Media manoeuvring | Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Pakistan Press Foundation

Media manoeuvring

Pakistan Press Foundation

As soon as the law-enforcement agencies formally launched the Karachi operation this year, the electronic media somehow became a sort of hot battleground between MQM and anti-MQM quarters in the country.

Both sides have readily chosen to resort to the media to formulate their respective narratives on the current situation in the city of Karachi. Now, they are extensively using this means of communication to make their allegations and counter-allegations against each other. As a matter of fact, instead of setting things right in Karachi, the current media manoeuvring has been quite instrumental in raising the political temperature in Pakistan.

Following the controversial press conference made by former SSP Malir Rao Anwar, MQM chief Altaf Hussain forcefully denied all the serious allegations levelled against him and his party by effectively employing the media tool. He resorted to his typical first-intimidate-then-retract policy for this purpose. However, this time an apology was also publically extended by him to de-escalate the tension between the MQM and the most powerful institution of the country.

As is usual, MQM’s prominent party leaders are also frequently appearing on various TV channels explaining the actual intention of Altaf Hussian and the ‘context’ of his controversial statement.

Urging the government to proscribe the MQM, the former SSP Malir Rao Anwar levelled some serious anti-state allegations against MQM in a live broadcasted press conference. Aggressively reacting to it in another live broadcasted address to his party workers the very next day, MQM chief Altaf Hussain warned the so-called establishment of dire consequences if it continues with its current policy of maligning MQM in the country.

Terming the remarks made by Altaf Hussian as ‘disgusting and uncalled for’, the ISPR also decided to pursue this matter legally. Likewise, Pemra has also issued show-cause notices to 14 TV channels for airing Altaf Hussain’s speech.

Now, many political quarters are also calling for prosecuting Altaf Hussain under Article 6 of the constitution of Pakistan. The KP and Balochistan provincial assembles have also approved resolutions to this effect. However, the federal government and the provincial government of Sindh have yet no adopted any hardline position against the MQM.

Ironically, the original issue, regarding the alleged involvement of MQM in anti-state activities, has been overshadowed by this saga. This is not the first time that fingers are being pointed at the MQM in the media. In the past, the MQM’s convicted worker Saulat Mirza and former interior minister Sindh Zulfiqar Mirza have also levelled almost similar allegations against the MQM and its chief.

Although the MQM has frequently been complaining about its media trial, it also readily uses the media to articulate and promote its political agenda all the time.

There is no denying the fact that the media has occupied a central role in the current MQM-establishment face-off. Now the media is also being used for formally indicting others. TV talk-show hosts and anchors on various TV channels can also be seen instantly giving their personal opinions on specific issues after ‘affording both sides an opportunity of being heard’ and explaining their point of view.

It is a rather paradoxical situation that the media has actively replaced the court of law as the forum for determining and ascertaining an allegation against any individual. Although both Zulfiqar Mirza and Saulat Mirza have levelled the gravest allegations against the MQM, yet what course the law has taken is not clear. The Sindh government has never bothered about formally conducting a probe to determine the truth or falsehood of these allegations.

In the eye of the law, an unchallenged oral statement has no evidentiary value. Legally, it was incumbent upon the Sindh government to reinvestigate in the light of Saulat Mirza’s latest statement once he had revealed new facts. He should have been required to duly make his statement on oath in a court of law. Similarly, the defence side should also have been provided a full opportunity to shake Mirza’s credibility. The constitution grants wide powers to the president of Pakistan to deal with similar situations by postponing the sentence of any individual until such controversies are legally resolved.

Political expediency should not override national interests. Administration of justice is the prerogative of the government. The media should only be used for debates and discussions on political issues. It is by no means an appropriate forum for the ultimate settlement of legal issues.

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