In the aftermath of Panama verdict, the political confrontation between Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Punjab rivals PML-N is getting dirtier and nastier. Both the camps are using women as tactical weapons with PML-N taking the lead and PTI following suit.

Interestingly not all the news channels and newspapers are toeing the national interest line but are backing the different horses. An indication perhaps from their masters that the campaign to blacken and tarnish politicians is fair game.

PTI chief Imran Khan ‘celebrated’ the Panama verdict by holding a massive rally in Islamabad, while PML-N is going to launch its own show of power by taking former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to Lahore in a rally on Sunday.

However, PML-N launched a revenge attack on Khan when PTI MNA Aisha Gulalai announced at a Press conference that Khan had sent her ‘inappropriate’ messages some four years back and she was quitting the party as, according to her, the party does not respect women. The attack was so brazen that it had PML-N written all over it but the news channels and media supporting PML-N took the story to town and PTI found itself on the ropes.

The TV channels favouring PTI started retaliating with the ‘coverage’ of their own unleashing on Sharifs and PML-N all they had and – it was certainly not decent stuff. Gulalai accompanied by her father started doing the rounds on evening talk shows with pro-PML-N hosts narrating stories of Imran Khan’s past. Gulalai, ‘a picture of the victim woman’ recounted her tales of how some indecent proposals were made to her by the PTI chairman and a couple of his aides.

A resolution was tabled in the National Assembly asking for a parliamentary probe against Imran Khan and within minutes a bi-partisan committee was formed by the speaker to look into the allegations of Gulalai. In a shrewd political move, Khan accepted the committee and the probe but asked to conduct a forensic exam on the cell phones of Gulalai, her father, her alleged PML-N handler Amir Muqam and others.

So far, the neutral commentators were praising PTI and Khan for their sober handling of the matter claiming high moral ground. However, that high ground slipped from under Khan when his party’s Firdous Ashiq Awan, a new induction in PTI, appeared on TV screens of pro-PTI channels along with an old mistress of Hamza Shahbaz, son of Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, who repeated her claim that she is the wife of younger Shahbaz.

The business tycoon son of Shahbaz Sharif has always denied this claim by Aisha Ahad Malik. A below the belt blow for blow seems to have levelled the smeared playground for PTI. And the fate of the parliamentary committee looks sealed as Khan’s condition of forensic exam is almost impossible for the PML-N to meet.

In all probability, this trade of smear and muck, is going to dip further as both parties are about to enter a no-holds-barred battle for the Lahore seat just vacated by Nawaz Sharif.

(Mohammed Rizwan is a journalist from Pakistan)