Nearly 300 dead after one of the worst fire incidents in the country’s history and we are witnessing the same rigmarole of ministers and officials visiting the site and promising an inquiry. Someone is again set to receive a handsome TA/DA for a couple of months, if not years. What will happen to its report is known to all of us. And of course how can we forget the official condemnation and condolence messages, starting from the president of Pakistan down to Secretary Communist Party of Pakistan?
One need not be a nuclear scientist to know that our nation is facing acute governance issues. What is baffling, however, is the extent of suffering that one has to experience almost on a daily basis in the process. All of us can understand the pain of a mother who lost three daughters and a son who died while trying to save his sisters in the Baldia fire. What is not understandable is the behaviour of reporters virtually taking over her house and thrusting microphones at her asking her how she feels and then continuing to report from the same room. Have they ever heard of the word ‘privacy’?
The fact that the media that we are so proud of is on a learning curve is known to us; it only reacts to events. There is seldom any analysis of a problem or investigative reporting prior to the event. This requires hard work and media personnel perhaps are not paid well enough to do that. So instead they rush to an accident on their OB vans shouting at the top of their voices. Those sitting in the studios repeat that which we have heard hundreds of times by now.
The state of the print media is no better. Print media is changing in the world after the influx of news channels and internet in our lives but it lacks investigative reporting, although the potential to undertake it is much higher as one can see by looking at some of the foreign papers. Our columnists have probably been saying the same thing again and again and thus have become quite predictable: peace with India; no to drone attacks; negotiate with the Baloch insurgents; chief justice supreme court should stop interfering in the democratic process but should take suo moto notice of a particular issue the columnist feels strongly about; America should leave us alone but must continue giving us aid and help get us Kashmir. They seldom preempt the issue and are also reactive. Now after the inferno in Karachi, for instance, dozens of articles will suddenly appear about the lack of safety in Pakistan’s factories. Where were they before 9/11? Does anyone read them? I judge from the reaction I get to my articles through emails that perhaps more Indians read our articles than Pakistanis. The only time I got hundreds of emails was when I dared to write about pardah under Islam. Most of them were abusive and some continued for such a long time that I had to block them.
I may sound cynical but am I not telling the truth? Where is the silver lining? Hardly anybody reads. We use the internet, not to gain knowledge but to search for jobs or (you guessed it!) pornography – the highest searches on Google in the world are from Pakistan.
The folks in the media should speak perfect Urdu as mercifully we do not have any English channels now. Few if any can do so. The emphasis is more on appearance than delivery, and content of course is secondary. The state of print media is equally bad, with few having good command over the languages.
Our educational institutions then must be doing something wrong. If you meet school, college and university teachers, you find out the reasons. And if you discuss issues with them, it becomes even more tragic.
Our higher courts conduct themselves in English. Half the time the pleadings drafted by the lawyers appear to be in Polish and it is disturbing when one sees a similar phenomenon with the judgments.
Our standard of English is fast declining, which is fine since it is a foreign language but as long as it is being replaced by the national one. But we stick with English in almost everything but have no mastery over it. The result is catastrophic as even our comprehension of what is being said gets affected. Our laws, including even the constitution, are drafted poorly leading to innumerable strange interpretations. The lack of understanding of English makes it worse.
So is there any hope and solution to all of the above? There is. To begin with, we can wait for a miracle. Most of us are already doing that, including when watching a cricket match between India and Pakistan. We are perhaps the only country that prays during sports and, despite 180 million earnestly praying for a victory, we have lost many times. We have been doing the same for the liberation of Palestine and Kashmir. The problem is that we can continue to pray that we be transported to the moon but it will not happen unless we become proactive.
The other option is a revolution. I am not talking of a “tsunami” here but an actual revolution – the kind Iran experienced in 1979. But it comes with leadership, which is presently not visible but maybe it will miraculously crop up the way Bhutto did in the sixties after serving Ayub’s military regime for eight long years or like Khomeini who remained quiet for 26 years under the Shah’s rule before surfacing out of the blue.
There is a third option that will also do the trick but which is against the law to suggest and I would thus refrain from commenting upon.
The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court.