Asma Jahangir on the controversial contempt of court thrown at activists and politicians at the whim of Pakistan’s judiciary.
Sometimes you really have to wonder ‘what are they thinking!?!’ Of course, the obvious answer is that they are not. I had this face-slapping moment today when I read the headlines in The Guardian, ‘Pakistani media publish fake WikiLeaks cables attacking India’ and Dawn, ‘India needs to cooperate more with Pakistan: FO’. The inevitable conspiracy theory explanation from Zaid Hamid notwithstanding, this is inexcusable. The courts should begin an inquiry into Jang Group for sabotaging national security.
This isn’t just about whether or not the media is reliable – it’s about whether or not the media is intentionally or unintentionally sabotaging our national security. In any other country that claims to view journalism as a serious institution, a scandal of this magnitude would result in massive sackings. It will be instructive to see whether or not Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has the courage and the principles to clean house.
Because let’s face it. Jang Group is humiliated today, as is the entire nation. But if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman doesn’t care about how his company and his nation look in the eyes of the rest of the world, he doesn’t have to do a thing. The people who read and believe this crap don’t read The Guardian, even if they do read English, so they likely don’t even know about the situation.
No matter what Jang decides to do internally, though, the courts should immediately begin an inquiry into this mess. Seriously, if there was ever a cause worthy of suo moto notice, is this not it? How can the FO expect India to be cooperative while Jang is running defamatory articles about them? We want the Americans to treat us with respect while Ansar Abbasi is on TV telling Moeed Pirzada that all this WikiLeaks stuff is a big American conspiracy and saying that there are no boundaries to the ruthlessness and carelessness of Americans. Where is Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman while all of this is happening?
If Jang Group wants to be a joke, that’s fine. They can continue selling all the fictions they want. But when they start publishing crap that undercuts the ability of government and military officials to do their jobs, that is where we need to draw the line. I strongly believe in a free media. And I strongly defend the right – even the responsibility – of the media to hold the government accountable. But I do NOT support the right for anyone in the media to SABOTAGE the government.
And this problem needs to be solved now because this is not an isolated incident. A similar problem occurred during the floods, didn’t it? How often did we see people complaining about how inept our government is, not missing any opportunity to take a pot shot at Asif Zardari, and then turning around and complaining that nobody will give us any money! Oh, it is because the government is so corrupt! They loved to shout from the rooftops. “This is why other countries were so quick to give to Haiti but not to Pakistan!” As if Haiti is a corruption-free-zone of the world. Here’s an inconvenient fact for these jokers – even if Pakistan was number 143 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index…HAITI WAS NUMBER 146. Please do tell me how many poor innocent people suffered because somebody in the media really hates Zardari that much?
Now we are humiliated on the headlines of a foreign newspaper because our own media is running false stories against India. And it’s not even a good lie because it’s so easily proven to be false. All The Guardian had to do was check the facts! How could these fools not know that they would be caught immediately at their cheap tricks? But the truth never really mattered, probably. It was all simply a gamble for a short-term victory in domestic politics. The consequences were not considered.
There’s a thing called credibility. Once you lose it, it’s really hard to get back. Perhaps Jang Group does not care about their own credibility. But we need to be very concerned about how Jang Group is ruining our national credibility. It’s time for an inquiry. Let the courts expose Jang Group’s intentions as Wikileaks has exposed the intentions of so many other clever souls. If Jang Group is filled with innocents and angels, let them prove it in a court. Otherwise, let them be held accountable for their actions. That would go a long way to getting our own credibility back.