IT may not be the most edifying of spectacles, but it nevertheless tells an interesting tale: the war of words between the JUI-F and PTI over the character and alleged foreign associations of their respective chiefs is rooted in the most cynical of politics. Imran Khan and Fazlur Rehman are no shrinking violets when it comes to taking on political opponents, but the gloves-off, tawdry accusations and recriminations appear to be a continuation of the acrimonious electoral campaign in KP. Context is everything in politics and in the run-up to the May 11 general election, conventional political wisdom had it that Fazlur Rehman was poised to make sweeping gains in KP and a virtual shoe-in for the provincial chief ministership — an ascendancy that had long been attributed to the PTI and Imran Khan in KP. With the stakes so high, a fierce war of words ensued in which Mr Khan and his party leaders tore relentlessly into the politics, reputation and governance record of the JUI-F and Fazlur Rehman.
Of course, as the votes were counted on May 11, it became obvious that the winner of that war was Mr Khan. And the JUI-F’s problems were compounded when the JUI-F chief failed in his bid to convince the PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif to block the PTI’s rise to power in the KP assembly. Now on the outside and confronted by a hugely popular new political force in KP, the JUI-F boss has struggled to find a line of attack that will gain traction with the public. After all, the PTI in KP has out-right-winged the right-wing in the province: on drones, on the US presence in Afghanistan and on a distinctly religiously conservative approach to politics. That has left the old and tired ammunition against Mr Khan: his colourful past and his ex-wife’s Jewish connections. Ugly as those tactics are, it is not as if Mr Khan has pulled any punches when attacking the Maulana. Perhaps the best advice to both is to cease and desist.