PM’s request

Published September 3, 2018

To be fair, no government can be expected to work miracles within weeks of coming to power. That is why Imran Khan’s request at a meeting with a number of anchorpersons at Prime Minister House in Islamabad — that his government be given three months before its performance is criticised — is not unreasonable.

Among the issues discussed were: the accountability of PTI leaders; the use of official helicopters by the Punjab chief minister’s family; the altercation between the First Lady’s former husband and DPO Pakpattan that resulted in the latter’s transfer; and unseemly remarks by the Punjab information minister against a theatre star. The prime minister assured the media persons that there would be a perceptible difference in how the country was run in three months’ time.

The prime minister has a point, to some extent. There are many areas of governance in Pakistan that require major systemic reform. Sound policies are needed, and these will only show incremental results over time. For example, Finance Minister Asad Umar has said it may take up to three years to stabilise Pakistan’s deteriorating financial situation.

Shrill denunciations are not going to hasten the process. Thus it is only fitting that the new administration, barely two weeks into its term, be cut some slack over policy matters in the initial few months. However, that does not mean the media should turn a blind eye to the missteps and avoidable mistakes made by the government in the meantime. After all, while PTI has come into power at the centre for the first time, it has led the KP government for the last five years and should have a grip on what is required to avoid kerfuffles that only provide fodder for naysayers and distract from the larger picture.

The actions and utterances of those occupying some of the top government posts have come in for valid criticism. So has PTI’s stated intention to overhaul media regulation — the federal information minister used that loaded word, ‘censorship’ — a move denounced by various journalist bodies.

Such missteps have taken away from some of the positives: for example, the government has lifted political censorship from all state-run media outlets, and some of its appointees to important posts are competent individuals. The media must be a watchdog for public interest, but a balanced one, at the same time.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018

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