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THE thought itself may smack of fun: Musarrat Shaheen taking on Maulana Fazlur Rehman in a Dera Ismail Khan constituency is material for just as much lighthearted commentary as there was when the former actor and the maulana squared off in an election in 1997. Both, together with cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, lost. Now, again, some not so flattering nicknames which the JUI-F chief has been given in his political career have returned to fuel the imagination. Some of his unhappiest critics are bound to use the occasion to take their revenge, exploiting Ms Shaheen, to “embarrass” Maulana Fazlur Rehman. But after the whistles have been blown and the boos can no longer be endured, there are more sober aspects to the contest which should also be discussed. That these kinds of jokes involving politicians are still possible in public forums such as the media has to be a compliment to politics in this country. Outside the domain of politics, the prominent personalities of our times can either be revered or hated; they cannot be spoken of in a light vein, less caricatured as politicians have frequently been.

Beyond her more evident ability to entertain, also deserving of some notice is the alternative statement in Musarrat Shaheen’s candidacy. It is possible to view her as asserting her right as a woman, as a woman actor, to be an active member of a system, fighting in an area which is dominated by men beholden to strict traditions, and where the threat of militants dis-rupting the polls is considerable. She could do a better job if she is able to prove that hers is a serious attempt at participation, and not just as a performer required by the script to embarrass someone.