Learning Lessons, Moving On

From the very first, the controversy begun by news reports that the government was secretly planning to withdraw the reinstatement of judges was a bit ridiculous. At this point, though, the non-story has become simply a waste of everyone’s time. Now that Prime Minister Gilani has publicly and nationally addressed the controversy and assured that the government has no intention of sacking the judges, it’s time to take our lessons and move on.

From the very beginning, the story was a bit silly. Whatever you think about Zardari’s political mistakes, it’s hard to imagine that he would do something so obviously self-destructive as sacking the Supreme Court. If the PPP thinks they are getting attacked now, the result of sacking the judiciary would be nuclear annihilation in comparison.

There are some important lessons to take as we move on from this fiasco, though, and Dawn does a good job of pointing them out:

There are, however, clear lessons to be drawn from the latest near-upheaval in the country, if such incidents are to be avoided. First of all, the media regulators, industry-run and public, need to conduct a thorough inquiry into the events leading up to certain news channels airing the de-notification claim. The results of the inquiries should be made public, not just to ascertain what happened that fateful evening, but to prevent recurrences. The media — which now appears able to wield political power of its own — must open itself up to fair and proper scrutiny.

Next, the superior judiciary must reflect on behaviour unbecoming for an institution which is supposed to be cloaked in an air of calm and dispassion. Flip through news channels day or night and one is likely to find some outrageous news or the other that is soon either denied officially or quietly taken off the airwaves. Anything is possible in Pakistan, but some things are less likely than others. A judiciary which even a military dictator could not sack is unlikely to be undone by a weak political government saddled with fractious coalition partners and surrounded by opponents. Politics does not happen in a vacuum.

Finally, the PPP-led government. Its bona fides would not be so casually suspected if it were serious about governance and developed a reputation for smart but fair play. The party may feel aggrieved, but that is part of the reason a media rumour can instantaneously turn into political ‘fact’ in the minds of many.

This is good advice to all the players involved. We’re still suffering from the psychological scars of the past, but we must work together to move forward. Rather than treating everyone with suspicion and jumping immediately to wild accusations, let’s inject a bit of civility into the political discourse, shall we?

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