Jun 102017

Images and pictures have the power to change the course of history. The famous ‘Tank man’ at the Tiananmen Square in China, Che Guevara under captivity, or Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue way before it became a party symbol in the modern culture reflect a deeper underlying message of resistance. In a way, a simple picture can prove to be a potent political statement against the status quo, resonating with billions of people around the world.

Perhaps that was the intention of whoever leaked the recent picture of Hussain Nawaz siting on a chair in front of the JIT — to ignite a storm of emotions that eventually would translate into a movement either wrapping up the entire JIT together with the Panama case, or embarrassing the prime minister’s family and settling scores.

Unfortunately, the picture of prime minister’s son however way one may like to twist it falls short on delivering anything for either of the parties.

For one, the picture is meaningless in terms of the power of its content. Without the additional spins to the picture that both sides are working overtime to orchestrate, it proves nothing beyond the fact that a prime minister’s son is sitting on a chair responding to the JIT’s questions.

Second, the picture doesn’t give a clear verdict. It fails to establish the good versus evil, or the weak against status quo in its depiction. The prime minister’s son is as much a symbol of status quo as he is a victim — depending upon the lens you use, the PML-N or the PTI one?

Like everything else in politics, this released picture is also grey allowing room for propaganda machines, and spin masters to do what they do best: sell their story under the garb of ‘truth’.

If the leak is from the PML-N, for all purpose’s sake, it isn’t enough to do the damage. The picture needed to reflect pain, or at least tension to stir emotions. The PPP would have been a good source to consult on stirring public emotions through images of victimisation and state brutality against its leaders.

In a seemingly well-lit and air conditioned room, the prime minister’s son sitting on a reasonable chair with a tissue box on the side table may not reflect a grand reception, but then again, for those losing their mind over the alleged mistreatment of the PM’s son, it is not a reception — It is an investigation! The PML-N quarters have tried hard to force a story and emotions into the picture, but without handcuffs or the PM’s son forced to sit on the floor, it’s a hard sell beyond the PML-N’s vote bank.

If, on the other hand, the leak is from the establishment quarters as it is being alleged, it is even a bigger failure. First, there is absolutely nothing embarrassing in the picture of the PM’s son sitting on a chair facing the trial. Second, if anything, the picture helps the PML-N cry victim and consolidate its narrative. And third, it seriously damages the credibility of the JIT that isn’t able to manage its security protocols.

At this critical juncture in the JIT’s investigation, there is a little point in questioning who leaked the picture, given especially that it failed to deliver whatever either of the parties had imagined it would. There is a storm coming either way, and it may require a few more leaks and controversies to sift through it. The real question is: how many more leaks before the public really loses it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2017.

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