The PTI has a well established reputation of denigrating and ridiculuing state institutions and hurling unsbstantiated allegations against their political opponents, with embarassing consequences. But what happened on Tuesday was probably the biggest ever goof-up by the PTI leaders. Nothwithstanding the fact that Tariq Fatemi had been removed from his post and was no more involved in the official business, Shirin Mazari in a tweet accompanied by a picture showing Tariq Fatemi present at a signing ceremony in Beijing said, “Government lied again. Fatemi present in signining of MOUs is part of official entourage. Shameful duplicity on Dawn Leaks.” Another stalwart of the PTI Naeemful in his tweet said, “Nawaz Sharif continues to deceive the nation. Tariq accompanies him in China. So his being relieved of his duties was a lie. What a farce” Not only that, PTI leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi also thought it opportune to have a swipe at the government by expressing party’s reservations over Fatemi accompanying the Prime Minister, even after his dismissal.

The fact is that the picture used by the PTI leaders pertained to an MOU signing ceremony held in Beijing on December 30, 2016. There can be two explanations about what transpired in this episode. One is that somebody made a fool of them by providing them with an old picture and whispering in their ears that it belonged to the recent tour of the Prime Minister. They felt so excited about the prospect of grilling the government that without verifying the fact, as invariably has been the case even in the past, they released the arrows from their bows. The second possibility is that it was delibrately done to embarrass the governmnt, a trait in which PTI has excelled. In both cases it was crass politics.

Taking cue from the tweets of the PTI leaders even some TV channels found it convenient to debate an event which never occurred. That also tells the state of affairs of our media, particularly the TV channels who in their attempt to earn better ratings also commit undesirable indiscretions, which is very regrettable. Opposition parties and media do have a right to criticise the government policies and act as a watch-dog against it. But both of them are supposed to act in a responsible manner. What the media did was a serious breach of the internationally recognised codes of ethics for the media and what the PTI leaders did was probably the most prepostrous ploy to defame the government and possibly an attempt to drive a wedge between the government and the military leadership.

It is most regrettable to point out that our politicians have not learnt their lessons and continue to be the enemies of democracy and political stability in the country. They can go to any extent to see the back of the sitting government, no matter even it culminates into consigning the country to perennial instability. They cry hoarse from every convenient roof-top to uphold the cause of democracy and strengthening the state institutions but their conduct is absolutely contrary to their rhetoric. How could they stoop so low as to fabricate allegations against the government for their emphemeral and transient political gains?

I think the PTI leaders must show the grace of apologising to the government as well as the people of Pakistan for their brazen attempt to mislead them. I am not sure they would do it becaue the PTI chairman unfortunately has been pursuing the same course and never felt the need to express remorse over his false allegations and narratives. The classic and quintessential case of the political creed pursued by the PTI, particulrly its chairman ever since the party barged onto the political landscape of the country, were the rigging allegations with specific emphasis on 35 punctures. The nation knows the fuss that he created over the issue. The country witnessed an unending syndrome of allegations against all the state institutions, political opponents and even a prominent media house.

The government agreeding to his demand and formed a Judical Commission with both parties committing themselves to accepting the outcome of the inquiry ungrudgingly. But when the Commission rubbished the claims of systematic rigging and validated the mandate given to the PML-N by the masses, he did not honour his commitment to accept the findings ungrudgingly. Even after that he has been repeating the allegations of rigging at every available forum. The interesting thing about the whole episode was that when after the announcement of the commission report a TV channel asked Imran about his allegations of 35 punctures, he casually shrugged his shoulders and said that it was just a political talk. Somebody had told him about it. That probably was the biggest farce. The man kept the entire nation on the tenter-hooks for nearly two years trying to rub-in the notion of 35 punctures alleged to have been orchestrated by the interim government in Punjab led by Najam Sethi but after having been proved wrong never showed the grace to repent or tender an apology to all those against whom he hurled the allegations of involvement in the alleged rigging.

Riduculing state institutions and trying to fabricate lies against political opponents would surely have a boomerang effect and scuttle the popularity of the party. It perhaps needs to shift its focus from negative politics to positive politics. As a political party it has the right to oppose the government policies and present better alternatives to improve governnance. But the proper forum for these activities is the parlament and not the streets. Criticse the polcies of the government, but avoid being personal, and refrain from attempts to bring it down through undemocratic means prior to the completion of its mandated period. Let the people be the judge in this regard. That is how democracy and state institutions can be strengthened and the country can move forward. Play the game according to the internationally recognised rules and norms.

The other parties, particularly PPP which also seems to be on a premture election campaign needs to make sure that it focuses on national issues rather than indulging in a reckless smear campaign against the government and the family of Nawaz Sharif. In view of the challenges that the country is faced with, the politicians need to set healthy democratic traditions of respecting the mandate of the people and political tolerance. That is the legacy bequeathed by the founding father. The continued deviation from that course is a recipe for disaster.