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Silence is also a virtue

Muhammad Usman
SPEAKING at the right time at right volume and length is an admirable virtue. When time is dangerous or one is short of appealing and sound arguments, keeping silence is also an appreciable and rewarding experience. Like other walks of life, importance of both in politics cannot also be over emphasized. In mushroom of social media’s blitz, silence at given situation may also assume greater importance. On the record as well as off the record, indecorous, inappropriate and offensive utterances and texts/tweets even inadvertently, can instantly land one in a minefield of different clusters/ layers with no easy and cost free redemption.Mitt Romney; Republican party’ nominee, learned this lesson at high cost in 2012 US Presidential Elections when a journalist secretly recorded his less than tactful remarks about 47% Americans who do not pay taxes. He lost to Obama with a margin of 51-47% in popular vote account. Nowadays every word spoken, every conversation made and every pose taken is uploaded and gets viral in no time globally for the world to grill even rudely and brutally, leaving one reeling at the tail to explain albeit largely unsuccessfully. The prudence suggests in realm of real politick; say what is relevant, not which is relevant. Imran Khan has fast acquired knack and reputation of speaking even right thing at wrong time in full volume at greater length. Sometimes informally and closed door and sometimes publically in full glare of the media. Recent example is of continued exposition of his opposition to hoisting of Pakistan Super League’ Final at Lahore with no regard to popular wave to the contrary. To a politician, often popular opinion is the key to pause or customize his line and length temporally or otherwise. He started his onslaught though with plausible reasons; holding of final match in a state of shut garrison will send opposite signal to world of cricket and God forbids, untoward incident if any despite heavy all around security ring, will foreclose the possibility of return of international cricket to Pakistan till another decade. Unmindfully he did not relent even in spite of split opinion within his own party until his indefensible informal chat, calling participating foreign players Phatecher and Relu Katta, hit the spot light and put him in an eye of political storm.It was absolutely disgusting from a politician of his political stature. Similarly often he continues to harp upon his stance of dialogue with Taliban as a panacea to the menace of terrorism inside Pakistan particularly, at a time when nation gears up to go after them to get the train moving and crack sense in their head. Generally he looked to be oblivious of a Clausewitzian tenet that war is politics by other means and militarised pressure a bargaining tool. It certainly dilutes the national consensus.
Admittedly, Imran Khan has no cut for a political leader at the yardstick ofguile and brilliance. He also lacks the temperament and experience nevertheless, merger of circumstances and his unimpeachable credibility and perseverance has positioned him atpolitical vertex. Possibly he is a Prime Minister in waiting. With no fear of contradiction and doubt, a large number of people consider him a lone hope for the country, fallen in a sinkhole with non-stop digging in sight. Irrespective of this, ashead of aleading political party, he needs to adhere to imperatives of politics because at the least, he/ his political party is an asset for betterment of collective good. At times, keeping silence may be the right choice and remedy to get rid of an awkward situation or serve the national cause befittingly.
An astute politician does not get overwhelmed by the axiom “out of sight, out of mind”. He exactly know when to talk and what to talk because people tend to get tired of him if he talks too much and nothing new. He does not fear silence. People become curious about him if they do not see him talking. When he returns to talk, he may find more impressive audiences. Precisely this is the underlying theme of politics that message gets across to more number of audiences with greater impact. In return he may be able to influence event in question better to milk maximum advantage.In his book “In the Arena” former President of US, Richard Nixon writes that “surprise is always a sure fire political tactics. There can be no surprise without silence”. Sometime one’s rival political party raises the issue deliberately and kicks off too much dust to steal the limelight, gain a political mileage or divert public attention from an embarrassing situation. If he also jumps into fray, he would well serves their interests instead of his own. Some times, an adversary is seriously in need of talks because of his own compulsions but also resorts to dilatory tactics or posturing to add some chips to his bargaining position. A firm application of tool of silence with an impression of unyielding, may crack good sense in his head.
Imran Khan is still a novice in prickly game of politics. It may be better for him if he spends his time proportionately more on listening and learning the ropes of politics.For a politician like him, speaking spontaneously/unprepared is a poor option than keeping silence first if requirement is not immediate and pressing. It could keep his opponents guessing about his intention and the move while affording him time to craft his response more carefully. Owing to silence, opponents generally tend to underestimate their rivals which could turn out to be a damaging blunder. It also contains within itself an element of unpredictability. In the words of A. A Attanasio, The Eagle and the Sword “Silence is a text easy to misread”

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