It’s not unusual to find journalists defending the media. Often there are articles by journalists and TV anchors lamenting the sad state of our media circus, but still defending its right to continue without correction. And one certainly does not have to look very hard to find a politician willing to chastise the media, perhaps even secretly wishing he was the ultimate judge of media content. But it’s rare to find someone who has sat on both sides of the chess table and can see this situation from both points of view. When you find this person, you should probably listen to what he has to say.
Such a person we have in Ayaz Amir, a career journalist who finds himself now in the National Assembly on the PML-N ticket. Writing for The News yesterday, Ayaz Amir makes a persuasive claim that much of today’s media attacks are essentially the work of ‘ivory tower’ intellectuals who are attacking for the sake of the attack, and not for any constructive purpose.
If the political class did not get earlier it should do so now. The target of the campaign set in motion last year was not just Asif Zardari. It was the political system as a whole, all in the name of fighting corruption, the slogan with which every road leading to hell has been paved in Pakistan since 1947.
Zardari was just a metaphor and a symbol. The wheels of intrigue, with a band of media jehadis in the lead, would not have stopped with him. They would have gone on to Nawaz Sharif, ending eventually in that dream of most retired senior mandarins, an ‘interim’ government on the Bangladesh model.
This is an interesting claim, and one that ought to be taken seriously. The blog “New Pakistan” found an older article by Shaheen Sehbai that suggests a “one down, two to go” plan.
The main responsibility of this state of affairs rests with the PPP and its leader Asif Ali Zardari, who has astounded his critics, and supporters, by adopting an almost irresponsible attitude, for reasons not yet known publicly, though there is a lot of talk and buzz that he was having some serious intra-family problems, specially with his own children in Dubai.
Mr Musharraf has to be blamed a lot for this continuing uncertainty as he did not have the grace to admit that he was now a problem and the sooner he got out of the way, the easier it may be for the country’s political system to settle down.
He has uselessly wasted his time and energy to hang on to a broken branch, which may snap at any moment but in the process he has dragged the system down and consumed whatever positive momentum the new government had to tackle major issues.
But given his state of mind, no one should have expected him to show grace and should have been booted out earlier. According to all the signals emanating from his old constituency, there would not have been a single soul worried about his departure had it been done properly and quickly. Even now, no tears would be shed if a surgical operation gets him going out of the country, or in a safe house within.
A greater responsibility also rests with Mian Nawaz Sharif, who has been consistent in his positions but has failed to take political decisions in line with that position to let the system move on.
He fears that if he breaks the coalition, the system will go down. This is absolutely not the case and no one in any power corridor can think, or is thinking, of disrupting this set-up and bringing in anything wild like the Bangladesh option or a replica of the 1999 Musharraf coup.
Ayaz Amir does note that it is very possible that this is all simply the result of self-righteous media representatives cynically exploiting the news to make fame for themselves without considering the consequences.
There is a self-righteous streak in our middle class, especially the non-voting middle class, which makes it adopt over-pure positions, which far from doing any good end up rolling out the red carpet for military saviours.
But even this is rather strange, if you think about it.
Politicians can be the world’s biggest scoundrels but it would be a dreary and bleak world if they were the only scoundrels around. Every profession has its rogues, every calling its blackguards. No one will accuse generals and judges, or lawyers for that matter, of being saints. No one in his right mind will describe journalists as knights of any round table. Why raise the bar to the skies when it comes to politicians?
For all their complaining about corruption, the media is not so innocent itself. The blog Let Us Build Pakistan published a report on tax defaulters from the media recently, why this did not get so much attention, I wonder? What other bodies are buried in the yards of our sacred cows on TV and in the newspapers?
Of course, this is not to suggest that corruption should not be exposed, only to question why the double standard for the political class and not the journalists? What if we got rid of all the journalists who ever wrote something that did not come true, or did not pay their taxes, or took a drink of some alcohol or flirted with some woman? Who would be left?
There are bombings nearly every day it seems, and yet The News, just for one example, is filled with stories about where someone got their degree, and what the HEC is thinking about the matter. Is this a good use of media? Or is it avoiding the real news? Ayaz Amir is a journalist and a politician also. He can see from both sides of the chess table and provide a unique perspective on the media-political situation. It would be worth our time to pay attention.