Last week Prime Minister (PM)Imran Khan, tweeted with a brimming sense of achievement that the Governor House in Lahore was open for the public for the first time in the history of Pakistan. He also shared a photo of a swarm of disorderly people entering the building. We also saw a TV Show where the presenter took his viewers ona round of the PM House, complete with the most ridiculous and demeaning commentary. It seemed as if by showing the bathtubs and lavatory, the journalist was trying to expose the sins of the building’s previous occupants. Seen superficially, this might look childish of new government. But as they say there’s a method behind this madness, it’s not just out of sudden excitement. The idea at the core of this whole charade is to discredit and demonize the physical symbols of our democratic system. What else could justify a TV anchor virtually raiding the PM House and occupying the official chair of the prime minister, unless the intent is to paint the previous rulers as criminal, incompetent or both? Let’s go back to August 2011. Western media — including big publications such as the Daily Telegraph, Times and Le Monde — all covered the news of Libyans swarming Qadaffi’s palace in Tripoli. These people were not common Libyans, but members of the Western-backed anti-Gaddafi militia. The aim of this media coverage was to portray Qadaffi’s overthrow as an organic development that was a result of legitimate grievances. By demonizing Qaddafi, the Wests conspiracy of inciting a civil war and invading a sovereign state would also be hidden. The world had seen similar media footages and stories when Iraq was invaded and Saddam fled from his palaces. The idea at the core of this whole charade is to discredit and demonize the physical symbols of our democratic system. What else could justify a TV anchor virtually raiding the PM House? At home too, whenever a democratic and constitutional government was overthrown, we saw similar media trials of those ousted, just to convince the masses that the deposed regime was corrupt. When Iskandar Mirza and General Ayub toppled the elected government of Feroz Khan Noon in October 1958, the martial law regime broadcast propaganda about politicians’ being corrupt, their alleged ethnic biases and utter inability to ensure the smooth functioning of government. Ironically, just a month before the military coup, PM Noon’s efforts had resulted in Gwadar being acceded to Pakistan after complicated negotiations with Muscat and Oman. Similarly, when Zia removed ZA Bhutto’s elected government and imposed martial law in 1977, Bhutto was thrown under an avalanche of charges. While all wrongdoings attributed to notorious Federal Security Force (FSF) were linked directly to Bhutto, it was also considered important to publicise that Bhutto violated religious injunctions in matters of women, alcohol and blasphemy. Likewise, when Musharraf toppled Nawaz Sharif’s elected government in 1999, the masses and media were fed similar propaganda to discredit Sharif’s right to government and to justify the unlawful military coup. Now, because of the questionable nature of the previous elections, such propaganda has emerged again. All over the world, buildings that house the democratic seats of government reflect the prestige and conviction that people associate with the idea of their republic, democracy and the people’s will. Those who scorn these symbols will not be treated kindly by history. The writer is a sociologist with an interest in history and politics. He tweets @ZulfiRao Published in Daily Times, September 20th 2018.