What to say of an electronic media some of whose channels, for example, decided to place the cosmetic Shoaib-Sania saga at the top of their main 9:00pm news bulletins on the day the 18th Amendment was passed by the National Assembly and a terrible suicide bomb attack that ripped across a crowded area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Last week I visited one of Karachi’s sprawling (and impoverished) areas. I went there at the invitation of an old college friend who still lives there. Both of us were members of a progressive student organisation in college in the late 1980s.
I took this opportunity to talk to some folks of the locality. Almost all of them were from working class backgrounds. They whined and complained about the usual stuff: price hikes, lack of jobs, unemployment, crime, terrorism. But out of about ten men whom I managed to speak to, none had anything to say about either President Asif Ali Zaradri, or (thus) what the media claims to be Pakistan’s gravest issue: ‘corruption.’
No doubt Mr Zaradri is a controversial figure, but then, which prominent politician or for that matter, general wasn’t or isn’t? His misfortune lies in the way he was targeted by the media when he first arrived in parliament as a minister in his wife’s first government (1988-90).
An entire generation of military men and politicians had greedily harvested unprecedented rewards during the Zia dictatorship. It was a time when the US and Saudi Arabia were lavishly dishing out dollars as direct and indirect aid to keep Zia’s military regime (and cronies) afloat. This had an impact on the overall psyche of society as well. Exhibitionistic Islamic ritualism and lingo conveniently co-existed with overpowering greed and a get-rich-quick attitude.
This is the kind of Pakistan that Benazir’s first government inherited. Being an astute pragmatist, she understood well the kind of cynicism and materialism that had begun to dot Pakistani politics. There is now no secret about the fact that a humongous amount of rupees was being showered by the remnants of the Zia era (in the intelligence agencies) against her government.
For example, in 1989, industrial tycoons (in league with some leading media bosses and opposition politicians), who still hadn’t forgiven her father for his (albeit disastrous) ‘socialist economic policies’ in the 1970s, began running a paid campaign against the ‘corruption’ of her government and especially that of her husband. For weeks the country’s mainstream newspapers were dotted with glossy quarter-page ads against the ‘misdeeds’ of the first couple. Then, at the behest of certain intelligence agencies, the opposition parties moved a no-confidence motion against the prime minister.
Tons of money exchanged hands in the process, as the opposition tried to buy out the ruling members of parliament and the government retaliated by putting in money and resources to keep them on its side. Money spoke. In fact it screamed. Its exuberant and clandestine flaunting became the only valid option for politicians to take part and survive in politics. For this every prominent politician is guilty; just like the military men, the bureaucrats and the civilian faces of the Zia dictatorship who first introduced this trend to the game.
Thus, though it won’t be an overstatement to suggest that almost every prominent politician, military man and industrialist (ever since the 1980s) has, in one way or the other, been involved in what we generally perceive to be corruption, it is Asif Ali Zardari who has been bestowed the honour of becoming the punching bag of the nation in this respect. It was media that created this, and it is media (especially electronic) that has taken up the glorious task of turning Zardari into a punching bag once again.
But if volumes can be written on the corruption of our politicians, then one can easily scribble a vibrant comic book highlighting the shadowy and questionable ways of some of the media bosses and their talk show anchorpersons whom we see every day contemplating the date of Zardari’s fall.
At times such talk shows start sounding like televised sessions of a dedicated whiners’ club, foaming and dining on the latest slice of conspiratorial pizza coming out from the rumour oven in Islamabad. I won’t be surprised if one of these people begin to ramble about the presence of flying saucers over the President House, operated by evil aliens disguised as Swiss bankers!
But, alas. Against all odds and rumours, Zardari has actually got his name highlighted on the more luminous sides of the country’s political history, thanks to his role in the passage of the 18th Amendment and in the running of an unprecedented coalition government (of former adversaries).Something no government ever since Z A Bhutto’s demise could do (or perhaps even imagine doing) has been done by a regime whose main architect is a man most detested by the media.
But then what to say of an electronic media some of whose channels, for example, decided to place the cosmetic Shoaib-Sania saga at the top of their main 9:00pm news bulletins on the day the 18th Amendment was passed by the National Assembly and a terrible suicide bomb attack that ripped across a crowded area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
So much for ‘concerned’ journalism.
Source: Dawn, 02 May, 2010