PTI chief Imran Khan has claimed that audiotapes alleged to be of a phone conversation between him and an unnamed woman, were released to blackmail him. He has also claimed that those releasing the audio-clip were acting against Islamic injunctions by making public lewd material. He has not so far come out with a categorical denial, not even to endorse party spokesman Fawad Chaudhry’s claim that the leaks were a cut-paste job. Mr Khan has often before invoked religion, which is politically risky, but this defence served little purpose, for it digressed to a side-issue, and left the main issue unaddressed, of whether Mr Khan had abandoned his playboy past, or whether he remained the same as before.
Similarly, President Arif Alvi’s disclosures about the way he claimed then COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa helped the PTI, do not mesh well with his demand that the Army under present COAS Gen Asim Munir should remain neutral. The only beneficiary, by his own statement, of this interference, was the PTI. One of the consequences of this interference was his own election as President, and his call for neutrality has an element in it of wistfulness, a regret that the sort of help the PTI previously got, was no longer available. With elections due in less than a year’s time, and with Mr Khan leading his party in a call for fresh elections, the desire for that level of assistance, now apparently no longer available, will only grow.
It may be that Mr Khan and President Alvi are speaking to the base. Even then, the base of PTI supporters, unless they lack any ability to think for themselves, cannot help but see through these arguments. Mr Khan has so far offered no defence for the tapes, but has instead made the counter-accusation that they are merely meant to blackmail him. He has refused to see that he needs to prove that he is not the person those tapes show him as. He will also have to act fast, if he wishes to avoid the political damage they are inflicting on him. Similarly, President Alvi’s attempts to exert pressure on the new COAS, by maligning the previous one, are likely to fall on barren ground. While the PTI may have conceded to elections in April, it should also be clear that whenever it faces elections, it will probably have to do so without any crutches.