No institution should go unchecked
ISLAMABAD: We have an unchecked and unfettered electronic media. We have unchecked and unfettered intelligence agencies, including the all-powerful ISI. If one needs to be regulated for crossing the limits, the other too cannot be given the licence to kill.
The only way forward is the rule of law. If the media do any wrong, it should not be allowed to take refuge in the name of the freedom of press. If the ISI or any other intelligence agency is involved in any criminal act or illegality, it should not be given the space to take advantage of being a “national institution”.
If freedom of speech cannot be allowed without any bounds and limits, the agencies could not be left on their own either.Throwing cold water on the unfair aspects of the ongoing Geo-ISI controversy could be judicious to avoid an uncouth clash between the media and defence institutions. But the legal battle between the aggrieved Pakistan Army/ISI and the accused Geo management must be fought to define the limits of former’s “sanctity” and the latter’s “freedom”. Any compromise from any side on this account would deprive all of us of a great learning experience.
All appreciations for the positive contribution of Pakistan television industry and all praises for all the good that the ISI has done for Pakistan but serious minuses — anything that is beyond constitutional and legal limits — have plagued both. Such minuses are destructive for the society and the state and its institutions. The problem here is that there is no control on the media and there is no control on the agencies, particularly the ISI.
On papers there exists an institution called Pemra. Today, the Pakistan Army and the ISI are upset over how Geo treated the news of Hamid Mir’s episode. During Musharraf’s military rule and also later in the PPP’s tenure, the sacred institution of judiciary was ridiculed and judges were even abused on television channels but Pemra remained unmoved.
Besides the former PPP prime minister, ex-army chief General (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and even senior officials of the ISI were asked to make Pemra independent and powerful. But nothing was done and even during the present PML-N’s tenure, Pemra’s empowerment and its independence remains a far cry.
The intelligence agencies have been operating beyond all legal and constitutional bounds and limits. They have been involved in making and breaking of governments, harassing and beating politicians, journalists and others. They have been even accused of extrajudicial killings. Different political parties, including the PML-N, PPP, MQM, JI, ANP, etc, have been speaking and complaining about the illegal and unconstitutional doings of the agencies.
However, no serious effort has been made to keep a legal check on these intelligence agencies and make them accountable. Despite the recommendations of different commissions and committees to streamline the role of these agencies, nothing has been done to regulate the intelligence agencies through enactment and parliamentary oversight.