Talk shows, tsunamis and revolutions

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 06. 08.14

As per the personal opinion of this writer, Naseem Zehra is the best television talk show
host in Pakistan. Ms Zehra’s talk show, Hum Sub, telecast on August 2, 2014 by a private
television channel could be taken as a case study for the role of talk shows, anchors and
analysts in the ongoing situation infested with slogans such as “tsunami”, “march” and
“revolution”. The guests on the talk show were Zahid Hussain, Saleem Safi and Shahid
Latif. The topic of discussion was ‘Imran Khan ke azaadi march ke piche fauj ka rad-e-amal
kitna?’

The topic could be interpreted in two ways: first, what are the chances for the army’s
behind-the-scenes role in instigating Imran Khan’s liberation march and, second, what will
be the expected reaction of the army to Imran Khan’s march? The underlying assumption
could be that, owing to certain reasons maybe the trial of General Pervez Musharraf, the
army became annoyed and consequently swayed Imran Khan into launching a march either
to bring the government under pressure to compromise on the trial or provide a justification
for another coup.

Hussain responded first to the topic by saying in his statement that the army had made a
comeback. This sentence surprised Ms Zehra while she opened the forum to Safi who went
a step ahead of Hussain by saying that the army had gotten itself involved in almost all
affairs of the government. During the rest of the talk show, Ms Zehra struggled with finding
justifications from both Hussain and Safi for their statements to be supported by some
evidence or sound reasoning. Unfortunately, she could not find anything. She was so
disillusioned that she had to utter her own formal statement. The third guest had to plead
literally for his turn to prove his presence on the show. It is not known what discussion went
on amongst them during the break to help them come out of this self-inflicted crisis. In the
concluding remarks, Hussain finally said that the future scheme of things was offering a
chance to the army to be an arbitrator. The same idea became the conclusion of the
programme, offering some face saving to all the guests.  

Hussain is a renowned writer and analyst. It was disappointing to see him giving a statement
he could not defend. The same was the problem with Safi who was also introduced as an
analyst. In a way, Hussain represented those speakers who spare no opportunity to cash in
on any given volatile situation. The case of Safi was how to outsmart other participants by
issuing a hyper-statement. If Ms Zehra had not confronted both of them with their own
statements, they would have become successful in fathering their thoughts without sound,
logical reasoning, just for the consumption of the electronic media to invite them again and
again on other talk shows as well. Ms Zehra’s talk shows are qualitatively better because,
unlike other talk show hosts, she promotes reasoning. She possesses excellent critical
thinking skills that challenge and perturb her guests who resort to giving irresponsible and
fallacious statements.

This case study brings the viewer to a question: are the people introduced as analysts
coming unprepared to talk shows? The second question is, are these analysts still in need
of popularity or attention by giving statements that they fail to defend? The third question
is, when these analysts fail to defend their stances, do they feel guilt and remorse?

On August 3, two interesting events took place. Khan delivered a speech at the PTI’s
convention of workers in Lahore and said that the march to Islamabad was necessary to put
an end to the kingship of the Sharif family. Almost at the same time, another talk show
conducted by Ms Zehra was telecast in which Asad Umar, PTI’s senior vice president, when
asked, said that the decision about the resignations of PTI legislators from the Assemblies,
both National and provincial, would be taken by Khan. The question is, what is the
difference in the kingship attributed to the Sharif family and, as alluded to by Umar, the one
fostered by Khan inside the PTI? Umar also said on the same talk show that as per a recent
poll, about 50 percent of Pakistanis had become convinced of massive rigging in the
elections of 2013. If so, why is there found no voter disquiet in the four constituencies
identified by Khan? Why are the PTI members from other constituencies invited and
transported to a convention centre to agitate against electoral rigging that took place in
some other electoral constituencies? By the way, when did Khan win the NA-122 Lahore-5
seat last time to substantiate his claim that this time in 2013 he was also winning but had
lost because of rigging?

Secondly, on August 3, Dr Tahirul Qadri issued a press release, the title of which read, ‘Dr
Qadri announces to topple Pakistan government before [the] end of August.’ How does Dr
Qadri have the right or mandate to ‘topple’ the sitting government? Perhaps, under the
influence of spent cartridges such as Sheikh Rasheed and the Chaudhrys of Gujarat, Dr
Qadri has used such an offensive word as to make him qualify for detention on account of
threatening public order.

If assembling a certain number of people to hold a long march to Islamabad is the measure
by which to force a sitting elected government to conduct mid-term elections as being
fantasised by Khan or to topple it as being fancied by Dr Qadri, no future government may
function in Islamabad, as the following of both the PML-N and the PPP individually is far
more in number than that of the rest of the political parties together.

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