‘Won’t bring them back’


A tough day (On The Record, ARY, 3rd July) to be Asad Umar. In Mian Iftikhar Hussain, he faced the country’s most genuine spokesperson; in Saleem Safi, he faced the Pukhtun belt’s most scathing analyst; in Kashif Abbasi, he faced whatever Abbasi is.

The issue of symbolism reigned supreme on the show, with Asad Umar frantically trying to plug in the leaks Safi, Hussain and Abbassi were puncturing in. In such desperation, it is natural to tie yourself in a knot, which is sort of what happened to the PTI leader. His problem: he was holding two opposing views at the same time.

See, on the issue of CM Khattak not occupying the CM House, he espoused how important it is to convey to the people that the rulers are doing some simple living. Well, it’s not really simple but the idea is that at least it’s at their own expense. All well and good, but given the terrible traffic problems the security detail is causing around Khattak’s house in Hayatabad, it brings to mind Sarojini Naidu’s quip about how it took a fortune to keep Gandhi poor.

But on the other front, where symbolism really, really, matters, i.e consoling the families of the victims of terror and going to the hospitals to enquire about those injured, Asad Umar wasn’t for symbols. And here is where he slipped up, giving a statement that has since started doing the rounds on the internet. “Would going to the funerals bring back those who died?” Interesting logic, by which no one should bother going to any funeral, even one’s own son’s.

The real problem, one that Mr Umar, in his MBA-speak, won’t be able to convey correctly, one that the likes of Khattak or even Imran Khan himself wouldn’t be able to put clearly is this. Going to the funerals of police officers, to the homes of those killed in terrorist attacks, to the hospitals where the wounded are taken to would mean saying, in one way or the other, a particular message, one that the PTI is loathe to say because it has put all its political capital on the other side of the argument.

That message: we are the government, we are here with you and we recognize that you have been wronged; those who did this to you are – if this sounds simplistic, then know the bereaved can’t be debated subtleties with – very bad people who we will make sure will face retribution.

This, really, is the reason why the PTI/Jamaat-e-Islami government can’t have a learning curve on the issue and finally start going to the funerals. They are almost pretending this unrest isn’t happening. The way news from KP, even blasts that kill scores of people, quickly escapes the news cycle on the national media, this isn’t too tough a proposition for them either.

Post-script: Amongst the instances of corruption in KP discussed in the program, some time was given to Information Minister Shaukat Yousufzai’s giving ads to the newspaper that he owns. It is a small paper whose government ads in the new government don’t reflect its smallish circulation. What surkhab ke par, as they say in Urdu, does this paper have to get these ads?

Its name. Roznama Surkhab. Literally.


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