A lie, they say, would have traveled halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its boots. We are indeed in the post-factual world.
An idiot with high production values can wreak absolute havoc with the nature of public discourse. WhatsApp and Facebook messages with the veneer of homework-done can spread around much quicker than those without
Matters are made worse, of course, when one is not talking about a random idiot, but the National Accountability Board (NAB.)
It was essayed well by Kamran Khan in the latest of his series of rather decent programs on Dunya.
For those living under a rock, briefly: the World Bank, several years ago, ran a model of remittances on its website. That model estimated that every year, a total of $ 4.9 billion went from Pakistan to India. The methodology so employed was flawed, a fact pointed out by several economists later on. The model had treated all of Pakistanis that had migrated from India as migrants from, say, Afghanistan to the UK. Though migrants send remittances to home countries, there are a number of exceptions to such practices. For instance between Pakistan and India or between Russia and the Ukraine.
The issue was put to bed years ago. Cut to the present, where some no-name columnist in Ausaaf newspaper added his seasoning of mirch-masala and said that not only were these remittances, this was a case of money laundering and that (why not?) Nawaz Sharif was involved.
The World Bank responded to the NAB move and said that “the report does not include any mention of money laundering nor does it name any individuals.”
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said the estimates showed in the World Bank’s report were based on “assumptions” which did not reflect the reality.
But NAB doubled down. Soon after the SBP’s clarification, NAB issued a brief statement and questioned: “If the World Bank report is not correct, why they have not changed the figure of 4.9 billion dollars from Pakistan in its report?”
All of this, of course, was like a gift from the heavens for the League. Its narrative of being hounded out by a vindictive judiciary on increasingly flimsy grounds was further empowered.
It led to quite a brouhaha on the floor of the house, with the prime minister saying that the NAB chairman should be brought in to be questioned. The PTI members sheepishly defended the chairman, saying that this would undermine the process of accountability but by now, even they realise that it’s a weak wicket that they are playing on.
Even the television talking heads that otherwise tear into the government on the flimsiest grounds are skittish on this issue.
The incident also serves to further reinforce the narrative that the judiciary is composed to “WhatsApp Uncles” who will believe anything and everything that they read online.
No one knows what the then judiciary thought of the Reko Diq mining case, but they threw it out on flimsy grounds and the Republic, after losing the international arbitration that the Chilean mining sought, has to cough up $400 million. They were probably watching the Pakistani political talk shows, in which the talking heads were saying that the government was “giving away” all those minerals for a song. The quantum in tonnage that was being cited at that time probably was more than the total amount of copper and gold on the planet!
Other beautiful examples of absolute hogwash making it to public discourse: Dr Asim Hussain stealing Rs 2 billion per day, as uncovered by the Rangers. It was “revealed” that 70 per cent of the graft in Karachi went to Bilawal House.
This is the province of Imran Khan’s “35 punctures.” And, the latest, where he out-Imran’d himself, the case involving “whistleblower” Faisal Subhan. A man who doesn’t even exist as per Nadra records!
The idiocracy of the commentariat and the political class aside, it is an incredibly morose comment on the nature of our state that the judiciary actually entertains such drivel.