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Enough said about jokers

June 04, 2016


The writer is a former editor of Dawn.
The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

‘EVERY nation gets the government it deserves’ is a familiar quote attributed to French diplomat-philosopher Joseph de Maistre. In Pakistan’s case, the government may be what the people deserve but definitely not the media or let’s say certain media luminaries whose word is taken as gospel by their partisan audiences.

The sad bit is that these jokers, and yes there is no other polite, expletive-free way to describe them, lie blatantly but their partisan audience derides anybody questioning them, for example, on social media in the harshest of terms.

The utter tragedy of our free media, exceptions being honourably lonely, is that in a ratings-driven environment, competition represents a race down the gutter with newspaper reporters, channels and anchors vying with one another for the choicest of spots in the cesspit.

All the environmental samples for polio have tested negative. This is a first in the country’s history.

Because so many are in the pocket of this or that political party, or even intelligence agencies, whether for ideological reasons or merely material gain/greed, they shamelessly push vested agendas, and their contempt for the truth often starts to rival a religious zealot’s view of promiscuity.

The prime minister’s heart operation in London was no exception. One newspaper reporter, who has profited from his proximity to power (regardless of who is at the helm) for 30 plus years now, wrote a purported eyewitness account of Nawaz Sharif’s phone conversation with his daughter Maryam Nawaz on the eve of his surgery.

From hearing a tough resolve in the prime minister’s voice to the emotion in his daughter’s response to her onwards march to the prayer mat with tear-filled eyes, the ‘I saw it all’ report could have passed for a spoof. It wasn’t. It was presented as reportage. I still wonder if the reporter bestowed saintly status on father and daughter but that was edited out or he managed to restrain himself.

When the ‘pro’ reporter seemed to be well on his way to breasting the sycophant of the year tape, the ‘anti’ anchor catapulted out of the blocks with the ferocity of a wounded tiger and was soon well on his way to devouring the ambition of his print counterpart.

He came to the idiot box armed with ‘facts’ such as the prime minister’s quadruple graft cardiac bypass surgery took only ‘45 minutes’ and that ‘even childbirth takes longer’. Therefore, he said the whole surgery was a ‘hoax’ to divert attention away from Panama Papers.

Google for information and you’ll find out that normally a cardiac bypass surgery procedure is between three to six hours. Google for labour and you’ll learn that it could last from eight to 18 hours though child birth is unlikely to breach the upper limit.

But, of course, our own Dr Gregory House has not discovered the virtues of googling for information. Had he done so he could have saved himself another embarrassment. Yes, he ‘broke’ more startling news: The prime minister’s surgery didn’t happen at a hospital; it took place at a clinic. How could that be?!

‘Clinic’, I bet, must have conjured up images of his local GP’s or even worse quack’s ‘dispensary’ where the whole set-up may comprise a small consulting room, a waiting room and a small room with a counter from where tablets and the ‘laal sharbat’ (carminative mixture-based elixir) are dispensed for minor ailments.

The only problem was that Nawaz Sharif was receiving treatment at Harley Street Clinic, a state-of-the-art London medical facility for private patients, which has facilities to diagnose and treat the widest range of ailments. From heart operations to delicate neuro-surgeries all are performed here.

While free speech has been an issue close to my heart since my university days and still burns like a passion inside me after 32 years in the profession, if such jokers, with their vast following, shake my belief in media freedom, would you blame me?

But enough said about them. Their shenanigans can only be an irritant, and an insignificant irritant, in a week where one piece of news was like music to many ears. Not just mine. Yes, it was reported in this newspaper that all the environmental samples for polio have tested negative. This was a first in the country’s history.

Ikram Junaidi’s report from Islamabad on May 28 said a “total of 40 samples, collected under the supervision of the World Health Organisation ... in mid-April from 14 cities, were analysed at the National Institute of Health .... A sample is deemed positive if the polio virus is found in sewerage water, which is the basic parameter to determine if anti-polio campaigns have been successful.”

Dr Rana Safdar, the head of the National Emergency Operation Centre (EOC), according to the report, said the negative environmental samples were “great news” for the country. But he hastened to add that this didn’t mean polio had been eradicated. However, “an opportunity has been created to eradicate the virus during the current year.”

More than half a century after I contracted the polio virus and after countless others suffered its ravages, having been forced to lead a challenged existence in our country, that Pakistan may well be on the verge of eradicating it this year, can only be a hugely welcome development. Let there be no slip-ups. Please.

The news should also be a moment for reflection for we have, by commission or omission, created a society where dozens of polio workers and police personnel accompanying them on their sacred mission of giving drops to protect our children have been gunned down by the forces of darkness.

Having eradicated polio this year, hope we can erect a grand monument to honour our polio martyrs who gave their lives so our children can lead a normal life at least in the physical sense which is not handicapped by the residual effects of polio. Let 2017 be the Year of the Polio Martyr.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

Published in Dawn, June 4th, 2016