Those eight hours

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 07.05.14

It is now apparent that the eight hours spent by a television channel (the Geo TV) in
protesting against an armed attack on its anchorperson, Hamid Mir, is bound to change the
future of independent (and rational) reporting in Pakistan. Not because the protest was
undue but because the rival television channels cashed in on the opportunity of feeding on
the slogans of patriotism. Nevertheless, it is not known how can any slogan of patriotism
deprive Mir (or his brother) of the right of alleging any person (or organisation) who could
be involved in the attack?

If it supposed that the ISI was not involved in the attack and the version of Mir’s brother was
incorrect, what is the evidence available with Mir’s brother to conclude that? Similarly, if it is
supposed that the ISI was involved somehow and the version of Mir’s brother was correct,
how can Mir’s brother produce any evidence to support his version? Mir’s brother cannot
investigate the matter and there is no investigating agency at his disposal. Consequently,
the only course left with Mir’s brother was to level an allegation, which would be proved or
disproved after an investigation was done. What is tshe problem then?

Egoism is considered a phenomenon more prevalent in Pakistan’s rural areas where a
villager kills or maims a fellow villager in the name of honour. Moreover, honour killings are
also common in villages; even the heinous crime of rape is committed as a token of
revenge for dishonor. Now, it has been told that those eight hours dishonoured the name of
the institutions of national importance carrying a tag of honour and possessing an ego. It is
being demanded that since honour has been hurt, the television channel should be banned
from transmitting its telecast. The point is this: the villager’s ego is censured and
considered a source of conflict in rural Pakistan, what about the institutional ego.

If the television channel, Mir belongs to, was involved in anti-Pakistan activities and had
been accepting donations from anti-Pakistan elements abroad, why was there filed no
complaint with the PEMRA providing the proofs of those activities? Why did the ISI keep on
waiting for the Mir’s episode to take place and its image being tarnished as a pre-requisite
to file any such complaint? It means, if Mir had not been attacked or if Mir’s brother had not
leveled any allegation at the ISI, there would have been no such complaint lodged against
the television channel.

If it was the ISI that fed information to Mubashar Luqman, an anchorperson involved in the
media gate scandal and now working for a private television channel, to show documents
against the television channel to which Mir belongs, the helplessness of the ISI is apparent.
That is, no anchorperson of repute and credibility was available to air those documents.
Perhaps, people like him are easy prey to the ISI because they are vulnerable to
exploitation. In return, the anchorperson will ask for some other favours and the process of
scratching the back of each other will go on. To follow suit, more anchorperson have
jumped into the foray to be blue-eyed boys of the ISI. The viewers must think if they require
independent reporting or controlled reporting in the future from such television channels.

In the scene, enters Imran Khan on whom, just after the attack on Mir, it was transpired
(reportedly through Sheerin Mazari) that his party, Pakistan Tehrike Insaf (PTI), lost the
general elections in Punjab because the same television channel turned against his party
and favoured the PML-N. If Khan’s allegation is correct, why did he not disclose it before
the attack on Mir? Khan’s words are just rubbing salt into wounds. Khan is doing a great
disservice to the television channel. Months before the elections, this writer wrote at least
two pieces in these pages highlighting the proclivity of the youth employed in the media
houses – of them the biggest was the same television channel – explicitly supporting the
PTI. At that time, the anticipated risk was that the youth employed in these channels could
launch an emotional move (which may also be not mature) to woo the voters unnecessarily
in favour of the PTI.

The history of this country is full with pro-military establishment parties appearing to lap up
immediate rewards but disappearing into the haze of time in the long run. Khan has to
contemplate if his party is a new MMA in making. The views and activities of Sheerin Mazari
are known. If Khan does not use his rational mind, the PTI will suffer more problems in the
next elections. Another possibility may be that like Sheikh Rasheed, Khan is relying on
‘hidden hands’ to pave the way for the electoral victory of his party next time in Punjab and
that overwhelmingly.

In the constituency (NA-122) in Lahore, where Khan lost the election to Sardar Ayaz Sadiq,
the PTI voters came out in drones and cast their votes but mostly in the morning. After
noon, the PML-N voters took their turn. Khan had not visited the slums of NA-122, why
should the people inhabiting that constituency have voted for Khan? Similarly, Advocate
Hamid Khan did not pay field visits to meet his voters who were mostly residing in slums of
his constituency (NA-125). The same was his attitude on the polling day. On the other
hand, his rival candidate, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, banked on those voters and remained in the
field even on the polling day to facilitate voters visit the polling booths and cast votes in his
favour. Shafqat Mehmood of the PTI (NA-126) paid field visits and convinced the voters of
the reason for casting voters in his favour. Consequently, he won the elections.

The PML-N focused on the slums and won seats while Khan is blaming the television
channel Mir belongs to for PTI’s electoral loss in Punjab. This is called barking up the wrong
tree. Instead of capitalizing on what happened in those eight hours, Khan should develop
his own rapport with the voters in NA-122.

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