussions. Regardless of whether these films were doctored or not, the behaviour itself warrants a categorical condemnation. The act of tapping must be treated similarly to contempt of court in view of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Benazir Bhutto case.
The PTI’s call for a forensic investigation is likewise legitimate, but would it rely on the government to carry it out, or should a third party, as suggested by Khawaja Asif, handle it? The government has asserted that the PTI officials’ news conference was an acknowledgement that the audio leak was authentic. The affair raises some significant issues about the former first lady’s participation in the PTI’s internal politics, social media strategy, and her relationship with Farah Gogi if it turns out to be true, which will require extensive due diligence regarding authenticity. More significantly, all political parties must immediately examine their own positions on the traitor label. No one has escaped this stigma, not even Maulvi Fazlul Haq, Fatima Jinnah, the Bhutto, or Sharif families. Sadly, during the PTI’s three years in power, accusations of treason and sedition were frequently levelled against people who were believed to be disagreeing with the official line of events.
The party has continued to employ the same strategies while out of power. In Pakistan, political toxicity is only increased by audio or video recordings of public personalities, whether they are in or out of favour with the government. But it appears that no one is currently worried about that at all. There will undoubtedly be more leaks, more “traitor” labels, and more threats of tell-all revelations.