Stage managed events, speeches, ceremonies and the like have always been a part and parcel of political life – designed to thwart investigation and comment and present an extremely filtered and polished image of the political classes. They are the arena in which masterful politicians and spin doctors contrive to manipulate the media and thereby the general public. In the Regan era, he and his media guru, Michael Deaver, were consistently brilliant in their capacity to present Regan against a flattering backdrop and seldom did a poor picture of the president or a weak sound bite enter the consciousness of the American people. In the era of ‘Spin’ in the UK, Tony Blair and his now ubiquitously labeled ‘New Labour cronies’ were so manipulative that many remember their time in government more for its public relations and rhetoric than policy and substance. One of the most memorable instances of this was in Tony Blair’s very first day in office, when images of him entering Downing Street mobbed by massive crowds were flashed across the globe. Later the whole event turned out to be a contrived spectacle in which party members were mechanically transported en masse to greet and ‘cheer for’ the victorious Prime Minister. As Machievelli put it, ‘one who deceives will always find those who allow themselves to be deceived.’
With this in mind, it does then seem unfortunate that even when it comes to the art of deception, which our politicians are so famously adept at, the rest of the world leads the way while Pakistan lags behind. In my rush to go to work every morning I always have PTV news on for no other reason than to see how much more tardiness the clock in the bottom right hand corner will allow. This morning however I was distracted by what was actually on the news – not for the gravity of the content but the ludicrousness of it. On stage stood Prime Minister Gilani delivering an impassioned address and surrounded by some of his very own ‘cronies’ – one of whom was actively prompting the audience to clap when he thought the substance of the speech demanded it. He did this not in a subtle way but as animatedly as if he were waving down the last taxi on earth. At his every maniacal gesture the camera would pan to the crowd which began clapping and roaring like an orchestra conducted by the great Leonard Bernstein. Except that every crowd shot – was exactly the same one. Dumbfounding! – it was like an odious laughter track for politics. Every time the screwball on stage flapped his arms the identical shot would reappear on screen. Well, the sight of it all almost made me late for work and that would have been as tragic as the spectacle itself. The whole thing left me feeling rather depressed. Yes we aren’t in the vanguard of scientific progress, nor do we lead the world in the field of sport, the arts or anything of any worth, but surely we can do deception, fraud and manipulation better than everyone else. After all, along with illiteracy, terrorism and religious fanaticism, it is supposed to be our métier is it not?
So I call on our politicians to get their act together and not to get to downhearted by the recent wikileaks revelations – get back to doing what you do best – swindling, manipulating and fraud. Let the world know that Pakistan still has something to teach it. As Sardar Abdul Quyyam Khan Jatoi so blunderingly said, ‘Corruption is our right’ – and everyone is entitled to their rights.