In a bind

Published May 7, 2022

THE new government’s bumbling efforts to articulate a strong counter-narrative to Imran Khan’s blistering multimedia offensive are taking a turn for the quixotic. Despite it now becoming clear that facts alone will do little to puncture the post-truth bubble the PTI thrives in, the government does not seem to be done beating the ‘Cablegate’ horse. The recent announcement of an inquiry commission to probe the matter is an exercise in futility, especially after two separate National Security Committee pronouncements have failed to dent the crafty narrative spun by the PTI.

It is all the more exasperating that the information minister also seems to have undermined the very purpose of the independent commission she has promised by pre-empting what its ‘findings’ will be. The inquiry commission will, “fairly decide that the narrative of foreign conspiracy was all drama and the real character behind it was Imran Khan”, Marriyum Aurangzeb has said, leaving one to wonder what the point of it is if there is no other conclusion it may reach. As expected, the PTI has rejected the inquiry commission and called it an attempt to “conceal the truth”. It has demanded a judicial commission instead, which must conduct an open hearing of the case if it is to be accepted by the ousted party. This in itself is unlikely to happen, given the sensitivity and classified nature of the diplomatic cable at the centre of the drama. Even if such an inquiry were to take place, its outcome would be secondary for the PTI compared to the political opportunity to stoke nationalist sentiment and create a furore over the decidedly undiplomatic language used by the US representative, as reported in the Washington cable. Amidst all this, it is clear that Imran Khan has been a few steps ahead of the incumbent government, especially when it comes to controlling the public narrative. It will take a lot more than inquiry commissions to counter the sheer force with which he has struck back.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2022

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