Primetime debates on Pakistani news channel is truly ‘next level’. Forget the shouting, slamming, slapping that goes on all the time between panellists to win an argument. Now there are boots in the studio. Literally. Pakistan’s water minister Faisal Vawda brought an army boot with him to a TV debate. He placed it next to his glass of water.
The ‘boot’ in Pakistani politics signifies the ‘hidden’ role of the establishment that most people don’t want to utter out loud. But Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Vawda had to score points against his rivals from Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on the extension given to army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority or PEMRA only swings into action when such incidents have already happened on air.
Faisal Vawda’s monologue on an ARY News talk show was about why the opposition parties should respect the boot. He called himself “muhib-e-watan (patriot)” when he was actually muhib-e-boot. The stunt didn’t go down as well as Vawda expected. He was criticised for maligning an ‘institution’ for cheap point-scoring. Did the ruling party concede inadvertently that it was being run by the boots? As a result, Prime Minister Imran Khan banned Vawda from appearing on any talk show for two weeks.
Vawda is no stranger to controversy or rather comedy. He is, after all, a pompous sports car-driving minister, who didn’t mind roaming around with his gun at the scene of 2018 terrorist attack on the Chinese consulate in Karachi.
His obsession with boots is old. When he stood on top of the wreckage of an Indian MIG-21 with the national flag in his hand, it seemed as if it was Vawda who had downed the Indian warplane in the air skirmishes last year. He said he was ready to cross the Line of Control. He would have truly caused much damage to the Indian forces by swinging the gun while driving his yellow car. But PM Khan advised Vawda to focus on his ministry rather than posting photos.
The minister of water is now in hot waters. There is a petition seeking Vawda’s disqualification for allegedly not informing the election commission of his US citizenship. This ‘bootgate’ might end with Vawda’s departure, but that’s the cost you pay for polishing the boot the wrong way.
Lotas, sack of liquor bottles ::
There have been other Pakistanis like Vawda who used props to make their political point, even if not as convincingly. In 2014, National Assembly member Jamshed Dasti brought a sack full of empty liquor bottles on a news show to back his claims of inappropriate and immoral activities in parliament lodges. He said he collected these bottles from the lodges. One by the one, he took out these bottles while the show host asked him if he knew the brands and whether they were imported. There was no questioning of Dasti’s acts. His evidentiary bottles were blurred during the transmission.
Punjab assembly member from Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Samina Khawar Hayat in 2011 brought two lotas on a news talk show to complain about how Nawaz Sharif was allowing turncoats into his party. The lotas can rollover according to the wishes of their master. Hayat rolled the plastic lota she had brought again and again to show how the MPs switch from one party to another. Then she threw the second mud lota on the floor and broke it, saying: “Humne inn loto ko aise thaa karna hai (this is how we have to break the lotas).” The news host just let her continue. Hayat didn’t face the consequences Vawda is. Why? Because lotas don’t represent an ‘institution’.
Slaps, abusing and goof-ups ::
Prime Minister Imran Khan’s close confidant and special assistant Naeemul Haque has quite the reputation of giving it back to his opponents in kind on talk shows. He once threw a glass of water at PPP leader Jamil Soomro on air. Then they both abused each other on a live show. Last year, Haque gave a back-handed slap to PML-N minister Daniyal Aziz on a show, and later boasted that PM Khan had praised him for the act.
Recently, a fight broke out between federal Kashmir affairs minister Ali Amin Gandapur and Jamiat Ulema Islam leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri when Haideri criticised the anchor for inviting someone like Gandapur to his show. To which Gandapur took exception and both ended up abusing each other.
Another PTI senior leader, Masroor Ali Siyal assaulted journalist Imtiaz Khan during a heated debate on a show. The participants continued the recording of the show after the punching and pushing break. Later PTI issued a show cause notice to Siyal for physical assault and suspended his party membership.
In the past, leaders like Firdous Ashiq Awan have accused opposition female politicians of sleeping their way to get into the parliament. A news show host accused Reham Khan of running a “kanjar khana (brothel)” inside Banigala while discussing her breakup with Imran Khan.
TV media in Pakistan is still in its early days, is a defence we often hear, but it is more like a monkey with a razor blade in its hand. It doesn’t know what to do with it.
Will politicians turn up with nuclear weapons next in TV studios to prove their point? Anything’s fair in Pakistani TV and war.
By: The Print