She is lying | Talat Hussain

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Three words that could have killed the unsavoury storm gripping the country at present. They could have saved everyone involved in the Ayesha Gulalai-Imran Khan sexual harassment controversy from loads of mental agony and pain. However, Imran Khan chose not to speak or tweet these three words. Instead, the response from his party has been Clintonian: bash the accuser, trash the accusation, and raise a castle of counter-charges to establish that the one levelling the charge – along with all those who report on these charges and write about them – is a vile character.

As these lines are being written, the situation is that Ayesha Gulalai has been threatened with murder and demolition of her house in her ancestral village (she says it’s a hospital her sister, the country’s top squash player, is building for the locals). Social media activists of Imran Khan’s party are in a robust debate on whether acid should be thrown on her face. PTI spokespersons, male and female, have cast aspersions on Ayesha’s character. The party’s chief representative seemed to take great delight in mentioning Ayesha’s squash-playing sister’s sports attire as proof of ‘their lifestyle’.

Late in the day, Imran Khan issued an appeal of sorts to his workers not to bring Ayesha’s sister in the line of attack even though the entire reference to her began with his official spokesperson mentioning it repeatedly. Also Imran’s plea to the workers left the field wide open for Ayesha’s name to be blackened. The assault continues till today without any let or hindrance from the party or the leader.

Parallel to this is the narrative of a conspiracy involving the government. Imran Khan in his tweets and interviews has openly said that this entire scandal has been managed by the PML-N. And that this is their revenge against him. In a recent interview to his handpicked mediapersons he also alleged that late Sita White was also paid by the Sharifs to do press conferences against him.

Whether on conventional and social media or in the halls of parliament, the statement of there being a conspiracy to damage Imran Khan through Ayesha Gulalai is the dominant theme party supporters believe in and spread. To them Ayesha Gulalai – who until recently was hailed as Imran and the party’s best defender and a role model for women in politics by none other than her present detractors – is a cheap instrument in a base character assassination plot.

To add spice to this flurry of counter-charges, some retired radicals have contributed their wisdom by pointing out that the government has unleashed Aeysha Gulalai only because they want to have access to Imran Khan’s BlackBerry. Why? So that they can find out whether or not he was in touch with generals in the ISI and in GHQ for his political planning! This is an extreme stretch but marks should be given for the rich imagination deployed to figure out the motives behind Ayesha’s decision to go public with her accusations.

The only good thing to have happened so far is a parliamentary committee constituted to probe the matter. This is a great first step even though its fate hangs in the balance. The day Imran Khan welcomed the move was also the day his central party spokesperson pooh-poohed the idea saying that the committee was full of PTI opponents and therefore incapable of carrying out an objective assessment.

Imran Khan could have avoided this circuitous and dirty road to the truth by simply responding to Ayesha’s allegations with three words: she is lying. Or another set of small such as: I have never sent her any message other than party related matters.

He could have followed that up by recommending that she bring to light her evidence rather than hiding it so he could tear it apart as patently false. This could have forced Ayesha to adduce evidence in support of her accusations and that could have been the end of the matter. Or the beginning of it. But either way this issue would have gone towards some resolution. Either she is lying or he is. Both can’t be telling the truth.

It is baffling why Imran Khan did not choose this simple path of killing this controversy and instead drifted towards a response that could have only become uglier and stranger by the day.

Now the bizarre situation reads something like this:

A: Imran sent me suggestive messages.

Response: Your sister wears shorts and plays squash.

A: Imran sent me messages over a period of three years.

Response: You will be made to appear before a jirga and prove that you are right otherwise your house will be demolished.

A: The honour of women is not safe in the PTI.

Response: If your own conduct is proper nothing bad happens.

A: Imran’s close aides (she took the name of Naeemul Haq) are part of this culture.

Response: You are paid by our opponents. You are part of a conspiracy involving godfathers. We will not change our policy on combating corruption in the country.

A: I speak for my rights.

Response: Your house can be demolished. Should we not throw acid on her face (social media debate)?

There is no co-relation between accusation and response.

A more logical sequence flowing from a different kind of response by Imran Khan could have been something like this:

A: Imran sent me suggestive messages.

Imran Khan: She is lying. Show the proof right now.

A: Imran sent me messages over a period of three years.

Imran Khan: She is lying. Show the proof right now.

A: The honour of women is not safe in the PTI.

Imran Khan: She is lying. Show the proof right now.

This could have ended it there and then. But that did not happen. The same way it did not happen in the case of Tyrian White. Imran only had to say this: Sita is lying. Tyrian is not my child. That could have ended it there and then. It would have put Imran on a different path of response than what he has been on even after Sita’s death (that she was being paid by my political opponents to say these things against him).

The problem in both Ayesha and Sita’s cases is that the central accusations (sexual harassment and fathering a child out of wedlock) do not go away even if the accusers (Ayesha and Sita) were to be proven to have been used as tools by opponents. Perhaps Ayesha now and Sita then are part of a conspiracy against Imran Khan. Perhaps they are being used by vested interests to stop Imran Khan from achieving his lofty ideals. Or perhaps they are not. Perhaps they are genuine characters who have facts on their side but a media onslaught against them. Perhaps Imran is a Mahatama. Perhaps he is irredeemably lost to carnal pleasures. Perhaps he is like any other person who makes mistakes and then does not know how to have decent closure. I do not know.

Our country’s present system has become a cross between Dystopia and Comedia. Disinformation is a weapon of mass distraction. Speculative fiction can be converted into reality and thrust down throats that have no option but to swallow them. There is drama. There is dictatorship. There is conspiracy. There is propaganda. But then there is also reality.

If Imran was not a political figure his personal life would not have been a subject of debate. But anyone aspiring to or who is a public officeholder and is admired as an icon by millions needs to come clean on these matters. (Of course, there are Articles 62 and 63 to qualify to become a constitutionally acceptable public representative. We may not like them, but these articles are there.)

Imran Khan is faced with serious accusations by Ayesha Gulalai. If he has done no wrong (which I would like to believe he has not), he should simply say she is lying and demand proof from her immediately. This does not have to go to any committee or court. It can be settled by taking a firm position that he has not sent her any message that can be construed as sexual harassment.

He could have done the same with Sita White. He did not. She then went to the court and got a decree that established as far as court findings and orders are concerned who Tyrian was. That issue is still open. Ayesha’s accusations, very serious and damaging, need not linger on that long. Instead of saying so many other things, Imran should simply say: she is lying. Out with the proof now (emphasis added).

Email: syedtalathussain@gmail.com

Twitter: @TalatHussain12

The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.