Need to end blame game, resolve issues
DUBAI: Some people, somewhere, at a level where decisions about the country and the nation are taken, must step out of the arena and sit down quietly and discuss recent and very disturbing issues dispassionately.
Away from the din, they must figure out where things are heading, and if in a wrong direction, why. Who is trying to sabotage the march of democracy? Who is trying to pitch state institutions against each other? Why the government feels threatened from the security establishment? Why the media has suddenly become the main target, sidelining all other issues? Why things appear to be getting out of control?
Attack on Hamid Mir was despicable and no one can justify it, but some people are trying to attack him as if he had planned the attack on himself to defame the ISI. This is not only preposterous, but also insane. The reaction of his family is considered to be an attack on the army and ISI, as if attack on Hamid was planned to be exploited against these national institutions.
Nothing could be further than the truth as explained by the Jang Group several times. But some people just do not want to accept this explanation. The coverage given by Geo TV was considered by Geo opponents to be a deliberate attempt as if the Group was waiting for such an opportunity to attack the security forces to settle old scores.
What nonsense! This reaction is just like clutching to straws as if someone was waiting for any pretext to attack the Group. The reaction to the coverage by Geo and Jang Group in shape of a vicious hate-campaign, almost a chorus by some TV channels, reported arm-twisting of cable operators and newspaper hawkers to stop Geo and Jang Group newspapers, is also equally knee-jerk.
It has not been thought out in detail as this battle could lead to a discussion on more deeper and sick aspects of the relationship that the democratic institutions have with the institutions which have been playing around with democracy in the past, including politicians who have mostly been allies of the autocratic regimes and have been switching sides to get on the right side of the power equation.
What has happened in a few days is inexplicable, as if every power centre of the state is drifting, lacks maturity, has no depth of thinking and no consideration that a decision, or any action or its reaction may have far-reaching and disastrous consequences for everyone, including the state.
While the media should have been united against the attackers of Hamid Mir, a bull fight has started for and against the way the event was covered. If emotions were involved in editorial judgement, care was taken after the feedback. But many just don’t want to accept this fact.
It was also erroneous to take such impromptu decisions as a fact reflecting a well-considered policy of the newspaper group, declaring it as anti-state and not only seeking a ban, but also forcibly pushing it out of the screens and homes. Prompt damage control action by the ISPR, like a quick rebuttal of the charges, could have led to cooling off and a course correction without causing so much damage.
The ISPR though says it did take damage control measures quickly but communication gaps caused some damage. Whereas Jang Group says it contacted for the version and as soon as it was received it was aired along with the statement of Hamid Mir’s brother Amir Mir. The ISPR rebuttal along with picture of its DG was shown repeatedly.Both these claims need to be established by a neutral umpire.
The main player in this sorry episode, the democratically elected government, was missing in action. The PM’s visit to inquire after Hamid Mir was wrongly perceived as his one-sided support to the victim and endorsement of Hamid Mir family’s charges against ISI.
Whereas Hamid Mir, who is one of the few top most journalists and anchor of one of the most popular programme of the most watched channel, enjoyed good relations with all. He escaped an assassination attempt and was grievously injured.
The PM’s visit to Hamid Mir was in accordance with the Islamic and Pakistani culture to inquire after the vicitim on such occasions. Zardari also planned to visit Hamid Mir but because of security concerns Bilawal did this task in his place.
Apparently, the heat of the moment produced an army reaction which was considered to be a rebuke to the PM, when the next day General Raheel visited the ISI Headquarters to show confidence and solidarity; totally needless if sanity had prevailed on all sides.
The visit may have been a routine matter not even worthy of more than a line but it became news as polarisation within the media saw and presented it as a political rebuke. The ISPR should have clarified this impression to check unnecessary escalation of tensions.
Hamid Mir wisely tried to put some cold water on the passions in his first statement (read by Amir Mir) but the basic issues remain and need to be discussed, not in the style of wrestling rings where shouting showbiz wrestlers act for the cameras but fighting is so artificial that no serious viewer considers it anything but a farce.
The issues between the media and security establishment and infighting within the media must be addressed but in an environment of sanity, tolerance and for the best interest of all the institutions.
The media must move a bit slowly. The thunder squads on all sides must drop their guns. Not just a sort of double checking of facts must be imposed to screen out statements and actions that could further provoke all the sides. Brakes need to be applied. And now!
The uncalled-for actions against Geo and Jang Group newspapers must also be rolled back, as this has led to a confrontation which will help no one and which no one can afford. A much more serious approach would have been to bring in professional organisations like the APNS, PBA, CPNE and ISPR to sit down and thrash out these issues in an atmosphere of resolving issues not pushing the blame game. The immediate task must be for all to find out the attackers of Hamid Mir.
In a quieter environment, the issues that have come up as a result of attack, the reactions and counter-reactions must be discussed to find solutions acceptable to all. Use of overt and covert force must stop and the government must play the role it should have played. All issues must be settled within the larger legal and constitutional process.
The hands off approach of the government by throwing the ball in the court of the judiciary was like shirking responsibility and not to take decisions that the political government must have taken to establish its moral and legal writ and establish credibility.
Diversions and recourse to old high-handed tactics will again lead to the breakdown of whatever has been achieved in the last many years, most importantly by persistent efforts of a very patient and tolerant security establishment.