Political warfare in Paksitan has devolved into sex, lies and sleaze. And this time around, septuagenarians are in the spotlight. The intimate videos of senior leaders have evoked outrage, anger and embarrassment with politicians, courts and celebrities entering the fray.
A few days after Imran Khan loyalist 75-year-old Azam Khan Swati was targeted, a video purportedly featuring another senior politician—72-year-old Pervaiz Rashid—is now doing the rounds of WhatsApp and social media.
According to sources, Rashid, who was the first minister for Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage, and later held the law, justice and human rights portfolio, claims the videos are fake. But the damage has been done.
For some time now, Pakistan’s corridors of power have developed holes like a leaky tugboat. Private and high-level conversations from the offices of Imran Khan and Shehbaz Sharif have been providing fodder to the local media. But the video recordings have everyone cringing.
On 5 November, Swati held a press conference where he burst into tears after revealing that his wife had received a video featuring both of them.
He said he could not share further details because the “daughters of my country are listening”, according to a news report in Dawn. Swati accused Pakistan’s interior minister and two military officers of conspiring against him.
Reactions were swift and harsh, following which Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered the interior ministry to look into the matter. Soon after, the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) said that the Supreme Court’s human rights cell was also looking into the objectionable video.
Cybercrime in politics
Former governor of Sindh, Mohammed Zubair expressed that he felt ‘shameful’ hearing about Azam Swati’s video. Zubair himself has been the target of such political video warfare only a year ago. A video purportedly showing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader engaging in sexual activities with an unidentified woman had gone viral last year. He claimed the clip was ‘fake and doctored’.
Last month, PTI leader Kanwal Shauzab also filed a case with the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) about fake videos of her being shared, to blackmail and defame her. Kanwal alleged that Maryam Nawaz and other PML-N leaders were behind this. She even asserted that other PTI women leaders were being blackmailed just like her.
Sania Ashiq, MLA of PML-N from Taxila assembly constituency of Punjab, found herself at the centre of controversy last year after a video went viral. At the time, she had said that it was a conspiracy to defame her. Incidentally, Sania is close to Maryam Nawaz, daughter of Nawaz Sharif, and often attacked the Imran Khan government issues.
Tweets of sympathy
Sympathy for Swati has been pouring in on social media.
Imran Khan wrote a public apology online saying, “Pakistan was created on Islamic moral values of human dignity, honour of the family & inviolability of chadar & chardawari. What has happened to Azam Swati at the hands of the State has been a blatant violation of all these values – from being stripped naked to custodial torture.”
Miftah Ismail, the former Federal Minister of Finance and Revenue & General Secretary PML-N Sindh, also expressed his support for the family. “I feel ashamed that an honourable woman can be so humiliated in my country. This madness must stop,” he tweeted.
(Edited by Tarannum Khan)