Consuming Politics: Of Love, Comedy, Action, Drama And Tragedy

Consuming Politics: Of Love, Comedy, Action, Drama And Tragedy
You might love them or hate them, you can’t ignore Pakistani politicians. They are amazing people providing drama to Pakistanis’ otherwise mundane and poverty-stricken lives all with entertainment, laughter, tragedy, rivalry, love-hate, cheap jokes and chases. No wonder Pakistan has climbed up 18 points to become the 108th most happy country despite the problems it faces – financial crises; default threats; floods and climate change crisis; poverty; food insecurity; gas problems; electricity outages and much, much more.

For years, Pakistani politics has produced action-packed, mystery and murder, tragedy and comic episodes as well as sport/fitness and quiz shows.

It was interesting to see PTI’s Fawad Chaudhry sprint from his car as he was brought into the court. If you look at the footage, Fawad Chaudhry calmly sat sit in his huge vehicle, only to dash out through a crowd of lawyers and police. He is seen elbowing people out of the way, as he scrambles out of the gates. It was amazing to watch, even though we all knew that like in The Great Escape, he would be caught – but it was exciting to watch. The audience was rooting for him to escape, and there was a collective national aww when he was caught and led back by lawyers.

Sheikh Rasheed, the eternal bachelor of Pakistan, also pulled a similar stunt earlier – but because of the awesome person he is, he didn’t run on foot, he had an accomplice on a bike who whisked him off through the winding lanes of the older part of Rawalpindi. Fast and furiously escaping feat. Sheikh sb. The Pindi Boy was saved by his city. (Another collective awwww).

Ali Zaidi, the Karachi swag, jumped over a wall to escape arrest from the DC office? It was a very “Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi, namumkin hai.” Sadly, he was arrested recently – probably there was no wall to scale this time. However, the good news is that Ali Zaidi has been shifted home due to illness, and his home has been declared a sub-jail. He has since announced his exit from the party and from politics.

This is not an anti-PTI piece, but what can be done? There have only been two amazing political parties that made an impact – MQM in the past and PTI now – and kept the audience enthralled and entertained.

It has been fascinating studying both parties led by charismatic and popular leaders, with the power of keeping followers loyal.

Earlier Pakistan was playing a quiz game “Guess what the political leader said.” An earlier season of this was “Guess what Altaf Bhai said”. The format was simple. Altaf Hussain, one of the most popular leaders of Pakistan between the 1990s to 2010s, would issue an audio or video statement that almost always created a controversy or a political issue.

Following this, the second-tier leaders would scramble to try to explain their leader’s words on talkshows in any possible way, going to the extent of saying that their leader had never said anything to that effect. It was an amazing feat to try and negate words that were available in audio and video formats as evidence. It was a like a game of ‘dumb charades’ – this is a reference to an actual game in the pre-social-media world and not a reflection of anyone’s intellect.

By 2014, Altaf Bhai was fading as a new political leader was rising. And with him, a new season of this quiz show was launched called “Guess what IK said.”

These times were more exciting than anything before as it had everything - love, comedy, action, drama and tragedy with a dollop of the powerful social media.

Since 2014, the audience –Pakistanis – were treated to a variety of content and entertainment. This included a political sitcom that began live-streaming in 2014 with PTI’s 2014 Azadi March – well it was more of a sit-in than a march - in the capital.

The main characters included PML-N and PTI, supported by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), public supporters and opposition, and the establishment from the wings. The Azadi March which continued for a little more than 120 days, was one long musical show interspersed with speeches by beloved political leaders. It was loads of fun and got a lot of ratings. The parallel march/sit-in was organised by Tahirul Qadri’s PAT, which was a serious, somber, and religious gathering and was probably wasn’t doing too well as far as ratings went. Only those who had acquired taste enjoyed these long sessions.

But it was fun to have the option of a political concert/sit-in or a sermon/sit-in.

The PML-N productions were really struggling at the time and there were many worried faces around. The ratings were dismal but nothing was working to bring the ratings and audience. There were fears that their production could be taken off the air.

A lot of things were happening at both political reality shows. While Imran Khan, the leader, not the journalist, was getting proposals from women and girls, there were also other young couples who go the opportunity between the politics to get to know each other and plan futures. It was a fun time. Sadly, good things come to an end, and the 2014 sit-in came to an end with some ‘unknown’ supporters not only attacking, which would make sense for political workers, important government buildings in the capital city but washing their laundry in public but drying it on the railings outside the Supreme Court.

Yes, those were fun times.

The leader, Imran Khan, found temporary love when a beautiful journalist took his interview, and he was married by the end of 2014. Pakistan forgot all about the sit-in in Islamabad; damage to the international image of Pakistan and its economy; damage to property like buildings and media vans; injuries to media personnel and others. Pakistan became interested in the clothes and shoes of the newlyweds; there were more important questions to ask: Who made the bride’s dress? What was being served to the guests? Who proposed and when? It was a beautiful time – just like a good episode of The Bachelor but with a twist as our groom was not a bachelor. We can call this Pakistani version “Bachelorless” as a working title.

General Zia’s era leaves a lot of sad members, therefore, focus on the recent times. Imran Khan has given a lot of mixed content: the focus of this piece was only on the present.

Happy watching!