The other day, I watched a television talk show. Every channel has a number of talk shows every week and, from screaming anchor persons to shouting panelists, they are generally noisy. The anchor persons are often journalists, who try to put a point of view across and it is never difficult to see which politician or party they promote. In the name of free press, they hold what are often called “media trials”, sometimes touching on slander.
They bring “experts” to their talk shows, who are professionals, often retired generals, diplomats and police officials with experience, even though they sometimes seem to lack the kind of wisdom, which should have come with that experience. Some such commentators are “regulars”, who privately cultivate anchor persons and programme producers to keep appearing on the idiot box.
But as television channels have multiplied, another class of commentators has come up. They are introduced as “analysts”. They have no professional qualifications but comment on any issue, from energy to terrorism.
This programme that I refer to above was a repeat telecast on terrorism. It so happened that just before I watched it, terrorists had struck at the Nanga Parbat Base Camp and killed 10 mountaineers of different nationalities in cold blood.
It was thus, with a lot of focus that I began to watch the programme. Of the three participants, one was an analyst. The man had no training or knowledge of fighting terrorism, insurgency or crimes of violence. Nor did he know the elements of national security, beyond what you can pick up from a couple of drinks with a security contractor. Among other inane comments, he announced that there was “insurgency” in the country. And, surprise surprise, there was “terrorism”, which was “bombs, explosives, etc”. At the end of the programme, he had the cheek even to suggest names for negotiations with the Taliban!
This person is a conman of the variety that flourishes in Pakistan. He is a member of the self-promoting, social climbing, upwardly-mobile-wife-in-tow class that has been aptly called the ‘cut and paste’ generation, the very antithesis of thought and reflection.
The other two panelists, both professionals, tried to retrieve the situation from banality by hinting at the complexity of terrorism and its nuanced relationship with the security situation in the region. The hapless anchor person, too, did what he could. But in the presence of a con analyst, the show seemed hopeless.
Obviously, the programme had been recorded before the Base Camp incident. And thus, for its lack of serious consideration and concern, I found it disgusting, a sheer waste of air time on a sombre subject. It was thrown to cliches and platitudes.
Regrettably, television is not the only field where confident tricksters thrive. They are also found in the corridors of power, in politicians and public servants alike. Right now, they are busy infiltrating the ranks of the new government. They are a political and administrative menace the state institutions are not impervious to at any level.
People seem not to comprehend how lawless this country has become. Somebody said recently that living in Pakistan was like living in a prison. If you pressed the light switch, you are not sure if there is power. If you turn the tap in the morning, you are not sure there is water. If burglars break into your house, they are unlikely to be caught. It is the same uncertainty before a judge. You are never certain that the law will help you. It always is “maybe, maybe not”. “That,” my cynical friend suggests, “is life in a prison. No rules.”
This is the kind of Pakistan Mian Nawaz Sharif, now the prime minister of Pakistan, is going to fix. He has a very trusted lieutenant as the interior minister. His own brother, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, is the chief minister of the largest province of the country, Punjab. Their party has just been voted massively into power. No politician could wish for more authority in Pakistan. People are prepared to trust them and give them the support they need for major decisions. But they must get on with it and do the job without listening to the conmen around them.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 8th, 2013.
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