- Silence in the face of crime speaks of complicity
“He knew what he was, what depths of depravity and cruelty he had plumbed, what ambitions drove him. He prided himself on knowing those things – but that didn’t mean he needed anyone else to see them as well.” _ Holly Black: “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown”
I received a call from a television channel this last Thursday requesting me to participate in a talk show the same evening. As usual, I asked the producer what would be the subjects to be discussed and he gave me a list encompassing patent non-issues.
When I expressed my reservations, he was quick to respond that he had instructions to discuss these subjects. I pointed out that there were other issues which were far more relevant for a discussion under the existent circumstances including the recovery of funds from the UK, their transfer to Pakistan, and the role that various people appeared to have played in this act, but he said that the editorial policy of the channel did not permit a debate on this. I excused myself from participating in the programme saying that he was welcome to call me whenever the editorial policy would allow for discussion on substantive issues facing the country.
It is not the media’s role to become the aider, abettor and apologist of the crime syndicate. Instead, it should be the moral denominator of the state and the people. How long we may have to wait to see this happen, or whether this would happen at all, is only a matter of conjecture, but exuding silence in the face of crime and offering it a shield to hide behind are unmistakable signs of irretrievable complicity
This came quickly after a similar incident involving another channel. A few lines which I had spoken during the course of recording the programme about the mindset of a political party were edited while a similar comment made by the representative of that party was broadcast. Upon enquiring from the anchor, I was told that it was the channel’s editorial policy. But, he had no answer to it being a patent slant favouring one set of opinion against another.
These incidents reflect a general conduct of the entire media circuit. There has neither been any credible reporting of the transaction in the UK, nor any follow-up discussion on the subject. The names of the people involved have found little mention in the media. While there may be numerous theories regarding the reasons necessitating this lack of concern for a development that may have far-reaching impact on the nature of governance and the enhancement of the growth potential of the country in the future, there is one reality that cannot be denied any further: people in general, and institutions and media in particular, have an indescribable soft spot for looters and plunderers of national wealth as well as those who have partaken lavishly of the spree of gory crimes and gross misdemeanours.
The case of a possible repatriation of funds from the UK involves two families: the Sharifs and Riaz Malik. According to the details of the case as entered in the Proprietorship Register, the seized property located at 1 Hyde Park Place, London W2 2LH was sold on March 21, 2016 (to Riaz Malik), barely 12 days before the release of the Panama Papers, for a price of £42,500,000. The owner is named as Hasan Nawaz Sharif.
In addition to this, nine assets of varying amounts were blocked by the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the UK during this year. The total amounts in the frozen assets and the yield from the sale of property located at 1 Hyde Park Place, amounting to £190 million, will be transferred to Pakistan. This transaction is bound by a confidentiality agreement signed by the Government of Pakistan not to divulge details beyond a certain point.
Many questions may arise with regard to this transaction and what has Pakistan to do with these funds? Who are the families involved and why a number of assets maintained by them were frozen by the UK authorities? What is the background of this transaction and whether it is the first of a series of other such deals in the future? The obvious need for the media was to have investigated this further and apprised the people of its multiple dimensions.
None of that ever happened. Instead, the vast media conglomerate has maintained a pregnant silence which speaks volumes in terms of it being a concerted effort to cover up the crime and the perpetrators who are none other than the Sharifs and that man, Riaz Malik, whom many dub as the most consummate criminal operator Pakistan may ever have known.
The reason is also understandable. When those sitting as anchors, and their masters managing the channels, stand compromised for allegedly having received gratifications in the shape of plots and bank transfers, how would they dare name their benefactors? So, for this media, Riaz Malik would always remain a ‘business tycoon’ and the Sharifs ‘politically victimised’ leaders.
Pakistan has been reduced to becoming a land specialising in nurturing and patronising mafias with the old hands wearing new masks, new masquerades. The survival and continued progress of individuals and institutions is owed to the nature and strength of their linkage with the established mafias, be these headed by the Sharifs, the Zardaris, the Riaz Maliks, or others of their kind in this country. Their operations are widely spread and their roots are deeply dug in. They use all traditional and non-traditional instruments and methods to accomplish their tasks and stymie any opposition. It is here that the media, as one of the many instruments that the mafias have at their disposal, plays a demeaning role in terms of not only hiding their crime, but also building a false aura of goodness about the criminals.
That’s why no importance was given in the traditional media to the details of the transaction and the people involved. In fact, the very mention of the word Riaz Malik has been muted on numerous occasions during live transmissions. Why has the media remained shy of naming the culprits and giving details of the nature of this and other similar transactions that may be in the offing? Is it not their job? Should they not be fulfilling their professional responsibility?
In a country where crime is rampant and where corruption is endemic, institutions have to rise beyond the call of duty in playing their role to eliminate the twin scourge. Not so in Pakistan where even a key institution like the media, which never tires of calling itself the fourth pillar of the state, prefers to maintain a criminal silence in such matters. That, in no way, can absolve it of the blame. Not only that, it would be rightfully painted as complicit in the crime.
For much too long now, media has been on this degenerative trip to becoming a tool in the hands of the criminal mafias in exchange for their pieces of silver. The reprehensible process continues as these self-serving partnerships are consolidated further. There is every likelihood that this institution may pass through various other degrading phases in a desperate bid to place the criminal oligarchies of the past back in the saddle.
It is not the media’s role to become the aider, abettor and apologist of the crime syndicate. Instead, it should be the moral denominator of the state and the people. How long we may have to wait to see this happen, or whether this would happen at all, is only a matter of conjecture, but exuding silence in the face of crime and offering it a shield to hide behind are unmistakable signs of irretrievable complicity.