Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is a living embodiment of the idiom shooting in the foot. The level of paranoia and incompetence of the party leaders can be gauged from the recent outbursts of the party chairman’s spokesperson Naeem ul-Haque in Shahzaib Khanzada’s program on Geo when he openly accused former army chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kiayani, along with the US, Saudi Arabia and others of rigging the general election in 2013 for Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz. This entire episode also gives an idea how authentic PTI sources of information generally are. Remember those dharna days when Imran Khan was constantly being whispered to in the ears?
What happened this time is that an opinion-based website HumSub published a satire piece by Jafar Hussain, a UAE-based Pakistani Urdu blogger, in which the author made up a conspiracy theory about the 2013 general elections. The website also gave a disclaimer at the end of the piece and mentioned that it must not be taken seriously as the writer was just being sarcastic. The piece was published as it is by seasoned columnist Nazeer Naji in Roznama Dunya in his column. Though he had also clearly missed the disclaimer at the end of the blog and rebuked the writer and the website over the claims made in the piece, what PTI did was funnier than anything anyone could have come up with in response to a piece of satire.
Shahzaib Khanzada interviewed Naeem ul-Haque in his program on April 3. During the interview, the PTI chief Imran Khan’s spokesperson openly claimed that he was sure of certain ‘facts’ highlighted in the piece. “I challenge General (r) Kiyani to refute this claim”, he said. When confronted by Khanzada about his accusations on the United States, General (r) Kiyani, Saudi Arabia and Nawaz Sharif’s conspiring against PTI, Haque claimed that there was no need for an evidence as the entire world knew about the reality. He added that an independent commission will be set up after PTI’s coming into power to investigate the rigging claims regarding 2013 General Election.
Naeemul Haq accuses Gen Kiani,S.Arabia n USA fr PTI’s defeat in 2013 elecs.Asked him abt proofs. “we dont need to give any proofs”he replied pic.twitter.com/rQhLz89oS4
— Shahzeb Khanzada (@shazbkhanzdaGEO) April 3, 2017
This is not the first time PTI has done something like this. Another former information secretary of the party, Fayyaz ul-Hassan Chohan, has once made the same claim in a TV talk show. However, this coming from Naeem ul-Haque is something of mammoth proportions, as the latter is officially the chief of staff of Imran Khan. This unambiguous accusation on army of conspiring against PTI in the election has probably rung some unnecessary bells within the military establishment as well, and the first one to speak out openly is Lt Gen (r) Tariq Khan.
Tariq Khan on Tuesday refuted the claim in unmistakable terms, saying that he was personally responsible for most of interior Punjab during the elections and had there been any rigging by the army, ‘not only would I have been instructed to do it but I should be held responsible for it as well. No COAS needs to answer the rants of a frustrated political party and its disillusioned workers. There was no rigging done by the Army’.
He cleared that the mandate of the army was only to provide safe environment for the elections and ensuring ‘accessibility to the public to the polling stations’. “Third, to assist in the transportation of the ballot papers up to the district level in some places. The polling station had 2 or 3 soldiers to ensure order and to communicate to nearby quick reaction forces to respond to any untoward incident. This is all in writing and recorded”, he added.
The retired lieutenant general went on to say that he had sympathy with the PTI in the past but it had ‘eroded with each stupid step it took’. He went on to assure the readers of the status that ‘this last wild accusation will not go un-noticed’ and PTI would have lost the support of soldiers and officers of Pakistan army. “It appears that PTI’s stupidity is only exceeded by the volume of its outbursts”, he said.
Naeem ul-Haque has since retracted from the statement, saying that it was his personal opinion and had nothing to do with the party policy. However, this status update by Tariq Khan suggests that Naeem ul-Haque’s statement has already done enough damage to the party.
My suggestion to the PTI would be to get over its paranoia about the 2013 elections and focus rather on the 2018 elections, which are just one year from now. Moreover, they need to get their sources of information checked, for God’s sake. When Imran Khan had held that massive public meeting on October 30, 2011 in Lahore’s Iqbal Park, the one thing PTI had at the time was credibility. Six years on, it has anything but credibility. Imran Khan and his aides need to learn that hurling accusations based on satire pieces, or hearsay, and then retracting from them calling them as ‘political statement’ or ‘personal understanding’ is the least likely of the methods to earn popularity for a political party. In fact it has only gained them infamy, and looking at how PTI leadership and fans react to any criticism coming their way, I don’t see much changing in the future either.
Note: Lieutenant General (r) Tariq Khan updated the status on his personal profile and it has been making rounds on the internet for the last several hours. The profile isn’t verified and though the blogger has verified from all possible sources about its authenticity, it may still be a fan account, not run by the General himself.