It is important that the world knows that Pakistan is serious about its money laundering problem, thus the probe against TikTok star Hareem Shah. Financial Action Task Force, are you watching? Who knows this probe might get Pakistan out of the FATF greylist sooner than later. This seriousness, multiplied in each TikTok video, does add up to too much. Now cynics would say that the inquiry against Shah is as serious as her TikTok confessions every now and then. Yet, in Naya Pakistan, TikTok matters more than Rock paper scissors.
This time, Hareem Shah, being no stranger to controversy or government probes, landed in hot waters after she spoke in a viral social media video about how people should be careful when bringing large sums of money abroad because “you can be caught”. She added, “Mujhe toh kisi ne kuch nahin kaha, keh bhi nahin sakte (No one said anything to me; they can’t do that),” leaving a life lesson, for anyone listening, that the rules are only for the poor in Pakistan. With two stacks of UK pounds in front of her, she shared the national grief of the Pakistani rupee’s devaluation and how the promises of the current government of increasing the value of the currency and the passport didn’t go anywhere. “Kuch nahin kar sake, bas baatein hi kar sake (They could only talk, not do anything),” she said.
After a social media outrage over shaming the authorities and the ‘claims’ of taking a large sum of money to the UK via Karachi airport, a probe was initiated. And then, the TikTok star released a video, stating that she was just having fun and has no information about money laundering. Now this would be no less fun than last year when the entire Pakistani media went into a 007 mode to find out if Hareem had married a minister, only to find out that it was a prank. However, this time, it was too late. Authorities sprung to action and were clear that it was no joke, at least according to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s advisor on interior affairs Shahzad Akbar.
دنیا کو قیادت، فراست، سفارت وغیرہ پر بے مغز لیکچر دینے والوں کے لئے یہ وڈیو ہی کافی ہے۔ یہ ہے اس نظام کی اصل وقعت! pic.twitter.com/53JAQrChls
— Syed Talat Hussain (@TalatHussain12) January 12, 2022
Though the TikToker insists that Shahzad Akbar should first try to bring back former prime minister Nawaz Sharif from London and prove money laundering charges against him, then focus on her. For her, the investigation letter is nothing more than a “tissue paper.”
With federal ministers on her speed dial, roaming in the corridors of power, and often threatening political leaders with ‘leaked’ calls and videos when things go sour, Hareem Shah has been a constant in Naya Pakistan. She runs a parallel TikTok sarkar, which might now seem more potent than the tabdeeli sarkar — accusing Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed for sending her “indecent videos”, then claiming that he was a good friend of hers and dialing the minister on a chat show.
Another instance was the tiff with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) leader Fayaz-ul-Hasan Chohan, where she threatened to expose him, and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry slapping a television anchor when asked about the supposed ‘Hareem Shah videos’. Chaudhary also wanted the media laws to be revised against such ‘baseless accusations’. The looming threat of ‘leaked video bombs’ continues, and so much is said about fighting enemies at the border. These are the real issues of our ministers. After all, ministerial lives matter!
Foreign ministry ‘jutti thalle’
Don’t forget the Mufti Abdul Qavi episode in which Hareem Shah slapped him for the assumed ‘misdeeds’, or her unforgettable visit to the Pakistan foreign office. She was seen making TikTok videos in the offices with Indian songs in the background, sitting in the chair of the foreign minister. An inquiry was also ordered by Prime Minister Imran Khan over the access to consular-only premises to Shah. She stood in front of Jinnah’s portrait, while Oh jutti thalle rakhdi aa mitran de dil nu played in the TikTok video.
Apt commentary on the foreign affairs of our times — Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had been recently accused of stirring a storm with his infamous sitting pose in a meeting with the Saudi ambassador. It was frowned upon by the mitr country too. But it was all cleared up by an incisive statement by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Religious Harmony Tahir Ashrafi: Qureshi sahib has a back problem, so he sits in the same way usually.
— Rj imran official (@rjimranofficial) October 23, 2019
An ardent follower of Imran Khan, Hareem Shah also claims that PM invited her to join his party and work on education policy. Despite being a supporter of the PTI, her favourite political leader is the chairman of the Pakistani Peoples Party, Bilawal Bhutto. Understandably, she was critical of Pakistan’s TikTok ban. Her opinion was that if vulgarity is a concern, then PM Imran Khan should impose Islamic laws, not call for a ban on the app. Now how visionary is that, first signs of leadership? On the surface, it may all look like a prank to you. But from what we have witnessed after the 2018 elections and the performance of the team Naya Pakistan, I must say: Ek chance Hareem Shah ko bhi milna chahiye, and why not?
The author is a freelance journalist from Pakistan. Her Twitter handle is @nailainayat. Views are personal.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)