What the devil is going on? Why is there no reaction from the sitting government, and the leaders of the political parties in the opposition including the self-proclaimed future prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan; why none from the various spokespeople who regale us with their silly arguments every single evening on the mostly nonsensical TV talk shows; why indeed, have none of the tens of channels picked up on an earth-shaking report in this newspaper of record of April 15, 2012 titled, “Apna Pakistan: Military set to expand media outreach across country”?
We are told that the aim is “social harmonisation” and to propagate “state vision” in a “vibrant manner” (I ask you!). The CEO of 96 International Radio Network, a serving colonel of the Pakistan Army added in an interview to this paper that the “network is being planned … to bring social harmony to a society that has been radicalised”.
Really now? So then, despite the track record of our brass hats in political interventions; even after the recent upheaval in relations between the elected government and the army brass in which the ISPR had the gall to issue direct threats of “serious ramifications” to the PM himself, the de jure boss of the armed forces, the politicians are all right with this ‘media outreach’ by the army?
Leave alone the politicians own, and the country’s interests in containing the army brass to their cantonments and training areas, they should also consider the costs of this ‘outreach’ in terms of what it will do to the revered and respected institution of Radio Pakistan which has done so much for integration by reaching out to the farthest corners of our country; and by encouraging many, many artistes, especially those from the backward regions of Pakistan.
Indeed, who of my generation doesn’t recall the dulcet tones of Edward Carrapiet and Shaista Zaid announcing ‘This is Radio Pakistan; here is the news read by…”. Halcyon days indeed for this great medium on which comedians like Imam Din would take a dig at almost everyone; on which Malik Khuda Bakhsh Bucha would host a programme giving agricultural advice. Radio Pakistan even today is doing yeoman service to the people, especially the poor. How can any government think of killing such an ‘outreach’?
For that is what it is. The bazaar gup is that the baboos of the finance and information ministries are deliberately killing Radio Pakistan by starving it of funds to suck up to the Deep State. It is said that not only has the PBC’s development budget been cut down, even its pay and pension bills are not being paid in full. This is disgraceful and needs urgent review by the government.
But let’s go back to the future wannabe media empire to be run by the Pakistan Army. Might one ask how a serving officer is running FM 96? Is FM 96 an army unit? Is the colonel on ERE (extra regimental employment) there? Does the ARR (Army Rules and Regulations) apply to him and to his assistants who are surely from the army too? Most critically, why does the ISPR not answer any questions about this venture? What’s going on?
Neither is this all. One of the reasons cited for the setting up of this channel is that it will be aimed towards the “difficult” areas. While preliminary research conducted this last week through friends who know Fata says that Radio Pakistan is heard in most of the tribal areas, the question to ask is why FM 96 also wants to set up FM stations in main cities such as Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi? Is this aimed towards making money through advertisements, adding to the army’s business portfolio of bakeries, shaadi ghars and real estate businesses?
Wake up, Prime Minister, and put an immediate stop to this monkey business. Hasn’t this country had enough of the Deep State’s ‘social harmonisation’?
Published in The Express Tribune, April 18th, 2012.
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