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Media's gaping hole

November 25, 2011

-Photo Illustration by Abro

Hussain Haqqani’s was definitely last week’s most watched media trial on prime time TV. Far from being done with him, this Thursday, the media found a new newsmaker in one Zainab Bibi. The woman ‘confessed’ to the police, under the camera glare, that she had indeed murdered her husband and then tried to cook his body parts just when the neighbours raised alarm and called in the cops. The reason for the brutal murder: he was a drunkard and used to beat up his wife and step daughter.

You might think that the most disgusting aspect of the uncanny show was the TV anchor interviewing her at the police station, and self-righteously grilling her to extract step-by-step gory details of the crime. But think again, for this is Pakistani media which does not know where to stop.

Cut to the studio, and the same anchor had on live calls a Mufti Sahab and a woman rights activist. The maulana hurriedly declared Zainab Bibi a liar and doubted her statement as to the motive of killing her husband; the rights activist condemned the murder and asked the maulana to also condemn in similar words the killer of Salmaan Taseer. This is where the anchor’s wish was granted and all hell broke loose.

The maulana categorically stated that Qadri in his love for the Prophet of Islam was overwhelmed by the blasphemy committed by the former governor, Punjab and killed him. It was a crime of passion, committed in the heat of the moment, which did not allow the murderer the time to think clearly. In the normal course, Qadri should have brought a blasphemy case against the governor.

This was too much to fathom for the rights activist and a two-way shouting match ensued. The maulana accused the rights activist of being westernised in her thinking; she in turn accused the maulana of being ill-mannered because of his bad upbringing. The anchor took a commercial break after failing to silence either of them.

A few questions of media and police ethics arise here: Why was the anchor allowed to interview the accused at length at the police station to prove her culpability beyond a doubt to his audience, who sat in jury on her? Why did the anchor give ready credence to Zainab’s confession? Why were a maulana and a rights activist selected to debate the issue? A murder had been committed, and neither the cleric nor the rights activist qualified as a criminologist or a sociologist.

Given the mudslinging that ensued between the two panelists who championed very different and unrelated causes to the crime that was committed, the show ratings must have gone through the roof, thus serving the cause of the channel and not of justice, much less of holding an intelligent debate.

The take-home for the audience: the self-confessed murderer wife shall burn in hell alongside the rights activist who, it seemed, was cornered into defending the ‘murderer’, citing high incidence of domestic violence in which mostly women are the victims. The maulana conveniently ‘established’ the non-credibility of the rights activist because most NGOs that play up violence against women in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are funded by anti-Islam donors and manned by westernised Pakistanis who seek their guidance from the West and not the Quran and Sunnah. The maulana also ostensibly scored a high point by asking the rights activist to repent for what she had to say on Salmaan Taseer’s murder.

The missing gap — and a gaping hole it is — lies in the fact that Pakistan has 21st century information technology to showcase only medieval mindsets. Religion remains the prism through which everything and every issue must be seen for any validation.

A sorry state to be in, indeed.


The writer is a member of the staff at Dawn Newspaper.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.