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Great hamam and the ‘naked’ elite

A journalist’s job is to ask questions, not give answers, said the late great foreign correspondent Robert Fisk. “Even when I’m giving lectures and issuing statements, I make sure to ask a lot more questions before and after,” he said during a talk in Beirut about 15 years ago.

And since the so-called audio leaks are all the rage right now, and journalists have gladly hopped onto the bandwagon of issuing condemnation and worrying about privacy and even the constitution, perhaps a few questions about this circus are long overdue – at the risk of inviting further wrath from part-time-liberals-part-time-fascists that man the social media landscape.

But first a disclaimer: questions, especially from journalists, in no way indicate his or her social, political or constitutional leaning. Now, some questions.

One, why is it that our elite always waves the constitution in everybody’s faces whenever it is caught with its own pants down? Granted, tapping private conversations is considered very wrong, and with good reason, but what if they expose far greater wrongs that would otherwise remain hidden from an unassuming public that votes them into power which, according to the sacred constitution itself, politicians contest in order to serve the people, not for sugar mills and numbered accounts?

Two, surely lawmakers and law-protectors in enlightened, truly liberal parts of the world – not dog-eat-dog armpit of the third world where we occupy a special strategic location – assume not just that public representatives don’t discuss potentially incriminating things in their phone calls, but that they do not indulge in corrupt practices that can land them into trouble. Wouldn’t simply crying foul when audio leaks embarrass or expose someone while turning a blind eye to its contents amount, at least in some cases, to endorsing and even protecting certain forms of corruption?

Three, security agencies vow to protect their countries from all threats, “both foreign and local”, not just in movies and novels, but also in real life. Shouldn’t the constitution then green-light surveillance of the most important people and even less important people that occupy very sensitive positions simply because they can also bring the most harm to the state and the people? Especially in a country where politicians regularly use ‘public service’ as a cover to enrich and empower themselves? Didn’t Imran Khan make the same point in an interview, when he was still PM, with popular journalist Mansoor Ali Khan only to later eat his words in his trademark U-turn style when the leaks started featuring his own conversations?

Four, what about judges? Some of the highest paid and most privileged lordships anywhere in the world whose long careers have seen the judiciary sink to one of the worst ranked in terms of justice delivery and entrench itself as one of the most corrupt institutions in the country. Is it really nobody’s business to know what possible private communication a sitting supreme court justice could have with a former provincial chief minister about the latter’s right hand man ahead of a crucial trial? When all three have clearly checkered pasts? You can be sure that nobody would’ve batted an eye if the leaked conversation was about judicial reforms, etc, but it’s clearly for a reason that bar councils up and down the country are calling for the judge’s resignation in a frantic rush to protect what is left of “the integrity of the judiciary”.

Five, what about the people? Sometimes they only way they can know if politicians fishing for their votes are telling the truth is when audio leaks spring up on the internet. And it is, after all, very important that they know if someone was simply “spoon-feeding” them about a great foreign conspiracy, whipping up public frenzy, for very personal, not public, gain. Or, for that matter, if a self-professed khalifa of a mythical ‘Riyasat-e-Madina’ spends his free time enlightening other people’s wives about tickling “pleasure points”, etc.

And six, is there, then, reason enough to first concentrate on what these leaks have revealed, and continue to reveal, before working on how to stop them? Wouldn’t one make the other easier; at least ensure fewer ‘naked’ people in this great hamam?

No doubt the first reaction will be who, in such a toxic environment, will spy on the spies because they, too, can bend either way. But that is just one more question that is still begging for an answer.

Shahab Jafry, "Great hamam and the ‘naked’ elite," Business recorder. 2023-02-23.
Keywords: Social sciences , Social challenges , Social issues , Security agencies , Judicial reforms , Foreign conspiracy

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