The Pakistani flag adorned on a garment should not be a controversial issue- least of all on Independence Day. Yet, yesterday, the use of the Pakistani flag in a small celebration video generated national outrage- enough to evoke the attention of the country’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).
At the centre of the controversy is Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which released a video of a Polish woman with a Pakistani flag dupatta doing the internet Kiki challenge, as a marketing tool to promote tourism. Unfortunately, that move seems to have backfired as it was negatively received, and received a notification from NAB. The NAB spokesman stated that the woman not only disgraced the national flag by wrapping it around her body but also violated the security codes of the national airlines and the airport.
Online anger and outrage at videos of innocent dancing by women is a normal- what is different about this situation is that this time, the anger is not just limited to rants on twitter, but has been taken up as an issue by one of the most important and influential executive bodies. Not only is it absurd but it is also definitely an overreach of power- it is difficult to speculate what section of the NAB ordinance is applicable for a case of the use of the Pakistan flag in a promotional video by PIA. At best, NAB can apply misuse of authority by PIA, but it would be a legally weak case.
It would not be incorrect to say that NAB has had quite an active and controversial year, with many politically high-profile cases. In the midst of such scrutinised political cases, it is imperative for NAB to withhold its serious reputation and not succumb to trivial cases, in order to avoid accusations of overreach. Giving national attention to a mere case of a tourist dancing with the national flag, which was not meant to induce any disrespect and is a regular occurrence on Independence Day of other countries, does not do NAB any favours in maintaining a reputation of a non-ideological body.
Perhaps who comes out the worst off is PIA, which has had a string of notorious incidents related to misuse of funds. While PIA definitely needs accountability for its past unprofessionalism, let us hope the decision to punish PIA is not over a video of the Kiki challenge.