Ali Izhar Bajwa
The recent spate of incidents surrounding the lady who is being dubbed as Pakistan’s first lady in the waiting and Madr-e-Millat (Mother of the Nation) by famous television pundits and gurus has brought to light an important issue plaguing the politics of this great country. These incidents involve the alleged use of government’s resources in terms of helicopters and vehicles, the officiating of government meetings, the interest in securing a seat from his husband’s party of the national assembly and now the famous degree dilemma. The topic has assumed forefront with the debating leagues of both sides on the social media, the comments sections and the private casual sittings with one side defending the position and the other vehemently attacking to grasp the opportunity of showing the other ‘truth’.
The first line of defense has been that it is Reham Khan’s personal life and she should not be scrutinized for any alleged blot from her past. The proponents of this point of view argue that there is a fine line between professional and personal spaces which must not be breached by the media or any external player. Now this bid to mount a resistance and escape the situation is quite weak to say the least. A personality who chooses to live a way which is bound to make him or her consequential for a greater number of people is in fact choosing willfully the spotlight over the privacy. The political parties of Pakistan are internally weak with personality cults and family hegemonies rampant in their affairs otherwise it is the political parties in a developed democracy that really manage the life of their public officials. The political parties and their strong allied groups do background checks before bringing someone to the forefront. In US if someone plans on running for anything from a school board election to the presidency he knows that he is going to get scrutinized and also his family will not escape the powerful microscope of media and public opinion. The dead in the closet are what make a person think a million times before stepping into the public world.
The other important point of argument is that Reham is not a public official neither is she running for an office so the scrutiny is uncalled for. It may in fact be true for now that she is not running for an office and is not a part of the KPK government but even a political novice would tell us as to where the current scheme of things is progressing. The de jure head of the government may be the chief minister or his relevant ministers but it is not difficult to notice that the de facto chief of the province is Mr. Khan and his new wife. By observing the running of affairs like from heading the provincial cabinet to demanding explanations from provincial bureaucracy or summoning public office holders we can easily locate the real locus of power. The culture of political parties of Pakistan is such that the position in the party and relationship with its chief is a determining factor more important than a public office when it comes to governance or drafting policies.
Until a technology is invented or a process determined that can gauge the true intentions behind public personality’s actions we only have the small glimpses from their personal lives to rely on. In fact the modern justice system and our religion both stipulate punishments for those who lie as a witness or accuse someone falsely. A person who has been proven to be a liar is also prevented from giving testimony and his statements in all relevant matters are deemed of no significance. It is important for the progress of democratic values, on which undoubtedly the survival of this country hinges, that we raise the bar for our politicians and all other personalities operating in public domains. It should not be acceptable for a politician to lie and then get away with it. The measure through which we judge our politicians must be the same for Sharifs, Zardaris or Rehams. It is personally deeply disappointing for me that we have started to laud liars as our saviors and killers as our messiahs.