Elections roundup: Shouting fire in a crowded theatre | Pakistan Today

Elections roundup: Shouting fire in a crowded theatre


Times are strange when you’re five days away from election day and what might soon be the largest party in parliament has to send a lawyer to the election commission to explain that the term ‘donkey’ is common enough not to be considered a serious insult.

But then again, the chairman of the would-be largest party in parliament is Imran Khan, and his loose tongue has plagued him for some time now.

He has now promised to the ECP in writing that he will not use this sort of language. That still didn’t stop his lawyer Babar Awan from arguing that calling people donkeys should be a permissible practice.

As for the ECP and its code of conduct, candidates should be allowed to say what they feel the need to say. If it is unseemly, then let the electorate find it to be so and reject them. But as the laws of free speech go, anything short of shouting fire in a crowded theatre or inciting physical harm on someone is game.

What the ECP should ideally take notice of is when candidates speak against minorities or openly threaten their opponents. Not when they call people donkeys.

But then again, perhaps the ECP took notice after donkeys across the country were targeted in the wake of Imran Khan’s comments. Images of these furry, adorable beasts of burden beaten and bloodied were heart-wrenching. Whatever else they may or may not have done, Imran Khan’s words did get those donkeys beat up.

Such actions show the worst side of humanity – the ability to be cruel for no reason. Politics or elections are just excuses, stuff like this is just nasty. It is even nastier when it happens to people. Which is why it is even more important that the ECP’s code of conduct be directed towards actual hate speech.

Yet even as donkeys suffer, sentiments continue to be hurt and the level of discourse falls lower and lower, Imran Khan should be allowed to say what he wants as long as he is not inciting violence. Even if those things are vile, confusing or just plain silly.


The NAB is moving on to its next project, and this one is refreshingly not related to the Sharifs or the PML-N. In fact, it is now the second time that the KP government is being scrutinised by the accountability bureau. A bench of the Peshawar High Court has ordered the anti-graft watchdog to investigate delays and escalating costs in the completion of the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit Corridor (BRT) project.

It seems that if you look hard enough there are going to irregularities anywhere. It says much about the unfortunate system of informality in Pakistan which makes tracing things a Herculean task. That anti-graft laws are strict even by the standards of places where there are strict measures of formality and record taking makes the situation all the dicier.

For sure, there are things that are ‘shady and shaky’ as the PHC called them. There may even straight out lie somewhere, but that does not necessarily mean corruption. One hopes the NAB will realise that, because it didn’t when the Sharifs were being investigated.

Let’s see how they treat Imran Khan and the PTI’s KP government.

Abdullah Niazi

Abdullah Niazi is a member of staff currently studying Literature at LUMS. He also writes and edits for The Dependent.

Related posts