Had I not known Mr Akhtar Buland Rana, the newly appointed auditor-general (AG) of Pakistan, for the past 42 years, I would have been duped by the baseless stories making rounds in the media about him. We have watched some talk show hosts and a representative of the PML-N spouting venom with disgust against Rana. As a columnist for the last 36 years and as a public intellectual, I have defended freedom of the media and believe it is the first step toward democratising Pakistan. But is media freedom a free licence to malign individuals in position of power in the bureaucracy or politics?
Can the media assume responsibility to be the jury, the judge and the executioner? No. If that happens, and I am sorry to say it is happening, it is shoddy journalism and may serve to undermine the credibility of the channels and the talk-show hosts responsible. I believe many of these new recruits are without any training in journalism, history, politics and humanities and have already degraded the quality of discourses.
Sadly, quite a few media persons work with an agenda passed on to them from some hidden hands who like to spin some stories while suppressing others. In maligning Rana, we cannot rule out the role of other aspirants in the run for the AG position in becoming a ‘source’ for the media. Besides, Rana carries the burden of a government which has lost the trust of the people and carries little credibility both with the media and with ordinary citizens when it comes to appointments in high positions. Whatever the past wrongdoings of the government or its poor standing, we cannot paint all its decisions black. Two things are important in this respect. First, each case has to be examined on its own merit rather than be judged as motivated by ill intentions. Second, public discourses are a sacred trust that require us to engage on issues with fairness and integrity.
I have seldom seen a story as one-sided, with as rough a language and tendency to be superficial as far as substantiation is concerned as in the case of Rana. His detractors had one thing in mind — to make his appointment controversial, hoping some quarters of the state would notice. Sadly, this has happened. Rana and many others because of their positions in the bureaucracy cannot come forward to defend themselves and are condemned to be guilty without evidence and/or substantive argument.
I understand the ethnic prejudice and discomfort of the PML-N with the appointment of Rana, a Seraiki from the Seraiki region, but cannot understand how and why a section of the media has been one-sided.
Rana comes from a very humble background and from the most backward region of Punjab. He has struggled all his life and served this country with unflinching commitment and devotion. His only drawback is his place of birth, class, ethnicity and the fact that he is not part of the traditional social circles whose members have dominated top positions in the government of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2011.
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Prof Raees's the LUMS professor journalistic standards have fallen low to this extent where he parochially analyse the appointment of Rana. Nowhere does the good professor come with evidence to counter all those accusations heaped on his friend Rana!
Had Prof Rais avoided two things to ascertain the credibility of Mr Rana I would have believed that Mr Rana is an able man just maligned by media campaign: 1) "Had I not known Mr Akhtar Buland Rana, the newly appointed auditor-general (AG) of Pakistan, for the past 42 years". Isn't Prof taking the same role of judge and executioner upon himself that he despises so much in the detractors Mr Rana. 2) To bring ethnicity into argument. Simply pathetic PML N is in no way averse to Seraiki belt.
Dr Rais always presents a thought provoking analysis of various issues. However, this time I am very much confused about arguments in this article; they looks biased towards certain personel. For instance, Nadeem Malik, a renowned journalist of Aaj TV, has stated on his facebook account, "Supreme Court Says Akhtar Buland Rana, now Auditor General, obtained a Canadian nationality without seeking prior permission from the government and travels abroad on three Pakistani passports and two national identification cards; Rana attempted sexual assault on a subordinate woman during service and did not qualify for his promotion to grade-22." There are other similar stories. So, I think Dr Rais needs further research about the issue before having such a critical comments about the role of media and journalists who are currently playing a very important role.
@Umer: I think you ask a fair question. I have heard many women express outrage about the abuse but one is unable to judge whether there is any substance to the charge. He is innocent until proven otherwise.
Prof sb: before you point a finger have you even listened to the other side - the woman who was sexually harassed by Rana. Reading your article it appears that you are also bigoted as you cannot think beyond 'party-lines' which in this case is your ethnicity and friendship with Rana.
Yes Professor Rais, It is very difficult rather impossible in this country to obtain a top notch position without being from an important clan, tribe, ethnic-al background and resourceful family. Many extraordinary and talented persons could not achieve the position they deserved and their talent could not be utilised for the country.
I concur with Professor Rasul Bakhsh’s analysis and am glad that he took over the task of correcting the distorted image of the Auditor General. Thank you Rasul Bakhsh! I wrote a few lines commenting on the news about Akhtar’s appointment and baseless allegations against him. I attest once again that the Akhtar Buland Rana that I knew just does not fit into that distorted profile. Forty years is a long time and I have not seen Akhtar since then, but I remember him as an honest, hardworking, and somewhat shy student. He was a gentleman in any sense of the term and I am sure he is the same today. Congratulations Akhtar Buland. Professor Rasul Bakhsh’s is also correct to point out that the politics of mud-slinging has become routine business in Pakistan. No day goes by when a public official is not maligned either by media, or by our worthy politicians and whatever is left out by these two institutions is taken care by our most celebrated but otherwise notoriously self-centered Chief Justice. I can understand the frustrations among Pakistani intelligentsia and the public at large but frustration need not to be exhibited by nonsensical finger-pointing. A footnote to Dr. Meekal Ahmed's suggestion. I will go one step further and press "slander" charges against all those involved.
Rana has himself replied to all allegations logically n very clearly in Absar Alam's program still that anchor foolishly kept on repeating own version in next programs.
Atleast rana is more clear n clean than the chaiman PAC and his party. And what of CJ's own past...
@Zehra: I agree with you 100%, what a nice and fair Op Ed! Every appointment by the govt is rejected and challenged by the rightwing parties, no matter who he/she is. The sad thing is the PCO CJ once again followed the line of PML-N and leveled unsubstantiated allegation against Mr. Rana. However, only a few days later the activist CJ had to eat a humble pie and give oath to same Mr. Rana. What a joke this PCO judiciary has become? They have no time for more important constitutional petitions, appeals against the lower courts, and cases languishing for decades. However, they jump at each and every opportunity to challenge the right of executive to make appointments according to the law. What did the PML-N and PCO CJ gain by politicizing the appointment of Mr. Rana?
keep on sir the great......
Mr Rana should have an opportunity to defend himself. Normally, in these matters, even if you are a government servant, you can take permission from your superiors to write to a newspaper. Perhaps they may also allow him to go on TV if he so wishes.
Pakistan's media has come a long way. But some of the so-called programs and talk-shows are in shockingly bad taste. When I asked whether people watched such crap I was told that they do!
In that case, I don't know which is worse: a bad jouranlist or the gullible that tune in to hear them with rapt attention and take in every word.
I have the greatest respect for Prof. Rais but am disappointed that this column does not live up to his normal high standards. Specific charges were levelled against Mr. Rana. The fact that Prof. Rais has known him for more than 40 years or that Mr Rana comes from a poor Seraiki family does not disprove those charges. Let Prof. Rais state categorically that Mr. Rana did not take a year's leave to obtain Canadian citizenship and I for one would believe him.
EXCELLENT article, in what has definitely been a very active smear campaign against Rana. I'm glad that someone, Dr Rais no less, has spoken out for him. Let his future performance in the new role be the barometer of gauging his character.