If you think people like Zaid Hamid, Aamir Liaquat and Atiqa Odho are kind of silly with their usual convoluted rants studded with the most worn-out clichés regarding India, Israel, Islam and more – think again.
A bulk of those appearing on popular Urdu news channels or writing columns and editorials in some newspapers can get equally silly, if not worse. Take the example of how some dailies and channels ran stories about the supposed Wikileaks documents that portrayed some Indian generals as being bigots who are anti-Pakistan and how India was involved in all the terrible happenings in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Well within hours after some dailies – three of them right-wing and one kind of liberal – broke this stunning disclosure in their headlines, a media blog, Café Pyala, made bare that the dramatic leaks in this respect were actually false. Soon, The Guardian’s Declan Walsh too, was out proving the same in a story for the respected British newspaper and by the evening, numerous left/liberal Pakistani websites had also picked up on the debacle.
It was thus logically expected that the involved newspapers would at once publish a retraction on their websites.
But that would be asking for a bit much from the media which has created a large bubble around itself – a kind of pro-reactive drawing-room Utopia-turned-dystopia that its advocates are always hell-bent on defending, no matter how silly, infuriating and sometimes, downright ugly they may come out sounding.
The message in this regard also had something to do with taking those liberals to task who always mocked these super patriots of being conspiratorial cranks: ‘Now that we have the proof, we’ll show them how right we were!’
Unfortunately, the so-called proof that these gentlemen could have waved as an evidence of their (somewhat questionable) sanity, came to a naught. It was all a lie. A desperate (and somewhat childish) scheme hatched in certain ‘think tanks’ where jumpy little chauvinists and patriots contemplate (nay, convolute and disfigure) everything from history to news items, in an attempt to keep certain overbearing institutions of the establishment from harm’s way.
Each time any of these institutions is rocked by a scandal or an exposé, certain newspapers and TV channels suddenly start teeming with loud deniers who would go to absurd lengths to divert the public’s attention towards something more ‘substantial’, such as of course, the ‘record-breaking corruption’ of this government, the fantastic job the free judiciary is doing, or how India remains the greatest threat to Pakistan. Or some feel-good lectures by a crank or two, usually crammed with airy myths presented as historical facts, are unleashed.
This has happened so many times that one wonders whether what many journalists and politicians on the other side of the ideological fence say, is true. Whether most of the media personnel we see on our TV screens or read about in the newspaper, who are always so passionately waving the flag of Pakistan and spouting contempt against corruption (especially when a narrative by the establishment comes under stress), may very well be the proverbial ‘agency men?’
Is veteran journalist, author and media commentator, late Zamir Niazi’s fear and warnings about the Pakistani media becoming a chaotic hub of agency men who are amorally willing to lie and cheat to protect even the most atrocious ways of their patrons in the figurative establishment be true? Perhaps. But the deluge that was created by the Wikileaks around certain sacred cows who identify themselves to be the saviours of Pakistan’s internal and external religious and ideological identity - mainly the military, the political clergy and Saudi Arabia – was such that no attempt to deflect criticism from these gallant souls seemed to be working.
So, off went many dailies and TV channels to try something else. First, certain specific leaks were selected to make the President seem like a Satan incarnate. Not much came out of this, and the gear was shifted and all of sudden one saw certain journalists claiming something about how the leaks were a conspiracy against Muslims. Obviously, this too made them seem even sillier, until the fake leaks – certainly a desperate last ditch effort.
Although some dailies were gracious enough to publish an apology the next morning, the two major Urdu papers and the TV channels did not. By refusing to acknowledge just how this calculated blunder has once and for all undermined all the self-glorified hoopla these media houses are known to air about their dedication of working towards a corruption-free Pakistan, they have at best become an international laughing stock, and at worst, are now perceived as nothing but a rabid set of liars.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com.