The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi
It took the crybabies only a fortnight to show their true colours. Just to refresh your memories, on the 16th of last month I wrote about them in detail in my piece “Boys who cry wolf”. It was my humble submission that after playing Imran Khan like a fiddle, it would not take these fountains of televised wisdom long to shortchange him, as they did in Musharraf’s case. Two weeks later, I received a torrent of calls from friends working for various channels soliciting my time to comment on “a very important national development”. It turned out to be the cricketer-turned-politician’s divorce. I refused. It is neither my job nor my nature to capitalise on someone’s misery. It was a disgusting thought, repulsive to the core. But evidently others did not think the same.
As I turned the TV on, a terrible sight greeted me. On every news channel there were political analysts busy discussing their Kaptaan’s personal tragedy as if they have spent most of their lives in his bedroom. If they were to be trusted, Mr Khan’s ex-wife, whom they had once compared to Fatima Jinnah, was capable of financial misdemeanour, moral turpitude, physical violence, spying for foreign countries and even murder. I felt as if I was being asphyxiated. But that was not all. They also told us how Mr Khan was a bad judge of character, how he had always been surrounded by conniving, deceiving freeloaders. This bit is useful actually. Prove to a man that he is surrounded by enemies and he will trust only you. Jackpot, no?
But all this and more has only turned Mr Khan into Okonkwo, the tragic Ibo protagonist of Chinua Achebe’s magnum opus Things Fall Apart, who in order to appear strong and masculine has to kill Ikemefuna, a boy from another tribe he has come to love as his own son. But contrary to his expectations, instead of appearing more masculine and regal, Okonkwo finds that this event only marks the beginning of his downfall and all hell breaks loose around him.
Don’t worry. I have not changed my mind. Nor have I dramatically acquired the skill to analyse people’s personal matters. I bring up the matter of media coverage of the sad incident because it points to a pattern. You just witnessed total demonisation of Reham Khan. So brutal was the character assassination that it did not take into account how this would affect Imran Khan personally, as well as politically. No, this was a single-minded pursuit of a target meant to be pulverised. Doesn’t it remind you of the ‘go Nawaz go’ campaign? Back then, the prime minister was demonised in the same fashion. Same people, same story, a different target. So the purpose clearly is not to make Mr Khan the next king, but to use him ruthlessly to destroy people you do not like. This ‘analysis’ is justified as being part of journalistic duty. But this is no journalism sir. When you present your views, biases, even hate as news reports, that too without any substantial evidence and in a systematic fashion, it fails the definition of journalism. It is called witch-hunt.
I am aware of many people telling Imran Khan in the 10 months leading up to the divorce that this marriage was his worst ‘political mistake’. They told me as much. It so happens that I know who the script-writers are, who the narrators are and what the intended consequences are. Will it surprise you if I tell you that the source of the anchor, who broke the news, was also an anchor, albeit a controversial one?
The purpose of highlighting all this is only one. Just to break the spell of these sorcerers. When this lot goes to Khan, it tells him it is loyal only to him. And to Musharraf. And the businessmen. In reality, it fights for no master but for its own preservation. If it can thoroughly demonise a prime minister for four months, a man who has not once publicly uttered a single indecent word, then it can do it to anyone.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2015.