Why Memogate doesn't matter

Instead of obsessing over the Memogate scandal, the press needs to focus on things that matter.

Farooq Tirmizi January 03, 2012
If you held a gun to the head of any prominent Pakistani journalist and asked them to explain the energy crisis in the country, the overwhelming majority would be unable to tell you what actually caused it.

Yet ask any one of those same people to explain to you exactly what happened in the Memogate scandal and almost all of them will be able to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened and their own views on what was most significant about the whole affair.

The problem with most of us in the media is our absolute obsession with the games of power. Everybody is keenly following even the most insignificant of details about every major power player, wondering who is doing what, saying what, to whom and why in order to get into the corridors of power. Hardly anybody seems to be concerned with what our rulers do with that power once they get it.

That is why – on the day that the government of Pakistan effectively defaulted on its sovereign obligations to energy companies – the main headlines of every newspaper were not about what that meant for the economy but about some silly memo allegedly written on behalf of an ambassador that was deemed so insignificant by its American recipients that they effectively chucked it in the trash.

The political analysts will argue that civil-military relations have an enormous impact on everything that happens in Pakistan and thus that issue deserved to be on the front page. I do not disagree with that.But I do want to ask my journalist colleagues, most of whom are ardent advocates of democracy, one question: how different would the national conversation about civil-military ties be if an elected civilian government was delivering 7% economic growth rates?

Every advocate of civilian rule seems obsessed with pushing the boundaries on criticising the military and discrediting their attempts to influence the government. This is a noble enough effort, but what will really push the military permanently back to their barracks will be competent civilian government. Instead of obsessing over such silly machinations of the military establishment, how about we just focus on holding the civilians accountable for policy?

Unfortunately, that would require a solid understanding of economics and other social sciences which, alas, even most of our most sophisticated of journalists lack. Hence more drivel about memos it shall be for the foreseeable future.
Farooq Tirmizi The author is an investment analyst. He tweets as @FarooqTirmizi (https://twitter.com/FarooqTirmizi)
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Abid Khan | 12 years ago | Reply Isn't it the re-run of "Bread & Circus"?
Tahir | 12 years ago | Reply "...........but what will really push the military permanently back to their barracks will be competent civilian government." Though I am from the military, but you nailed it! Indeed, competence is an all encompassing term. It means to be above and beyond personal interests too beside its literal meanings. By the way, military is not found of governing, they are neither structured not meant to govern, But salute to our politicians who have always tried to commit blunders of magnitude that forced the military to take lead. Interestingly, most of today's champions of democracy have been in fore front to entice military to take over!
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