View Full Version : Ten distortions - Shafqat Mahmood - 20th October 2012 (The News)

20th October 2012, 11:58 AM
I have great respect for Farrukh Saleem. He often quotes precise statistics to make his point. But in posing ten questions to Imran Khan he has rushed to conclusions, made vast generalisations and, in one case, indulged in total fabrication. I am not too fond of the rat-a-tat style he usually adopts but just for convenience let me answer his questions point by point.

1. It is a terrible simplification to say that, according to Imran Khan, the militants are taking innocent Pakistani lives because of drone attacks. Imran has always maintained that the issue of militancy is complex, with many factors at play. Some militants are ideologically motivated, others straightforward criminals, while some are reacting to their kith and kin becoming victims of air attacks, military operations, drones – all captured in that terrible word, collateral damage. Drones, according to Imran Khan are a reminder of American aggression to everybody in the tribal areas. They are not the only reason for militancy but contribute mightily to it.

2. By asking Imran Khan for four names to negotiate with among the militants, Farrukh Saleem is asking a trick question and using his journalistic privilege to be ‘cute’. However, I will try to answer him seriously. Why is it so complicated to understand that ‘kill them all’ is no policy? Does it not make sense to wean away as many militants as possible before dealing with the rest through targeted military operations?

3. In the third question, there is again an attempt to be cute bordering on the ridiculous. Saleem asks Imran Khan the names of two militant organisations he would wipe off from the face of the earth if he became prime minister. Actually Farrukh should be asking himself this question because his unstated solution to militancy is “kill them all”. Imran Khan does not talk about wiping anybody off. He has a comprehensive plan to deal with militancy. In fact he is the only politician who does. His plan has three elements: a) quit partnering with the US in its war in the region; b) wean away the tribes and as many militants as possible in the Fata region; and c) deal militarily with those that are left.

4. The fourth question is equally absurd. Saleem asks Imran Khan to name the organisations that have killed 40,000 people in Pakistan. Is this some macabre game of 20/20? What is the purpose of this totally meaningless query?

5. This question begins with some substance but then degenerates into banal generalities. Farrukh Saleem asks whether the state should have monopoly over violence in its territory? Of course. This is a no brainer. No one is more concerned about this than Imran Khan, who as a nationalist wants to see Pakistan completely sovereign. He would never concede monopoly of violence within the country’s territory either to militants or to anyone who violates our sovereignty – the principal culprit in this regard being the Americans with their drones. But perhaps Farrukh considers them and their weapons to be peacemakers.

6. The next question is a deliberate attempt at insult because it makes no sense. Farrukh Saleem asks Imran whether, as PM, he would make his own foreign policy or let the militants do that. It is so pathetic that it need not be dignified with an answer.

7. Another distortion in question number seven and frankly totally indicative of Saleem’s deep-seated prejudice. He says that Imran Khan has asked Americans to stop drones and the army to stop operations but never the militants to stop their murderous assaults. This is absurd and totally contrary to facts. It again shows how much Saleem is blinded by his hatred because can he imagine even for a minute that Imran would condone the Taliban’s murderous assaults? Imran Khan has repeatedly condemned the Taliban and after the Malala incident was one of the few politicians to condemn the TTP by name. Did the Pakistani parliament do that? Did Nawaz Sharif do that? No. Does Farrukh Saleem ask them this question? No. I rest my case.

8. The distortions continue in the next question. Saleem says that in Imran Khan’s view Pakistani militants are victims and the Americans victimisers. When did Imran say that? Why are such distorted words being attributed to him? Farrukh Saleem goes on to ask that, in the case of Malala, who does Imran Khan find the victim and who the victimiser? This is so pathetic an attempt at character assassination that I am at a loss for words. Where has Imran said that the Taliban are the victims? Also, please bother to read the statements issued by PTI and Imran Khan after the Malala tragedy. As I said earlier, he is the only politician who condemned TTP by name.

9. In this question, Saleem manufactures a statement and attributes it to me as the official spokesperson of the party. According to him, I am supposed to have said “end to drones will end the war”. This is just an outright lie. I have never said that. I would never reduce a complex problem to stupid simplicity. If this country had a better legal system, I would have taken Farrukh Saleem to the cleaners. But alas he and others like him hide behind the fact that they will never have to prove their distorted assertions in court.

10. In the last question he drips vitriol by asking Imran Khan whether the Malala tragedy has had any impact on him. As I explained earlier, Imran Khan was one of the few politicians to condemn TTP by name; he also visited Malala in a Peshawar hospital. What more is there to say?

It is sad that some writers let their prejudices overcome sound journalistic ethics. Unfortunately, one is forced to respond to them because un-replied they would get away with their false innuendos. It is a task I do not enjoy, but what to do?