Post-truth politics

POLITICIANS seldom tell the truth. But now, this contempt for facts has hit new heights.

Consider: after Donald ‘Truth’ was awarded the prestigious Lie of the Year by PolitiFact, the website’s fact-checkers came up with a devastating analysis of the Republican presidential candidate’s statements in 2015.

They found that only 4pc of his claims and charges were actually true; 11pc were mostly true; 15pc were half true; an equal number were mostly false; 36pc were false; and 19pc fell in the ultimate ‘pants on fire’ category.

And yet Trump constantly refers to his Democrat rival as ‘Crooked Hillary’. Of course she, too, has been known to stretch the truth on occasion, but compared to Trump, she comes out as positively saintly.

When challenged on his falsehoods, Trump either denies having made them, or says he was only joking. In other cases, his staff explains that he was quoted out of context — the common defence used by most politicians.

Despite this catalogue of lies, half-lies and outrageous hyperbole, Trump continues to do well in the opinion polls. And while his supporters know their candidate’s claims are often far removed from reality, they agree with the sentiments he is expressing.

For instance, they are probably aware that he will not be able to build his famous wall along the Mexican border and make the Mexicans pay for it. But so strong are anti-immigration feelings that many Americans are glad a politician is expressing them in so forthright a manner.

Despite a list of lies, Trump is doing well in the opinion polls.

And when people like Boris Johnson claimed during the Brexit debate that the £19 billion saved by quitting the European Union would go to the under-funded National Health Service, people believed him. Of course as soon as the referendum was won, Brexiters quickly rowed back from the claim. Although Remain supporters accused Johnson & Co of lying to the public, nobody really cared: so used have we become to politicians lying that we take it in our stride.

In Pakistan, politicians promise voters the moon, only to go back to their indolence and corruption as soon as they are in power. The anti-Bhutto PNA promised during their 1977 agitation that they would bring prices back to the 1971 level. Nawaz Sharif vowed to end load-shedding within two years of coming to power in 2013. Young Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari pledges to ‘liberate’ India-held Kashmir. And Imran Khan famously vowed to eliminate corruption in 90 days.

Although we all know none of this will really happen, we continue to cheer at rallies organised by these stalwarts. And most of the media fail in their task of analysing these claims and promises, and tearing them to shreds. Even when serious journalists — and there are still some left — do expose the pledges as rubbish, politicians and their supporters retaliate by charging their detractors of ‘lifafah journalism’.

Donald Trump is especially adept at painting all his media critics as being part of a liberal conspiracy that seeks to undermine his support of the working class. For their part, radio and TV channels, led by Fox News, continue to provide coverage to his campaign because Trump makes outrageous statements that boost their ratings. The truth, by contrast to wild exaggerations, is boring.

So here we have it: when politics becomes entertainment, then the more lurid the story, the more people want to watch and listen. This is why feature films are far more popular than documentaries: escapism is much more fun than dreary reality.

And it’s not just politicians and the media who now live in a truth-free zone: ask somebody why he or she believes a certain conspiracy theory or an outlandish lie, the answer could be: I watched it on a TV chat show; or, I read it in a magazine; or, finally, that ultimate clincher — I saw it on the internet.

Many had thought that with so many TV channels and internet websites available, the public would be able to sift fact from fiction more effectively. Gone were the days of state monopoly over the news. But along with the mushroom growth of sources dedicated to the news has been the exponential rise of blogs given to particular — and often peculiar — agendas. Thus, if you Google ‘9/11 conspiracy theories’, you will be confronted with over a million websites.

With so many people who refuse to use their critical faculties to separate the truth from all the rubbish out there, it is hardly surprising that people like Trump say whatever pops into their mind at any given moment. They know their supporters will either believe them, or overlook any spur-of-the-moment lie. And as they are only addressing those who back them, they don’t really care what their opponents think.

Sober publications like the New York Times, the Guardian or this newspaper may try to bring the discourse back to some semblance of reality, but increasingly, people are more interested in things they already believe, regardless of the truth.

Twitter joins Pakistanis in independence day celebrations

Popular social media website — Twitter — has joined Pakistanis in their independence day celebrations as it introduces a special hashtag.

For the first time in the website’s decade-long history, it has introduced a hashtag that comprises a green crescent and a star, akin to Pakistan’s flag, appearing alongside the country’s most popular national monument, Minar-e-Pakistan.

The animation appears with the following hashtags:

What are our celebs feeling on Pakistan’s 70th Independence Day?

Pakistan turns 69 today, and we start this new year with hope for better times to come.

Here’s what our celebs were feeling:

Shafqat Amanat Ali was excited for his big performance:

Ali Gul Pir, on the hand, was on a high from performing last night:

Hamza Ali Abbasi made public his promise to Pakistan:

Faysal Qureshi was really pumped up:

Mawra Hocane was also full of positivity:

Adnan Siddiqui suited up for the occasion:

Annie Khalid was hopeful and said a prayer:

Meesha Shafi urged for harmony and tolerance:

Rabia Butt wrote a letter to the motherland:

Shoaib Malik was also optimistic:

Resham had a special message:

Ahmed Ali Butt made his greetings a family affair:

Some just had greetings to share:

We wish our readers a joyous Independence Day!

The growth problem

The new fiscal year has got off to a rather sluggish start. To the dismay of the Nawaz Sharif government, the economy isn’t responding to what a federal finance ministry official termed as ‘policy initiatives’, announced in the budget for the present year to trigger investment in manufacturing, for faster growth. Or at least the economy’s lacklustre performance in July, the first month of the year, seems to depict so.

The trade gap has widened by a whopping 18pc to $2.08bn from $1.76bn a year earlier, as the country’s exports are down by just under 7pc and imports are up by well above 6pc in spite of a depressed global oil market, official foreign trade numbers show.

Exports have been on a decline since 2013 and have already dropped by almost a fifth from $24.5bn to $20bn in three years.

“If the trends seen in July continue to hold going forward, the Nawaz government would miss its economic growth target by a wide margin,” — economist Shahid Zia

The overseas Pakistani workers’ remittances, that financed almost half of the nation’s increasing import bill, are down in July to slightly more than a fifth to $1.30bn year-on-year, says State Bank of Pakistan data On a month-on-month basis, workers’ remittances declined by almost 36pc as overseas Pakistanis had remitted over $2bn in June.

Manufacturing too got off to a slower start with large-scale industries — cement, textiles and automobiles — showing negative growth so far.

The other major commodity producing sector — agriculture — is also faced with strong headwinds as the cotton sowing target has been missed by 21pc compared with last season. (The massive drop in the cotton crop output triggered by sporadic pest attack and unfavourable weather conditions in south Punjab were blamed, by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, to have cost the economy half a percentage point of GDP in his budget speech).

Ali Khizar, an economic analyst, argues that the slowdown in the manufacturing and construction sectors in July represent just “hiccups in an otherwise growing domestic consumption”.

To him, the chronic issue is the continued southward journey of exports. By ‘capping’ the value of the rupee, he argues, the government is discouraging exports and job creation.

“This coupled with the sharp decline in remittances can make the current account deficit uglier. The fall is partially explained by seasonal factors; but the party of double digit growth in remittances is surely over,” he insists.

Another economic analyst based in Lahore, Shahid Zia, echoes similar views. “If the trends seen in July continued to hold going forward, the Nawaz government would miss its economic growth target by a wide margin,” he asserted.

The government has targeted a 5.7pc GDP growth rate this year compared with 4.7pc achieved last year. A think tank has recently alleged that the official growth rate numbers for the last year are ‘exaggerated’. The economy is growing at a much slower pace than claimed by the government.

Though the sluggish economic performance during the first month of the fiscal isn’t enough to forecast results for the entire year, the chairman of a large business conglomerate in Lahore claims, this does reflect on the government’s failure to address real issues: holding back the economy and obstructing revival of growth and job creation.

“The government has focused more on slashing its deficit through a debt-driven policy instead of setting a strategic direction for the economy at the expense of private, local and foreign investment, growth and jobs,” he says.

Over the last few years foreign direct investment (FDI) has dropped significantly and foreign investors, including but not limited to foreign banks, exited the country.

Though Chinese capital flows have surged in the recent months as work on projects related to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor gets under way, policymakers are finding it harder to attract investors from the rest of the world.

Domestic businessmen also remain unimpressed with the policy measures announced in the budget this year owing to its failure to honour its past commitments and remove snags in the way of new investment in manufacturing. Even historically low interest rates and improved macroeconomic indicators have failed to compel them to make new investments.

Consequently, Pakistan’s economic growth rate remains one of the lowest in the region. “As long as we do not fix our tax system, integrate with the regional and global economy, remove energy shortages and improve security, we will not be able to catch up with our faster growing neighbours,” Zia argues.

Misbah’s men give nation perfect gift — outclass England to draw series

LONDON: Spinner Yasir Shah took five wickets as Pakistan marked the country’s Independence Day with a 10-wicket win over England in the fourth Test at The Oval on Sunday.

Victory saw Pakistan end the four-match series all square at 2-2 on an Oval ground where they won their first Test match in England back in 1954.

England, 88 for four overnight, were dismissed for 253 in their second innings, with Shah taking five for 71 in 29 overs after Jonny Bairstow top-scored with 81.

That left Pakistan needing just 40 to win after excellent hundreds by man-of-the-match Younis Khan (218) and Asad Shafiq (109) had helped them compile a commanding first-innings total of 542.

Azhar Ali (30 not out) ended the match by hitting Moeen Ali for a straight six as Pakistan finished on 42 without loss. Sami Aslam was 12 not out as Pakistan bounced back from their 141-run defeat in the third Test at Edgbaston in style.

“It was special, keeping in mind it was Independence Day it was something special to draw the series here after being 2-1 down, losing the second Test badly and losing the third,” delighted Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq told BBC Radio’s Test Match Special. “But the way the team fought back, I’m a really happy captain.”

Man-of-the-match Younis added: “As a senior player I always want to contribute. That’s why it [the double century] was on the right time.” Pakistan remain third in the world Test rankings but, following this win, could rise to number one if results in Sri Lanka and the West Indies go their way.

But Sunday’s result scuppered England’s immediate hopes of climbing to the top of the standings.

“We played at a disappointing level — we’ve drawn a series so it’s not the end of the world, but we had the opportunity to beat Pakistan and it’s frustrating,” said England captain Alastair Cook. “We didn’t bat, bowl or field well enough.”

England resumed in trouble at 88 for four, 126 runs adrift, after Yasir had ripped through the top order with three for 15 late on Saturday.

Gary Ballance was four not out and Jonny Bairstow 14 not out.

Ballance, though, was out for 17 when, playing carelessly away from his body, he was caught behind off Sohail Khan.

New batsman Moeen Ali had frustrated Pakistan with a first-innings 108 and shared a partnership of 93 with Bairstow.

But Moeen fell for 32 when he went back defensively to Shah and got a thin edge which wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed held at the second attempt to end a stand of 65.

PAKISTAN captain Misbah-ul-Haq (L) and his England counterpart Alastair Cook in conversation while holding the trophy.—Reuters
PAKISTAN captain Misbah-ul-Haq (L) and his England counterpart Alastair Cook in conversation while holding the trophy.—Reuters

England were 194 for six at lunch, still 20 behind, with Bairstow 70 not out.

But they lost two wickets in two balls soon afterwards to be 209 for eight.

Chris Woakes, backing up too far and deceived as Bairstow set off, was run out for just four by bowler Wahab Riaz’s direct hit on the non-striker’s stumps.

Next ball, Bairstow chipped Riaz straight to Azhar in the covers to end a 127-ball innings featuring eight fours.

Yasir, who took 10 wickets during Pakistan’s 75-run win in the first Test across London at Lord’s, enjoyed further success in the capital when Stuart Broad (five) reverse swept-him straight to Younis at first slip — an extraordinary shot given England’s position.

But with Wahab removed from the attack by the umpires for running on the pitch, England’s last-wicket pair of Steven Finn and James Anderson added 32 before Anderson was lbw, sweeping, to debutant off-spinning all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed.

England then saw fast bowler Finn leave the field injured after pulling up just two balls into the second over of Pakistan’s chase with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.

This was Pakistan’s first Test series in England since the controversial 2010 tour, which saw then captain Salman Butt and pace bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir handed five-year bans and jail terms for deliberately bowling no-balls in a spot-fixing scandal during that year’s Lord’s Test.

Pakistan now travel to Ireland for two One-day Internationals next week before returning to England for five ODIs and a Twenty20.


ENGLAND (1st Innings) 328 (Moeen Ali 108, J.M. Bairstow 55, C.R. Woakes 45; Sohail Khan 5-68, Wahab Riaz 3-93).

PAKISTAN (1st Innings) 542 (Younis Khan 218, Asad Shafiq 109, Azhar Ali 49, Sarfraz Ahmed 44; C.R. Woakes 3-82, S.T. Finn 3-110).

ENGLAND (2nd Innings, overnight 88-4):

A.N. Cook c Iftikhar b Wahab 7 A.D. Hales lbw b Yasir 12 J.E. Root lbw b Yasir 39 J.M. Vince c Misbah b Yasir 0 G.S. Ballance c Sarfraz b Sohail 17 J.M. Bairstow c Azhar b Wahab 81 Moeen Ali c Sarfraz b Yasir 32 C.R. Woakes run out 4 S.C.J. Broad c Younis b Yasir 5 S.T. Finn not out 16 J.M. Anderson lbw b Iftikhar 17

EXTRAS (B-8, LB-10, NB-5) 23

TOTAL (all out, 79.2 overs) 253

FALL OF WKTS: 1-14, 2-49, 3-55, 4-74, 5-128, 6-193, 7-209, 8-209, 9-221.

BOWLING: Mohammad Amir 21.4-7-65-0; Sohail Khan 15-2-50-1; Wahab Riaz 11.2-1-48-2 (5nb); Yasir Shah 29-4-71-5; Iftikhar Ahmed 2.2-1-1-1.

PAKISTAN (2nd Innings):

Sami Aslam not out 12 Azhar Ali not out 30

EXTRAS 0 TOTAL (for no wkt, 13.1 overs) 42

BOWLING: Woakes 4-0-11-0; Finn 0.2-0-0-0; Moeen Ali 5.5-0-30-0; Root 3-2-1-0.

RESULT: Pakistan won by 10 wickets to level four-match series 2-2.

UMPIRES: B.N.J. Oxenford (Australia) and M. Erasmus (South Africa).

TV UMPIRE: J.S. Wilson (West Indies).

MATCH REFEREE: R.B. Richardson (West Indies).

MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Younis Khan.

MEN-OF-THE-SERIES: Chris Woakes (England) and Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan).

FIRST TEST: Lord’s, Pakistan won by 75 runs.

SECOND TEST: Old Trafford, England won by 330 runs.

THIRD TEST: Edgbaston, England won by 141 runs.