Rescue media: rescue democracy
By: Akram Shaheedi
Head of PPP Media Cell
People’s Party and its leadership have been consistent in lending support to democracy and free media, and indeed standing up in the way of usurpers and intriguers who are sniffing the window of an opportunity but their hopes will remain forlorn. The fear of the unknown has never deterred PPP from doing people’s politics. It’s resolve remained firm even under the most torturous conditions. Their commitment and strength sprout from its political philosophy and the vision of the founding fathers who believed in the empowerment of the people of Pakistan and its inevitability. Their sacrifices in the arduous struggle are the shining examples of the democratic struggle in this country that subdued the worst kind of dictatorships responsible for the mess the country is embroiled in now. The party played a leading role in the restoration of democracy and the present democratic dispensation owes a lot to the party and its leaders. It will also be a catalyst to take the thunder out of adversaries of democracy who are presently engaged in insidious campaign to subvert the system.
People’s Party is absolutely clear by virtue of its ideology, explicitly implying the consolidation of democracy and free media are intertwined with each other. Democracy and free media cannot be defined in isolation, they are inseparable and indeed the two sides of the same coin. Both provide an ideal environment for each other to assume the national responsibility reflective of the aspirations of the people. They descend and fall together as their chemistry supplement the cause of each other. Fully aware of this relationship, the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians have been vociferously defending the cause of the media and democracy. They declared that closure of any media channel was not acceptable because its closure would set a bad precedent detrimental to freedom of media and democracy. Free media is of profound importance for the functioning democracy. This unequivocal support coming from the party, the second largest political force in the current political environment, matters when cobbled with the ruling party and other political parties like ANP those carry unblemished record of being pro-democracy through thick and thin. The leadership of the PPP has put a lot of capital in democracy and its determination to defend it at all cost is understandable. Syed Khursheed Shah, Opposition leader in a latest TV interview made it abundantly clear that PPP would not allow the derailment of democracy that also meant no fetters on media. The prospects of dictatorship are almost non-existent in the face of national consensus on democracy as the people have taken its ownership. Pakistan is a new country as the people have taken their destiny into their own hands.
Pakistan People’s party has made it crystal clear that democracy and freedom of media are non-negotiable notwithstanding the fact that it has never been treated fairly by the media Known as an anti-establishment political party, the powerful lobby gave it hard times using the section of media and religious lobby besides resorting to shenanigan of politics to deny it the central stage in the political arena of the country.
During the stint of PPP previous democratic government it remained heavily occupied in defending its turf, which was under attack from the well known quarters. However, the perseverance of the leadership paid the dividends as it managed to steer the ship gently and subtly and completed the term of five years, an exceptional feather of success in its cap. Former president’s support to democracy after the May elections was a physical manifestation of his statesmanlike vision indeed, and even the bigger political surprise was his expression of solidarity with democracy when he met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif recently at his own initiative at a time when storm was gathering.
As mentioned above, the PPP will stand by the media because robust and free media is the dire need of democratic dispensation. While the law may take its own course but the party is using its considerable influence to calm down the situation through its political and parliamentary tentacles at its disposal. On the part of media houses they must take united stand to resist the religious extremists wresting their space because if they succeed the media and their owners will be subject to the worst type of subservience and the editorial contents will be subject to censorship they have never experienced so far.
The situation as obtaining in the country suggests the dangerous trend because targeting the judiciary seems part of the grotesque plan. The next target may be the Parliament. To execute the mischievous agenda the mastermind will presumably mobilize the sizeable number of zealots to ransack the symbol of democracy, Parliament, and with that to set the stage for turning over the apple cart known as democratic dispensation. He will not succeed but it should not give the nation an excuse for complacency. The best way to save the edifice is to save the media being trampled upon by the iron feet of religious extremists with the connivance of the hidden elements.
Targeting the media is well thought out conspiracy to incapacitate it in projecting the truth and people’s will. It is therefore imperative that all efforts should be put in place to scuttle the mischief at the outset. The stakeholders of the fourth pillar should take deep breath and huddle together to declare zero tolerance against media, with loud and clear resolution to defend it at all cost if threatened. The stakeholders should take a leaf from the meeting between the former President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Imagine the state of affairs in the country if the meeting had not taken place.
Rallies across the country in support of establishment are not helpful in projecting its image. For, the support is coming from those who are known for their extremist views in national politics and are also notorious for subverting the course of international diplomacy. Secondly, these entities had been proscribed by the law of the land and also by the foreign countries not withstanding their popping up with new names. The general perception is that that they are doing the bidding of their fathers and mothers. These lobbies had been used in the past to pressurize the elected governments.
The government and the political parties—Pakistan People’s Party, ANP and the regional nationalist parties, are not in favour of these sponsored street shows. Main political parties do extend their support and appreciate the army as a defense and disciplined force. Army delivered when worked in unison with civilian authority and caused prodigious national embarrassments when generals at top acted independently for the fulfillment of their personal ambitions under the garb of “supreme national interest”. History of this country bears it out quite candidly.
As we say that perception are bigger than facts and therefore it is necessary that the Khakis disassociate themselves from these rallies business and dispel the impression. In the absence of it the perception of the longevity of the old habits will persist even after the Asghar Khan’s case. Regretfully, the government of the day is not asserting and its appeasing is a great source of disappointment for the people who had elected them with such a big majority. It is the time that it should prove worthy of it. It does not mean that the government should draw the daggers and rush to the duel unto death. But, a graceful and gradual retrieval of legitimate space usurped should be experienced by the people who strongly believe that their representative government should take the charge. Prime minister’s decision to participate in oath taking ceremony of Narendra Modi, is right and deserves appreciations of the fair-minded people on both sides of borders diplomacy should be embraced, brinkmanship repulsed. The spirit of Charter of Democracy shall guide the entire political leadership in rescuing democracy.