Taking it too far

Shahbaz Gill’s latest allegations and the FO’s swift denial show the boat of sticking to the narrative

PTI chief Imran Khan’s narrative of an American conspiracy to overthrow his government though a vote of no-confidence with the help of local institutions is a toxic one, not least because it obliges party leaders to go that extra inch in their claims but also leads them into outright untruth. The latest example is the claim made by Imran’s chief of staff, Dr Shehbaz Gill, when talking to the press outside the Supreme Court, where he was appearing in a bail matter, when he claimed that the famous cipher, in which Ambassador Asad Majeed Khan is supposed to have denied the conspiracy, was held back by the Foreign Office from the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister. He was trying to explain why Mr Khan did not make any claim about the receipt of the cipher until he waved it at a crowd several days after its receipt.

Naturally, the Foreign Office was quick to jump to its own defence, also goblin itself into incoherence, as it stiffly denied that it could be so unprofessional as to hold back such a communication. It might have resented the implication that it held back the cipher as part of the conspiracy, as the conspirators did not want the conspiracy to come to light. Apart from making the PM, the Foreign Minister, the establishment and the Foreign Office bit players in a bad spy movie, Dr Gill inadvertently raises the question of why the US interlocutor who allegedly made the threat did so, when the threat was not to be passed on.

Dr Gill’s statement shows the dangers of trying to defend a narrative that is itself riddled with improbabilities. Apart from the military and the judiciary, the PTI now finds that it has to include the Foreign Office as a conspirator if it is to prove that the USA-sponsored narrative is true. And because Mr Khan still insists it is true, and the Punjab by-election results will probably ensure that he sticks to this narrative, everyone in the PTI thinks himself or herself honor-bound to repeat the calumny, say the Foreign Office what it will.

The Editorial Department of Pakistan Today can be contacted at: [email protected].

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