Boot theatrics

Published January 16, 2020

JUST when political observers thought that PTI maverick Faisal Vawda could not pull another rabbit out of his hat, he pulled out a boot instead. Then he placed it on the table, live on TV.

As if this weren’t enough, he declared that the PML-N and PPP — whose representatives were sitting next to him in the studio — were licking this boot. The military-style boot stayed put on the table, as did Mr Vawda and the show host in the studio. The opposition guests, however, did not. They walked off the set in disgust. By his theatrics, Mr Vawda embarrassed the guests, the host, his party, politicians in general, the military and ordinary citizens. The only person he did not embarrass, apparently, was himself.

Mr Vawda is no stranger to controversy.

When he is not driving fast cars or riding big bikes, he is threatening to hang a few thousand people or promising more jobs than Pakistanis can handle.

He also likes to stuff a weapon in his belt, don a flak jacket and rush to the scene of a terror attack in case his services are required. Thankfully, so far that stage has not been reached. But a new line in the public display of political crudeness has certainly been crossed.

By placing the boot on the table, Mr Vawda not only ridiculed the institution of the military, he humiliated all political parties, including the one he expresses loyalty to. He may have intended to make fun of the opposition but ended up reinforcing perceptions about the PTI’s own weak political credentials. His taunting was misplaced and mistimed.

It is true that the spirit of cooperation that moved bickering parties in parliament to sign into law the process of extending the tenure of military chiefs has been questioned — and justifiably so. But politicians can at least avail themselves of the momentum and work together on other public-oriented legislation.

The zero-sum attitude displayed by Mr Vawda, if allowed to run amok, will wreck all prospects of democracy’s return to normal functioning.

Opposition leaders have rightly heaped criticism on Mr Vawda’s crude theatrics. The PTI leadership should do the same.

Saner heads should have a quiet but firm word with Mr Vawda and explain to him how his attempts at cheap popularity are damaging political stability in the country.

Perhaps it is time Mr Vawda zipped up his embarrassing rhetoric, laced up his misplaced exuberance and tied up his oversized ego. The country would be all the better for it.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020

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