Farrukh Saleem: Journalist or Political Activist?

Apr 30th, 2012 | By | Category: Jang, The News

The News (Jang Group)The Supreme Court’s decision against Prime Minister Gilani on Friday resulted in no small amount of confusion for many very capable barristers. Not so for Jang Group journalist Farrukh Saleem who used his column space in The News on Sunday to term the Prime Minister as a criminal. Farrukh Saleem, however, may tell us more about himself than the target of his own contempt.

Saleem begins by terming the Prime Minister an ‘ex-con’ based on his having been convicted by the Supreme Court of contempt and completing his 30-second sentence. But even in the very first paragraph the author’s argument begins to run into problems. According to Farrukh Saleem, the dictionary defines a convict as a “person found guilty of a crime and sentenced by a court.”

The Prime Minister, however, was never charged with a crime. According to Dawn, “The bench of the Supreme Court had charged the prime minister with civil contempt, instead of judicial or criminal contempt”. If the Prime Minister was not charged with a crime, how could he be convicted of such? Such mischaracterisations raise the question whether Farrukh Saleem is trying to have an honest discussion about the Prime Minister’s case, or whether he has some other agenda.

Actually, facts do not appear to have been the purpose of Farrukh Saleem’s article, anyway, as is evidenced by his second paragraph in which the author proposes his own sentence against the Prime Minister:

The ‘ex-con’ label, in the world outside the Land of the Pure, attracts lifelong implications including social stigma, vilification, societal and employment discrimination. Social stigma is when society thinks that a particular person has done something “really bad”. Social stigma is the “severe disapproval of, or discontent with, a person on the grounds of” criminality. As a consequence there are severe consequences including being branded for life, employment plus loan discrimination. All in all, these are all societal measures to discourage such behaviour.

The author then writes something that suggests the Prime Minister alone is not his target:

Plus, the day the Supreme Court found the PM guilty of a crime saw a PPP candidate winning in Multan PP-194 by-elections.

What does the success of Usman Bhatti in PP-194 by-elections have to do with the Prime Minister’s contempt case? Is it the case that Farrukh Saleem is upset not because he believes the Prime Minister did not receive harsh enough punishment, but because a certain political party continues to succeed at the polls?

The answer may be found in Farrukh Saleem’s concluding paragraph in which he explains his own theory of ‘journalism’.

Law does not belong to the courts alone, the Pakistani society-and the voter-must also vilify and discriminate against the behaviour and actions that have been declared as being criminal or illegal by the courts.

The author appears to be boldly suggesting that voters should punish the PPP as a whole because the Prime Minister was convicted on a charge of civil contempt in a complicated and controversial case. Farrukh Saleem starts his column by mischaracterising the Prime Minister’s case, and then uses this mischaracterisation to request voters to punish the Prime Minister’s party at the polls. This is not journalism, it’s political activism.

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