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Opinion

March 5, 2018

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In the name of lies

Some things are foretold – and so it is with the conclusion of the FIA’s inquiry into the fantastic claims of a TV anchor about the headline-grabbing Zainab murder case. The report proved through a month-long sweat of the brow and much leg-work that all the man had said on air and before the Supreme Court was a tissue of lies.

In light of the report’s findings, his ‘claimed facts’ (the report says 18 in all) are all fabrications at best and delusional allegations at worst. Zainab and other minors that the serial rapist Imran made victims of his diseased instincts, were not filmed for the Dark Web’s Red Rooms, where sick men supposedly pay heavy money to watch children being murdered. Red Rooms (special time slots on the Dark Web online) are legends that have never been proven. The Dark Web, while it does exist as a platform for all sorts of illegal internet-based activity across the world, has no connection with the curse that Imran became for the little girls of Kasur.

The report unequivocally negates any suggestion of Imran being a millionaire: in a rare development, the family of Zainab themselves said on oath that they knew the background of Imran, that he had a lowly economic existence and that he, like his other relatives, eked out a tough living bordering on poverty. The fanciful projection of the case by the anchor as global crime with a national ring leader (a federal minister from Faisalabad) and the latter’s local links in Kasur (an MNA and two MPs) was nothing but hoaxes.

The insistence of the anchor and another one of his colleagues from Lahore, that Imran possessed dozens of bank accounts, were claims grounded both in ignorance and fiction. Ignorance because the anchor’s list of these alleged accounts were logs of the Nadra databank that develops when anyone in the banking sector feeds a national identity card in the system to check whether a certain individual is an account holder in any of the said bank’s branch or not. The query based on the ID card number is automatically registered in the Nadra databank because, one, it is their data that is being used and, two, because they charge a certain fee for each query.

It is the log sheet of this Verification System (VeriSys) that the anchor along with at least one other media person dangled before a dazzled public as ‘bank accounts’. These queries of different banks from the VeriSystem multiplied after the Supreme Court asked the State Bank to inquire into the possibility of Imran having the alleged bank accounts. As bank after bank checked its records relying on VeriSystem, the log sheet expanded. The last count of the log sheets inquiries of Imran’s alleged bank accounts using Nadra databank was well over 170.

If anyone was insane enough to accept the illogic of the anchor, Imran while sitting in jail behind five locks and five keys, now has 170 ‘bank accounts.’ As for Imran having more than one National Identity Card, the reality is that his second so-called ID card is not even an ID card: it is actually a Child Registration Certificate that was issued to him before he attained the age of 18. And as even a villager knows, you can’t open an independent bank account on that card.

In any other society, the bizarre and nonsensical claims of a man in front of the camera would not have merited any serious consideration except for a quiet departmental inquiry into their veracity just to eliminate any possibility of these containing some useful bits of information. But since we have developed such a voracious appetite for ingesting lies and believing in concocted stories, this matter became a national crisis. It was taken to new heights when the Supreme Court mandated, after a full-day media event in Lahore, a month-long inquiry.

During the time when these claims were being aired and the anchor in question was gloating in the limelight of his lies, every bit of commonsensical analysis of his claims was rejected as a ‘partisan attempt to hide the truth’. Imran Khan supported the anchor hook, line and sinker, styling him as some sort of a hero fighting an evil and decadent system that allows the rape and murder of young girls, makes money out of it, protects the criminals and then manipulates the entire state and economic machinery (the banks, the police, the civil administration, the intelligence networks etc) to hide the tracks of this heinous crime.

Others from the media joined him by praising him for his ‘investigative skills’ and for ‘exposing’ the stark realities hidden from the eyes of thousands of other journalists who bothered to go Kasur but could not dig the gold of the scandal that he brought out during his travels abroad! His channel allowed him full play to further aggravate his flight of fabrications and malign everyone who questioned his claims. Reasonably well-groomed people, educated people, those with PhDs from leading universities, mused in private about how horrible the crime was and how compromised the system that allowed this imagined global network to operate from our holy land.

No one, and I mean no one, for a second paid any attention to the unspeakable oppression this fictional account of the Kasur murders must have inflicted upon the families of the victims. First the horror and trauma of seeing an innocent child being murdered in the most foul way imaginable. Then the devastation of the thought that the child’s final hours were being taped and aired on the internet for others’ evil pleasure. It is hard to imagine the pain mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and relatives must have felt upon being told that the tortured deaths of their precious ones are now part of video images to be played and replayed around the world.

Even though this possibility has now been proven to be a fraudulent formulation and a sick supposition, the fear of the ‘what-if’ will haunt these unfortunate families forever. No negation, no inquiry, no probe proving the scandal to be a baseless one will ever erase the deep anxiety weeks of media hype must have burnt into their minds. For the rest of their lives they will live with the fear unleashed by these lies.

Equally worrying is the fact that since the FIA report came out proving the allegations of the TV person to be absolutely baseless, there is no debate about the outcome. There is silence even in the face of the continued and unabashed insistence of the man that what he said was the reality. There is no outrage. No meaningful discussion. It is almost as if nothing has happened. It is life as usual with Senate elections and the MQM and the chief justice in headlines. Society has collectively allowed painful lies and shamefaced untruths to go unnoticed. It has shown that it has no passion to root for facts when these come out while it has a lot of energy to spend on fabrications and wants to believe them.

The FIA report and its aftermath point to the dark holes in our soul. It marks how anger, paranoia and penchant for populism are driving the national debate today. How you can say and do the most outrageous and despicable thing and get away with it by calling it a ‘service to the nation.’ It shows how a garbage culture of misinformation, disinformation, and deceit has overcome our senses, drowning rationality and humanity in its gush.

Most importantly, the report is not just an indictment of an individual’s dangerous and ignorant conduct: it holds a mirror to everyone in love with rapacious behaviour, full-throttle lies, and pomposity of authority – traits that are unfortunately common among many holding powerful positions these days. In all this, one would pray for the departed souls of the girls from Kasur and for sanity to return to a land that so desperately needs it.

The writer is former executive editor of The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.

Email: syedtalathussain@gmail.com

Twitter: @TalatHussain12

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