One’s video clip going viral is quite often a really good thing. For, the cliché would have you believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. And with social media these days the extent of the volume, frequency and magnitude of said publicity has indeed skyrocketed.

This is not to say that Interior Minister Shehryar Afridi’s video leak from last week comes under anything that could be remotely interpreted as bad. If you want to go viral in this country, might as well do so alongside famous folk, saying and/or doing something that will up the popularity scale.

Therefore, referring to oneself as not even worth the ‘paun ki khaak’ [dirt on the feet] of allies of Prof Hafiz Mohammed Saeed – or so the byline of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba chief goes with his Urdu columns – will only win Afridi more fans in the country.

What is, however, unfortunate – and perhaps even a PR faux pas – is what Afridi said in reaction to the video leak. Instead of basking in the glory of each second of that precious leak, the Interior Minister said the video was ‘really old’ actually ‘two years old’.

The first, and the most obvious, problem with that statement is that it makes it sound as though he has some issue with the video – if not with what he was saying then definitely when he was saying it. Why alienate the mounting number of fans, Mr Afridi?

The second major concern is that not only does Afridi try to distance himself from the video – for reasons inexplicable, one might add – he came up with a response that defied the laws of physics. Sure, defying the laws of this country and hobnobbing with terror groups is almost a job description of the Interior Minister these days, but physics can’t be dismissed as anti-state or a threat to national security.

For, the Milli Muslim League whose concerns that Afridi was allaying actually came into being last year, and the concern in question – that of the US placing a ban on the party – was actually put into place in April this year.

A little research and Afridi could’ve got away with saying the video is from May – hence before the elections – which is perhaps when it is actually from considering that the Election Commission of Pakistan not registering the MML is the topic of discussion.

Shehryar Afridi is perhaps tired from receiving and forwarding files all day, and memorising what he has to say in front of the media. He probably doesn’t even know what the National Action Plan looks like, and sees an INGO every time he has an actual physical need to perform a movement which sufficient magnitude so as to qualify as an act.

It could also be a result of all the time he surfs social media and the internet in general looking for treasonous, blasphemous commentators using fake profiles to camouflage themselves. Also, memorising the names of those that are to be put on the Exit Control List – and getting the sign right on the file, of course – might take its toll as well.

Even so, with new found popularity thanks to much needed erratic behaviour, Pakistani politics has found its own Boom Boom Afridi. He does little and appears to do a lot, broadens his shoulders as if he’ll carry the entire nation’s hopes on his shoulders, and then does something that makes him look like a fool to everyone outside of Pakistan.

In Pakistan, however, the popularity only escalates with every headless manoeuvre. And the nation remains eternally grateful to what Boom Boom poses to be, carrying naught for what he actually is and does.

 

The writer is a Lahore-based

journalist.