Masters of doublespeak

Abdul Sattar discusses the promises made by Khan and what became of them

Masters of doublespeak
Although the term ‘doublespeak’ was not coined by the famous English novelist George Orwell as mistakenly believed by some, his concept of political speech is very similar to the definition of doublespeak. Orwell said, “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Thus, political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” According to prominent American social critic Edward S Herman, “What is really important in the world of doublespeak is the ability to lie, whether knowingly or unconsciously, and to get away with it; and the ability to use lies and choose and shape facts selectively, blocking out those that don’t fit an agenda or program.”

Many politicians use this skill in Pakistan but the PTI is best at deploying doublespeak. It is not only their leader who is a master at it but it seems that the party is also brimming with masters of doublespeak. Recall the famous speech of Imran Khan when he said that he would never lie to the nation, but the reality has turned out to be quite different. For instance, we were led to believe that the PTI was brimming with Aristotles and Platos of modern times whose sagacity could solve all of Pakistan’s problems in no time, but the public was flabbergasted when they saw Khan and his team unable to understand affairs of the state for months, let alone making any attempt to solve the problems.

In an emotionally charged gathering, our beloved hero of the 1992 cricket world cup made a solemn promise to never seek the help of the IMF or take loans from the international monetary institutions. Today, it is a bitter reality that this regime has secured more loans than any government since 1988. In fact, according to some estimates, Pakistan’s external debt might cross $300 billion over the next 20 years while our debt servicing will be around S400 billion in the next two decades if the current situation persists.

Khan also promised to cater to nourishment needs of the children of Pakistan. In that particular speech, he was almost in tears in a bid to make people believe that he truly felt the pain of malnourished children. But instead of increasing the health budget, his government has slashed it. Most public hospitals and government facilities are being turned into commercial entities where people are charged for using a wheelchair. Media reports claim there would be charges for everything, from surgeries to morgues. Private medical colleges have been allowed to raise their fee which means in the coming decades, it would be next to impossible for poor students to get admission in medical colleges.
The economy has witnessed a downward spiral, pushing more than 30 million people below the poverty line

The economy has witnessed a downward spiral, pushing more than 30 million people below the poverty line. It is quite understandable that those who do not have any employment cannot feed their children properly. More than 20 million people have lost their jobs during the pandemic. This means that people will not be able to feed their children, adding to the number of malnourished children. The skyrocketing inflation is also turning the lives of poor masses into a living hell but our rulers do not feel even an iota of discomfort, telling the hapless souls that life is ephemeral and our stay here is temporary.

Our courageous leader also made a solemn promise to speak truth to power, challenging the authority of those who are considered unaccountable. He threw his support behind those who were protesting for the recovery of missing persons but under his own rule, the number of such persons is increasing with every passing day and it is no longer confined to the hills of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or deserts of Balochistan. Our leader of unmatched courage seems helpless and is refusing to extend any help to those whose loved ones have been missing for years.

Khan also promised to build shelters for millions of people, but instead of building new houses for the homeless, his government has been demolishing little abodes of poor people living in slums and shanty towns of the country in the name of anti-encroachment drives. Ironically, an illegal part of his own house has been regularised while his cronies are being accused of encroaching upon government land and no action is being taken against them. A sitting minister admitted on media that he encroached upon a few kanals in Islamabad but no case was registered against him.

Khan’s party also promised to turn state-owned bodies into profit earning entities but now we are told more than 60 such entities are going to be sold off. Rich individuals close to the power corridors of Islamabad are making efforts to grab the land of such entities and plunder its assets. Our pro-poor leader is not bothered about the impact of privatization on the workers who will lose their jobs and might starve to death. The government has stopped spending on state-run concerns which will badly affect its performance and pave the way for privatization.

Khan also promised that he would not let corrupt people creep into the rank and file of the PTI, but the government not only moved heaven and earth to protect a wealthy individual from Karachi from a possible disqualification but also awarded him a Senate ticket so that he could remain in the power corridors of the capital. As if this was not enough, Khan also unabashedly welcomed a wealthy personality from Quetta into his party ranks after he won a seat in the Upper House.

It is not only Khan who is a master at doublespeak but also his tedious acolytes who are experts at deploying this skill. Remember the federal minister who claimed that Imran Khan would bring back 200 billion dollars stashed away in foreign banks? Remember another federal minister from Karachi who claimed there would be more jobs and less people, triggering a crisis of manpower shortage? Now we do notice that there are a lot of jobs but they are reserved for retired bureaucrats or uniformed officers.