In this age, there is always a fear that a scandalous audio or video tape might get leaked at any moment. They may already exist and will be launched at the right moment placing politicians, bureaucrats, showbiz artists, athletes and other so-called celebrities in an awkward position.
This trend is ongoing not just in Pakistan but all over the world whether it is the United States, Europe, Arab region, India or China. Social media has actually made it a lot easier. Today, everyone has a mobile phone in their hands and can record anywhere. There are many common gadgets that can be used for secret recording. Every mobile phone has a call recorder and every call on the phone is recorded. There are discount calls on WhatsApp and Telegram. CCTV cameras are all around us and button-sized hidden cameras can easily be bought.
Earlier if anyone wanted to make a damning revelation, there were several obstacles. Newspapers did not publish news without evidence and TV channels had fear of legal repercussions. But social media made it easier. You can publish an audio or video from anywhere, share in a WhatsApp group or run with a fake Facebook ID. There are so many ways to make a clip go viral.
That is why there is a flood of accusations, counter-accusation and immense hue and cry that can turn in any direction. The #MeToo campaign did not gain momentum in our country even though it caused quite a stir in the world. In India, the Me Too campaign continued during the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest season of audio and video leaks in Pakistan is predominantly political. This time the goals are political, not just individuals. A friend recently asked me why I had not written over the matter. He expressed his disgust over the mudslinging which is happening under a specific agenda and you do not know who is behind it then it is wise to be a part of it without thinking.
I told my friend that journalists are being used in many such cases and then discarded like a rag of tissue paper. Those who survive do not have their integrity and self-esteem intact. Politicians and institutions have all made terrible mistakes in their eras. The judiciary has also passed court decisions that are difficult to defend.
The great poet Allama Iqbal’s son Justice (retd) Javed Iqbal wrote in his book that when he became a high court judge, a famous judge (he even wrote the name, I am avoiding) advised him that when one party is the government, then two verdicts should always be written – one in favour of the government and one on merit (i.e. against). Given the circumstances, one of these decisions should be used.
The judge was part of the famous Bhutto murder case and had sentenced the former premier to death. Justice Naseem Hassan Shah, who later became the Chief Justice, had once stated that they were under pressure in the Bhutto murder case. He had given a regular lengthy explanatory interview which the PPP used to its full advantage.
Another interesting revelation was that during the Bhutto murder case, four judges in the Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Anwar-ul-Haq, were on one side and wanted to impose death sentence while Justice Patel, Justice Haleem and Ghulam Safdar Shah wanted to acquit Bhutto. Justice Naseem took an offer to Justice Patel to create flexibility and unanimously sentence Bhutto to life imprisonment. Patel was furious and immediately rejected the proposal. Naseem Hassan Shah said this to his credit but the question arises why a judge had to force his fellow judges to change their minds.
Several years later, intelligence agencies tapped a phone call in which PML-N leader and trusted ally of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Saif-ur-Rehman was pleading Justice Malik Qayyum to sentence Benazir Bhutto urgently. The phone tape was delivered to Benazir Bhutto by a gentleman, who went on to become a key leader of the PPP and held an important ministry after her assassination. After this recording, Malik Qayyum and the Chief Justice had to resign.
The removal of Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah during Nawaz Sharif’s era is a different story. The parties have different views on it but it is clear that the court was divided. The dark chapter of the attack on the Supreme Court was also hatched in those days.
There are many more such tragic incidents, unfortunately, the complete truth can never be written. Everyone has used the situation for their convenience and vested interests and the affairs of politicians are also known before everyone. There have been attempts to influence the courts and other institutions and how their hand-picked people from councilors to provincial governments are selected. Rather than enjoying the current situation, we should learn a lesson and maintain our self-respect.