Much-needed probe

Published October 12, 2022

CONFUSION and obfuscation have become a predominant feature of our national politics. Now President Arif Alvi, after clearly saying in a television interview aired on Monday that he was “not convinced” a ‘foreign conspiracy’ had indeed been hatched to bring down the PTI government, is walking back his words.

Last evening, there were several tweets from the president’s official Twitter handle to ‘clarify’ that there was no change in his views on the matter, that he very much had suspicions about a conspiracy.

In the TV interview, he said he had already requested the Supreme Court to launch an inquiry and while he did not expect any “smoking gun”, he believed it should take “circumstantial evidence” into account. He also asserted on air that he was impartial in his role as president and that his affiliation with the PTI — of which he is one of the founders — was in the past.

Mr Alvi has often been perceived as being in sync with the PTI’s political strategy, both before and after it lost power.

Nevertheless, one cannot disagree with the president’s contention that “a thorough investigation” is needed.

It would help clear the murkiness that still surrounds the issue despite two NSC meetings discounting the existence of such a scheme — albeit the first one, held during Imran Khan’s premiership, did denounce the (until then) unnamed country for “blatant interference in the internal affairs of Pakistan”.

Read: Foreign interference

The PTI has continued to relentlessly push the theory, even after the leak of two audio clips in which some of its top leaders, including Mr Khan, appear to be discussing how to “play” with the contents of the cipher.

Alleging that the diplomatic cable contained a threat against his government, the former prime minister had written to the president and the Supreme Court chief justice to investigate the matter. Indeed, just prior to the leaks, he had made the PTI legislators’ return to parliament conditional upon such an inquiry.

If conducted by a committee acceptable to all, such a probe still has the potential of lowering political temperatures and settling, once and for all, an issue that has been the cause of turmoil for several months. The government, however, in its zeal to bring down Mr Khan, has chosen to up the ante further by initiating a high-level inquiry into the ‘Cablegate’ audio leaks.

The ‘Cablegate’ affair has not been a storm in a teacup: its ripples have travelled far beyond the domestic front. Our relations with a global power were strained in the process, and the contents of a classified diplomatic communiqué at least partially disclosed.

While realpolitik will likely take care of the first, the second may well have a chilling effect for some time on the wider international community’s willingness to communicate candidly with our diplomatic missions abroad.

The ‘foreign conspiracy’ card should no longer be in play.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2022

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