Mass Communication

Pakistan’s modern day media challenges

I am a great supporter of media growth and its freedom which keeps the public informed, shows a mirror to rulers and facilitates a debate on the policies of the govt which have far reaching effects on nation’s day to day business including a portrayal of other side view. I must accept that media growth is new in the country and it will take time to counter western media challenges as well as addressing our own inefficiencies in time but one thing which is quite irritating is the control with which this newly attained power be used keeping in view the national interest of their own country. BBC is renowned in news making business, however their ultimate allocation & reaction to events and news affecting their national interest would be positive and timely whereas this newly grown outfit in Pakistan must not ignore their important national contribution share in safeguarding the interest which comes with the job as wherever there are extreme rights there are extreme responsibilities too.

China has been hit with one of its history’s the worst quake resulting in thousands of death(s), Burmese are going through the effects of one of worst tsunami of 2 May in their country where 200,000 people were already dead or dying and Indians have been hit by latest bomb blasts in Jai Pur on 13th May resulting in several deaths, but looking at last week’s Pakistani newspapers and media programmes in totality its regrettable that their share in highlighting such events in order to shape public opinion in order to assist nation’s due response over these events is minimal, unbefitting and unjust. I would even go to an extent that it is criminal negligence to ignore such events in China as the issue in hand is core to nation’s heart and mind and is not properly portrayed.

China is an emerging economy in the world, a strategic partner and a long trusted ally of Pakistan who come and stay with us through thick and thin not like USA who never came whenever the country was in dire need. China’s support during Wars and in peace time to the country is exemplary and their contribution during our bad time is praiseworthy but our media has failed to acknowledge our national strategic interest in order to inform and shape public opinion as it is their duty to wake the masses as well as the govt to encourage reciprocal response of cooperation which we always received in order to strengthen people to people contact with our strategic partner. Pakistan was hit by the quake in the capital and Azad Kashmir on 8 October 2005 and it registered a debatable 7.6 or 7.7 on the Richter scale and around November, the official death toll was 79,000 though the overall figure was quite high and aid poured in from the entire world including China. China was hit by a quake on 12 May the quake measured 7.5 on the Richter scale and tremors were felt as far away as Thailand and Vietnam. It hit 57 miles (92km) north-west of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, at 2.28pm (7.28am BST). The death toll from the most deadly earthquake of its history have reached over 10,000 and on 16 May Chinese officials raised their estimate of the number of people killed to nearly 21,000. The latest figures put the number of people still buried at 26,000 and the missing at 14,000 where 7000 schools collapsed. The Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao, rushed to the area and appealed for people to rally together and said, “In the face of the disaster, what’s most important is calmness, confidence, courage and powerful command.” The quake is the worst to hit China in 32 years since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake in north-eastern China which claimed up to 300,000 lives.
Pakistani media having known the feelings of such fatality from their own experience of October 2005 quake in Pakistan remained casual with this news and developments which is unforgiveable. They should be at forefront in running ‘News Breaks’ and doing reports on china Pakistan bilateral friendship and cooperation which is an asset for the state. They should have given worthy coverage to the topic and must have encouraged the public as to the possible reaction in order to facilitate walks and collect funds or charity symbolically to support those schools where all 4 storey’s turned into rubble and must have asked the public to make a mountain of flowers outside the embassy of china in Islamabad showing solidarity to Chinese people in their time of need. It is their utmost duty to show the countrymen the possible ways to show our feelings and contribute even if it is little to strengthen our deep rooted historic ties & cooperation thus building our national self respect. Pakistan may be a poor country but not senseless in a sense that it cannot respond love and friendship reciprocally and media’s role is vital to engage the nation in other worthy causes but highlight their role towards this too. Upon media encouragement if 5 rupee collection on a larger scale is given in some thousands to Chinese Govt, it will make a symbolic gesture that Pakistani people may not contribute befittingly as China did during their disaster but their support, cooperation and friendship in spirit is as good as Chinese.

Media can play an important role in country’s grooming and upgrading psychological profile. If the role of media does not change from just covering political events only where politics has been turned into a ‘national sports’ and all the nation from a taxi driver to milkman are all advising judges how to handle Musharraf and whenever, one turns the television on one nearly have a heart attack with the flashing of breaking news which is none other than a meeting of a politician(s) except china’s earth quake update, Burmese tsunami efforts or some international or national aspect then I am afraid people who are psychologically wrecked by these developments will run for refuge after the restoration of judges as their problem of water shortage, price hike, unemployment, electricity, food and oil and international recession are not going to be solved with meager claims and cheaper slogans.

Nation takes pride from what they do in their life span, our individual and national character is at stake and we are blaming others. The wreck less emerging psyche from apathy and hopelessness is visible from the gang rape of ‘Kubra’ in the vicinity of the tomb of Mr. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan in Karachi. I watch BBC and compare with it with some of our programmes and wonder that though in Pakistan media is in their early days and there are teething problems but national interest is not protected conditionally only if General Musharraf is out of the Presidential slot. National interest is as ‘live & active’ as our neighbors because as we cannot change our neighbors similarly media can not absolve themselves from the responsibility to protect our national interest. Pakistani media has a role to play and they must play it honestly considering it their faith professionally as its their ‘bread and butter’ and perfectly as it’s their work which distinguishes them from the other comparators in the international market. By sitting on chair and grilling few politician of present and past and doing a ‘monkey show’ our national and strategically historic problems are not going to solve but that time waste may cost us a lot. So Pakistani media must wake up, and warn the nation of their requisite task and shake their humanity by hitting the nail aright as china is in trouble and is asking for help. So wake up Pakistani media, you have a job to do.

Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court (England) and a political analyst based in UK

About the author

Amjad Malik

Amjad Malik, Solicitor–Advocate of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, life member of SCBA of Pakistan, a specialist in immigration and Human Rights Law. He is a member of Law Society’s Immigration Law Committee’, he was awarded ‘Young Human Rights Lawyer Award’ for the year 2000. In the year 2001,Young Pro Bono Solicitor’s Group also named him for the national ‘Young Pro Bono Solicitor Award’. On 28 February 2007 he was awarded by (UICF) United International Community Forum (UK) in recognition to his outstanding professional contribution towards service of Asian and British community in role model capacity where Chief guest was Mrs. Cherrie Blair. He sits on ‘UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Pro Bono Lawyer’s Panel.’ He is UK representative on young lawyer committee of the International Bar Association & UK Director of Human Rights Foundation (USA) and is a current Vice chair of ‘Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK)’.

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  • British Home Secretary’s condemnation of 9th of April Karachi riots & assurance of concrete actions to curb racial incitement and application of the arm of law

    Association of Pakistani Lawyers a team of Pakistani origin lawyers, Solicitors, Barristers, Judges in UK jointly condemned in highest terms uncalled for riots of 9th of April which resulted in burnings of lawyers alive in their chambers to sabotage the newly installed Govt, deteriorating the law an order situation thus creating unrest and fear in the city in Pakistan.

    APL noted with great concern the role of exiled fire brands who are inciting racial hatred abroad which results in killing of innocent human beings. APL raised this issue with British Govt on 17 May 2007 and once again raised this issue with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown & Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on 11 April 2008 which a question that Britain may be under a retaliatory threat to its public order due to unlawful events developing on and after 12th May 2007 in Karachi which were repeated on 9th April 2008 which virtually held the city in a siege for 6 hours and the city observed the worst lawlessness which did not spare media personnel too and any possible links of uk in this.
    Responding on behalf of British Govt Juliet McCarmmon wrote to APL Secretary condemning such acts and assuring the UK lawyers of the available protection and remedies available under existing legislation. She said
    She wrote as following,
    “Thank you for your letter of 11 April 2008 addressed to the Home Secretary about incitement to racial hatred in Karachi on 9April 2008, which you allege is by people in London. I have been asked to reply. The Government abhors all forms of violence and deplores the atrocities that occurred in the riots in Karachi on 9 April 2008.Where a crime has been committed or if there is an allegation of crime, a complaint must be made to the local police. It’s the police’s duty to investigate. If they do and identify evidence against one or more suspects, they must notify the Crown Prosecution Service. The CPS will then consider whether a prosecution is needed in the public interest. You say at Paragraph 3 of your letter that a particular individual is suspected of being to blame for the riots. If you have any evidence that this person, encouraged the riots that took place in Karachi you should report the matter to the police who will take the appropriate measures to deal with the matter. We have introduced a number of offences for tackling race and religious related hate crimes. For example, nine racially-aggravated offences were introduced in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which included assaults, criminal damage and harassment, which make available to the courts higher maximum penalties where this is evidence of racist motivation or racial hostility in connection with offence. The Act also requires a judge or magistrate dealing with any offence that is racially aggravated to state in open court that they have found it to be aggravated, and meriting an increased sentence. The offences also give a higher profile to the racial elements in crimes by requiring the police to look for evidence at the earliest possible opportunity, and by ensuring that the racial element of a crime goes before the jury. Juliet McCammon, 10/06/08”
    APL spokesman hoped that their representations are given due weight in the public interest in order to avoid and check before hand any unrest and criminal activity taking place any where in the world which has links to London and may have the potential to result in mass killings.

    Approved by the chair and executive of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers (UK)

    13 June 2008

  • Silent Revolution (1)
    By: Amjad Malik

    Public have silently spoken through ballot putting added pressure on our political clan who always fall a prey to pragmatism and accept defeat before even the battle starts. Lawyers moved, bench stood up, media bore with the bashing honourably but only the clan of Q did not move and surrender to public demand and in the end they fell badly from their throne as pride hath a fall. Now public with sheer wisdom have given the task to the new parliament to sort out the mess the country is in rather than boycotting or bringing an orange revolution which is in true sense a silent revolution where opponent is defeated though still alive.

    I foresee many tasks which are coming before the new Parliament and I will divide in 4 issues, constitutional, judicial, Social, and nationalism. I will talk on first two in this essay. First and foremost task ahead is to liberate the Parliament from the unseen pressures and fears including Art.58(2)b. There is no doubt that we have mutilated the constitution badly into a position that its neither Islamic nor UK or US style, its a mixture of all three and its neither Presidential nor Parliamentary. Parliament needs to at once resort to constitutional overhaul to bring it back to the place where it stood on 12 October 1999, sooner it is done the better it is. We also need to determine the role of army in politics. Hamood ur Rehman commission was quick to depict our weaknesses earlier in 70’s and in particular I quote one sentence from the report at Chapter 1, Para (9), according to Rear Admiral M. Sharif (Witness No. 283) who was the Flag Officer Commanding the Pakistan Navy in East Pakistan, said ” While learning the art of politics in this newly assigned role to themselves, they gradually abandoned their primary function of the art of soldiering, they also started amassing wealth and usurping status for themselves.” We need to decide, do we still wish to keep the role of army in our politics, if yes, Parliamentary defence committee could be broadened further giving more representation and say of army commanders in it. If the answer is negative, which to me is just, then Parliament may consider amending the Article 6 finishing ‘the law of necessity’ and creating a free standing clause that any commander of armed forces who invades the parliamentary sovereignty and abrogate the Constitution will stand dismissed from his post of government service and SC will initiate the trial under Art.6 of the Constitution of 1973 forthwith and give judgement within 90 days and his deputy will take oath as acting commander of armed forces whilst the article 6 trial is pending. I think we are ignoring the development, India and Bangladesh have made to curb this tendency to coup de tat especially in the promotion of officers of the armed forces and these promotions from the rank of Lt. Colonel may be brought under Parliament ideally before defence Minister and Chief Executive, of course with the recommendation of their commander to bring the officers who are ready to die in the line of duty for their country to be accountable to civilian authority. It is similar to judges, higher officials of police and civilian machinery. There is no shred of doubt that Pakistan army is one of the finest and can do any task given the opportunity however, its past record of bringing in 4 martial laws in the short span of country’s 60 years life speaks for itself that there is a need of genuine thinking to make this organisation parliament friendly and new army commander with his wisdom and consultation must consider to compete with other armed forces in the region as well as bringing it to some sort of legal excellence, thus by default promoting the parliamentary form of democracy in the state of Pakistan.
    Second most important task would be to create an independent judiciary which in true sense can act as a buffer zone between the power struggle of politicians and Generals and may act given the opportunity as an arbitrator to absorb all the shocks to the state and handle any tussle between the institutions in accordance with the law of the land and where provinces have a grudge with the other, it can safeguard the national interest. Looking at the scene very few legal stalwarts are left untarnished by the mighty, but still bar, bench and media can take this struggle further to strengthen the judiciary in true sense. Dream of independent judiciary though does not suit the rulers military as well as civil but inevitably is the key to stop military interventions in order to bring true democracy. However this independence does not come easy. Lawyers need to keep its ranks politics free and work hand in hand with the bench. A lawyer’s work must start from its professional service and must peak to the highest ranks of the bench. If lawyers wish to play a political role, they must continue their politics of electioneering, however to promote the fairness and independence they must consider not to act in dual capacity being an office bearer of a political party and elected member of bar thus avoiding unnecessary conflict of interests as there is a room of both interests conflicting with each other. In that case either you can be loyal to one party or the Bar & cause of judiciary. Judiciary as an institution also requires financial autonomy, complete separation of power from executive, a crystal clear method of appointment of judges, and they must be held to account only by Parliament. They must be facilitated for their ongoing professional training and mentoring, personal security, as well as constitutional safeguard from executive man handling. Its a dream which has no complete answer and can only be achieved with the passage of time if necessary steps are taken. If our children in schools now study law and attain the right to judgeship after duly required qualifying criteria with the environment predicted only then we can say that the judiciary is on the sail to its freedom and independence. It is not liberated with one decision as happened on 20 July 2007 and it will not be liberated with one man as was the case with Justice Choudhary as still Nawaz Sharif was deported on 10 of September 2007 which shows the clear conviction of the establishment on the topic. Its an ongoing struggle which requires vision and political will to facilitate that atmosphere in which a judge can dispense justice. The image of detained judges with families is horrific one and its a night mare for rulers who have received their first instalment by way of 18th February election results and if the mandate is not accepted then people may take to street to embrace the detained judges and escort them with their full honour to their courts by force as rulers may not accept the power of vote and that’s the language they are promoting ‘might is right’. That’s the way things are in General Mushrraf’s Pakistan where government is constituted and run by force and people are coming to a stage where they will feel that judges need to dispense justice by force too, though the anomaly is very dangerous but someone should listen to the verdict of janta too the lonely voice of silent majority who always remain out of touch in the country’s national business. People wishes to see Quaid e Azam’s Pakistan in which judges are not detained, media acts free and Parliament is sovereign and army protects the borders of the country, that’s for 4 million people laid their lives to bring this dream come true. Thank God Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is not alive to see all this lawlessness otherwise he would have caught the collar of the ruler and would have said, ‘what have you done to my Pakistan’.

    Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court (England) and a political analyst based in UK

    5 March 2008

  • Silent Revolution (2)
    By: Amjad Malik

    My brief visit to Pakistan in March was welcomed by suicidal blast in Lahore FIA building and farewell attack in Islamabad restaurant resulting several deaths and injuries which pose a serious question of law an order situation in Pakistan where some ordinary citizens still believe that its more of self created problem and may be some agencies involved in it. Opinion is divided which is fatal for Pakistan as govt of the day has failed to send a message across the gravity of situation where unknown sophisticatedly armed men are willing to die with hundred others to score some political point, is it a revenge or the foreign invasion of different kind. It may be the failure of Musharraf regime to properly advocate in favour of their ill thought policies which are back firing. As a nation Pakistanis are not trained to an extent where they can stop any danger coming towards the state in fact, we all awake when the water is above the danger threshold, and nationalism is no where seen in Pakistan and alas Qauid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah is confined to portraits and ceremonial status. His sayings and doings are hardly remembered in particular by our rulers. If they are acted upon from the beginning or even now, we would not be in the mess we are currently in.

    12th May massacre showed the tendency of rulers to an extent they may go to suppress lawful drive for constitutionalism in Pakistan, however, the way nation behaved over the tragic death of late Be Nazir burning their own train stations, looting banks and blowing businesses and damaging properties is a worrying sign for the flag carriers of federation. We need to knit ourselves to one nation without caring our geographical heritage or regional location in order to combat the 21st century war of information. Of course, language can play an important and integral part in carrying the message and none other than Urdu could be used to broadcast national message which may be understood by all as if you speak in foreign language how can you convey your message in a borrowed language. I would go one step further and would recommend national disciplinary service to train the whole nation towards rule of law & basic defence drive so that we as a nation start to learn respecting the law of the land.

    Common Pakistanis are hit by price hike, lawlessness, and are suffering due to lack of educational, health and social welfare facilities and above all we are perturbed by political Mullah’s role in our day to day life. Extremism is multiplying and lack of stable political activity is doubling the radicalisation in our attitude where poverty and unemployment throw a bait to the rich mafia to do dirty and manipulate our young uneducated radical mind to use suicidal attacks as a fire work. Political business reduce tension and put people on table to solve problems. Pakistan needs a national drive of reconciliation to set up a political system and ponder on a serious social charter where nation which lacks infrastructure can come nearer to a dream to get justice, economic strength and basic necessities like free education, state health service and employment. New govt must consider granting the dictatorship ridden Pakistan a ray of hope where social welfare dream comes true. A lay person gets justice at the door step due to devolution of justice system to the town level, poor gets flour to eat bread and gets employment and his sick mother can be treated free at a national hospital and his daughter can go to school trouble free at state expense. At the moment people in General Musharraf’s Pakistan are on the street with mobile phone in their hands crying for shortage of flour, sugar, oil and high price petrol. ‘Work work and more work’ must be the aim of the nation who achieved the statehood after sacrificing 4 million souls in 1947 and democratic parties must show sensitivity befitting to the situation and try to promote culture of democracy within their parties and try to bring the politics of issues back in business and remove high level investment out of electioneering. As it stands politics is a cup of tea of a investor mafia, landlords, successful business men or retired bureaucrats and lay middle class cannot even think participating elections as normal election cost around 20 million Pakistani rupees and one who invest that much would definitely wait to double their investment once elected. The whole business of politics must be brought back at a cup of tea rather than a tea break with a roast chicken and India’s example is in front of us.

    We must foster new traditions where live and let live must be the motto and the whole nation must be taken into confidence in this national drive of building Pakistan once again. We are once again at a stage where we have to decide and revive the principle and discipline ourselves to beat other nations with progress, modernity of mind and prosperity of our life style where we are well versed of our Islamic teachings ourselves so that mosque leader does not take advantage of our ignorance and interpret Islam the way he likes. Pakistan is in serious trouble at the hands of a few and the nation can beat this faceless enemy who is after its progress, modernity, and conservatism if the difference between our sayings and doings is eradicated and we all work for national cause. Pakistan first seems a popular slogan but do the rulers really mean it. Pakistan day begs this very question if the country comes first then why the whole nation is witnessing unprecedented oppression against the chief justice and his fellows who took a stand to preserve the interest of state first than the interest of a man. Is it not what Article 5 of the constitution 1973 says, “ (1) loyalty to the state is the basic duty of every citizen.” Lets all be loyal to the state of Quaid e Azam on this 23 March and onwards.

    Amjad Malik is a Solicitor-Advocate of the Supreme Court (England) and a political analyst based in UK

    23 March 2008