‘Genuinely angry’ Punjab Assembly raps media
By Zulqernain Tahir
LAHORE: In a rare show of unity in the Punjab Assembly, all major political parties on Wednesday launched a fierce attack on the media for “maligning politicians on the issue of fake graduation degrees”.
The mainstream parties –the PPP, the PML-N and the PML-Q –were unanimous that the media must have a code of conduct. Some of the MPs even suggested (new) legislation to stop the media from broadcasting and publishing what they said ‘baseless’ news.
Legislators representing the PML’s N and Q versions vociferously protested the media’s role in exposing them. A recurring question was why the media always targeted them (politicians) and failed to expose the generals, the judges and the journalists (for their corruption).
They went to the extent of declaring an “unholy alliance between generals, judges and journalists.” They also demanded verification of degrees of judges and journalists.
The legislators got emotional when PML-N’s Shaukat Bhatti informed the house on a point of order that his mother suffered heart attack when the media aired a ‘baseless’ news about his fake degree. Showing his degree in the house, Mr Bhatti said the electronic media broadcast the news without any verification.
He was comforted by his colleagues who inquired about his mother and wished her quick recovery.
The moment the MPAs started criticising the media, the journalists sitting in the gallery murmured about boycott of the proceedings but they could not develop a consensus. One group was of the view that it was the right of the legislators to criticise the media for whatever they see wrong while the other was interested in going for ‘token boycott’ to register their protest against criticism.
The media could find only one ‘sympathiser’ — opposition leader Chaudhry Zaheeruddin — in the house of 371. Most members booed him and started thumping desks during his ‘pro-media’ speech. When he concluded, Rana Iqbal Ahmad Khan, who was in the chair, asked him to respond to his one question: “What do you watch when you switch on your TV.” When Zaheeruddin did not respond, the speaker himself answered: “You find politicians as persona non grata on TV.”
Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif came to the house but after sensing the situation, left after a while.
PML-Q’s Samina Khawar Hayat, whose graduation degree was reported to be fake, was conspicuous by her absence. PPP’s Dr Amina Buttar and Nargis Faiz were of the view that gender bias could be witnessed in the matter of fake degrees.
Nargis Faiz said: “The electronic media broadcast Ms Samina’s fake degree issue that showed that there has been gender bias in the media.”
Dr Buttar said unless the Higher Education Commission (HEC) or the judiciary declared the degree of any MNA or MPA fake, the media lacked right to broadcast or publish ‘baseless’ news attributing to sources.
She asked as why this issue was being given so importance. “Why it was not taken up by the judiciary during 2002 and 2007?” she inquired and added that it seemed that now the issue had been raised to derail democracy.
“We will not tolerate yellow journalism any more. We are only answerable to the judiciary and the Election Commission of Pakistan over the issue. The media is insulting us,” said sobbing Seemal Kamran (PML-Q).
Sana Mastikhel (also of PML-Q) said the troika of generals, judiciary and journalists always caused damage to Pakistan. He demanded their accountability besides setting up a cell for their monitoring.
Dr Tahir Ali Javed (unification group head) said the media’s irresponsibility could be gauged by the episode of his death news. “A few days before the general election of 2008, TV channels aired my death news without verifying it,” he said.
Ijaz Shafi (unification group) said the director news of a channel, who is also a known columnist, was just matriculate but was raising finger at politicians. He urged the politicians to get united and boycott such (private) TV channels and newspapers broadcasting and publishing “fake stories about fake degrees”.
Mohsin Leghari of the PML-Q said it was unfair on the part of the media to broadcast or publish news without verification. He also held politicians responsible for providing the media an opportunity to exploit them in talk shows.
Maj Zulfiqar Ali (retired) said politicians were made to fight in TV talk shows and by doing so these channels were earning huge revenue.
According to Shamas Chadhar, “a graduation degree is no proof of one’s wisdom. Had the army generals been master’s degree holders, the condition to contest the general election would have been MA.”
PML-N’s Rana Ijaz Ahmad Khan said a TV programme “Hum sab umeed say hain” never dared to ridicule generals and judges but always targeted politicians. He said the treatment our media gave to breaking news was given nowhere in the world.
Zafar Sahi proposed formulating legislation to initiate legal action for publishing or broadcasting ‘false’ news.
PML-N’s Mian Naseer said TV anchors were spreading despair in society. “However, politicians are a ray of hope,” he added. Mian Ikhlaq said the media was also fanning terrorism while Yasin Sohail claimed 90 per cent of the news were false.
Amina Ulfat (PML-Q) asked why nobody was raising the issue of fake land registries through which widows and the destitute were being deprived of their land. She said raising the issue of parliamentarians’ degrees was a conspiracy against democracy.
Waris Kalu, Zulfiqar Gondal, Shaikh Allauddin, Rai Aslam Kharal, Arifa Khalid, Dr Zamarud Yasin, Akhtar Malik, Moeen Wattu, Jalaluddin Dhaku and Shams Kausar also registered their protest against the media.
Owing to the charged-up environment of the assembly (over the issue), no official agenda except question hour was taken up.