- While on the watershed
In democracies a free and vibrant media keeps governments on toes by showing them the real picture of the country, moles and all. The media thus plays an indispensable role in improving governance and making the country prosperous and strong. Attempts to silence the media that are currently underway through advice and pressure are against the fundamentals of democracy. A system that relies on pleasing reports concocted by cronies and sycophants is like a house of cards that can be overturned by a gust of wind. The ISPR spokesman who wants media to present only a rosy picture of the country would do well to realise the consequences.
Pakistan’s woes that he has underlined like a weak economy, subpar governance, flaws in judicial and education system and religious extremism were not caused by media freedom. The economy is weak because insignificant budgetary allocations continue to be made for education, health, manpower training, scientific and technical research and social development; governance has suffered because elected governments have been prematurely dismissed and replaced by rulers answerable only to themselves and judicial system languished when judiciary became subservient to those in power. An unelected ruler gave free hand to armed gangs in educational institutions to suppress creativeness and ingenuity that comes from debate and discussion. He used universities to create jihadis rather than scientists, economists, technocrats and informed citizens. Religious zealaots were nourished first to act as gun fodder in the American jihad in Afghanistan and then dispatched to other pastures.
No individual or party can be allowed to issue calls for violence or take up arms against the state, be it a mainstream party or a small group like the PTM. Every party however has a right to hold peaceful meetings and rallies in all areas under the jurisdiction of the Constitution. The country’s problems can be resolved not by closing eyes and ears and asking others to follow suit but by welcoming those who point out the mistakes or criticise the policies because this helps to rectify them. One of the reasons why Soviet Union, then a superpower possessing the largest stock of nuclear weapons, imploded from within was the clamp down on dissent.