The ECL fright: ‘Freedom of movement’ or a history of politicians ‘getting sick’ abroad?

Published: January 20, 2019
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Bilawal, the groomed and the innocent, unleashing the art of using the truth to tell a lie, mentioned ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom of movement’ in his reply to Imran’s tweet.

They say an artist uses lies to tell the truth. Pakistani politicians, or may be politicians in general, use the truth to tell a lie. Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan recently tweeted, questioning politicians on why they find being on the Exit Control List (ECL) so upsetting. He was responding to the critique over placing Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) politicians’ names on the ECL.

Let’s call a spade a spade. Imran has been succumbing to pressure, suffering from indecision, and jolted each time less by bad decisions and more by not standing firm by his decisions. Most of his critique is about his propensity for U-turns, which in my humble view, he defended rightly. The real problem with his administration is that things are done hastily. And guess what haste always makes?

While the decision to place 172 suspects on ECL may have been the work of ‘haste’ as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi admitted, however, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari being on the list left many flabbergasted. How could the innocent born leader make the list? Innocent because he is entitled and willing to inherit his father’s wealth and politics but not the stain and responsibility of corruption. Bilawal in reply to the prime minister’s tweet called him a “selected PM”, basically questioning the country’s democracy, which he calls “the best revenge”. I call him a born leader not because he is a leader born with leadership skills but rather a leader because of which family he was born in.

But being born in such a family has its benefits. One of them is grooming in the art of lies and spinning. So, the groomed Bilawal is using the same tactics that his father and late mother used. Every time Pakistani politicians are probed, their finances and income sources observed under a microscope, they start making noise about some humanitarian and noble cause being ruined. Similarly, every time the Panama Papers case came up, Nawaz Sharif and his electable opportunistic cult warned about democracy under siege. It is always some benign, nice-sounding cause that is promoted on the front to actually avoid the troubles resulting from bad deeds.

Bilawal, the groomed and the innocent, unleashing the art of using the truth to tell a lie, mentioned ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom of movement’ in his reply to Imran’s tweet. But I still wonder if it was Twitter’s number of characters per tweet that were exhausted or a deliberate attempt by Bilawal to not add the words ‘of cash’ after ‘freedom of movement’? Because if actions do actually speak louder than tweets than it should have been ‘freedom of movement of cash’.

Bilawal is not responsible for his father’s larceny, yet he is entitled to the properties that are bought with the ‘freedom of movement of cash’, courtesy of the great model Ayyan Ali who walked less on the ramp and more on the floor of airport terminals. Let’s not go into the ‘benami’ accounts. After all, even we don’t know who those falooda selling people or food vendors are. 

This is a perfect case of cherry-picking the rights. Asking about rights minus responsibilities is the mindset of savages and thugs. A right doesn’t absolve one from a responsibility. Over 220 million Pakistanis have the right to know if their money has been squandered by the people they trusted with their tax money. Our collective disease in Pakistan is to cherry-pick some nice-sounding western concept and discard the relevant responsibility, which is a safeguard to prevent the abuse of those very rights.

For example, government intervention in journalism is bad but so is foreign cash sneaking its way into journalism. Claiming freedom of press rights without the responsibility to not let that nefarious cash pollute the very right is textbook hypocrisy. Rights are user friendly, responsibilities are not. They have to be taught and reminded about. Is there a history of politicians stealing from this hapless nation and then disappearing claiming to be sick? Have such politicians argued for their right to a fair trial? Sure, they have. What about their responsibility to not indulge in larceny?

The human right that Bilawal is asking his prime minister about is clearly mentioned in Article 15 of the Constitution of Pakistan which states:

“Every citizen shall have the right to remain in, and, subject to any reasonable restriction imposed by law in the public interest, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan and to reside and settle in any part thereof.”

Only the movement to leave Pakistan was restricted because the history of politicians disappearing and getting sick abroad is not fictional. Would Pakistanis get their right to punish the corrupt leaders or would they just watch them roam around the streets of London while claiming to be on death bed? The responsibility of ‘public interest’ is certainly of some significance. Sadly, only the right to visit London or New York has been made to become a human rights issue.

If human rights and freedom of movement were such grave concerns for Bilawal, he could have advocated for the human rights of the tenants living under the feudal control inside the very province his party wins from. Sindh is almost synonymous with feudalism. The fear of a ‘wadera’ (feudal lord) is so intense that the peasants have deeply internalised not to ever question them, which is a strong violation of human rights. We haven’t seen a tweet from Bilawal about their ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom of movement’. The truth is that this is about ‘freedom of movement of cash’ and when that is disrupted and imminent arrest is sensed, then there comes the need for the ‘freedom of movement to flee’. Everything else is noise.

Imran Jan

Imran Jan

The writer is a political analyst. He tweets @Imran_Jan (twitter.com/Imran_Jan)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Gul Mohiudin

    Mr Bilawal Zardari has no shame like his father.Neither of them has any history of doing anything positive for Pakistan before taking the mantle of leadership, father due to matrimony and the son through heredity. The absolute ignorance of common people and lack of morals allows Bilawal to call Imran Khan a selected PM.Recommend

  • Parvez

    A prominent politician once said that when you decide to enter politics the first thing you learn is to discard things like morals and you must bury shame so that it never resurfaces. So trying to shame the shameless is pointless ….. but a good try, anyway.Recommend

  • sterry

    Imran Khan is the last person to talk about going abroad on trips when his two children and ex wives live abroad and he had an illegal off shore account to hide money when he played cricked. The man who is travelling most abroad to beg for money these days is Imran Khan. The same guy who said he would never beg for money when he was in opposition. The first person who needs to be dragged back on ECP is Musharraf and then Imran Khan should place himself on the list since he is king of u turns and making up lies.Recommend

  • Patwari

    It’s just a matter of time before Baby Bhutto develops a heart ailment.
    And will require a Harley Street physician (London) treating him.Recommend