When my favorite TV anchor got snubbed by a PPP minister (the party I blame for most of Pakistan’s problems), and I could only agree with the latter.
Media bias remains one of the mainstream issues in political debate worldwide. We have seen Western media for instance promulgate wars for ‘peace’ and decades later we see ourselves grappling with sham ‘evidence’. Similarly, Pakistani media has been criticized for presenting a partial picture; to attract a bigger audience, or propagate the interests of those financing them. Either way, yesterday’s ‘heated debate’ left Kamran Khan speechless for the latter twenty six minutes of the show. Kaira, good or bad, was able to pin down Khan’s strategy, which is not a new one to political debate.
Only ten days ago: PPP, owing to the delicacy of politico-judicial crises for the leading party, decided to replace the painfully blunt Firdous Ashiq Awan by Qamar Zaman Kaira. Like most appointments this one too has its own share of controversies attached. Firstly the eleven newly formed ministries themselves are questionable, and it was part of the re-shuffling process that Kaira came in the picture once more. Kaira does not occupy a controversial ministry though; quite frankly this replacement from ‘Firdous Ashiq Awan’ is a pleasant one, PPP haters too must admit. Secondly, the PPP government has been accused of corruption, and it is no secret that this government’s decisions have damaged Pakistan’s institutions, economy and the common man’s basic lifestyle.
As the Information Minister, Kaira was hot in demand yesterday (25 April, 2012), just a few hours before the PM’s much awaited verdict was to be announced. Kamran Khan, one of Pakistan’s most respected talk show hosts, managed to get Kaira on his prime time show on Geo television. But this respected show host managed to mention selected facts and even misquoted the Prime Minister.
Kamran Khan firstly failed to mention that ‘the evidence’ he was quoting against the Prime Minister, his family and other PPP officials, had yet to pass the court’s litmus test. One doesn’t need to lie in order to present a skewed picture, and that is exactly what Kaira started his twenty six minutes with. While Khan was busy ‘sensationalizing’ the situation by quoting all the facts that work against the Prime Minister and the PPP government, how could he not have an agenda in mind?
About Ali Musa Gilani, I personally wouldn’t put the drug scandal past him, but that is my personal opinion. In a drawing room debate, over lunch, or even on my blog I can express this as my opinion. I could even go on to present my opinion as fact, but unless I have reliable sources of information, my statement will only demand the meager status of an opinion. About the Mrs. Gilani’s loan too, Khan should have mentioned (as Kaira pointed out in his rebuttal) the state bank’s policy rather than just talking about her loan being forgiven. However he only chose to mention facts that turned the audience hostile towards a PPP representative, the right scenario for him to emerge savior of the evening. Musa Gilani’s case should have been explained; the fact that PPP is the first government to send their own ministers to prison, and Khan should have also gone to mention that Mrs. Gilani was one of the thousands who defaulted.
Does Kamran Khan’s choice of facts give us any idea what he is trying to achieve? As one of the more respected talk show hosts, with an audience of millions, should Kamran Khan not be particularly careful to remain neutral? Khan’s defense to Kaira’s twenty six minute long refutation was that ‘none of these claims were false’ or new to the audience. But does Kamran Khan honestly think his choice of facts, tone, words and body language combined were not skewing public opinion? Even more importantly should we, the audience, fed up of the PPP government, blindly cheer on anyone who put this government down?
Kaira’s rebuttal solely dealt with Khan’s choice of words and his motives which have become apparent. But the people I watched the show with expressed anger and disappointment when they saw a PPP representative shut their hero up on prime time. Khan remained quiet for the most part. A more obvious defeat, especially on home ground, prime time, one of the most watched channels of Pakistan, was painful for Khan and his fans. This makes me question the bias in general. Nothing Kaira said was wrong. Whether he is good or bad was irrelevant at least to me, rather I appreciated his clarity in telling Kamran Khan off for trying to skew public opinion and exploiting the sensitivity of the hour.
Media in general needs to try to be neutral. But for an audience that enjoys bias, and where even the most educated and aware want to pick sides before the debate begins, does logic even hold? I don’t know if Kaira is a corrupt man, I am anything but a PPP supporter and I have always been a Kamran Khan fan. I also believe that every individual has their own opinions, preferences, and a right to choose what they feel is right. But as citizens of a state it becomes our responsibility to choose logic over emotions. A bad person (hypothetically speaking) could be making more sense at times. And we must put our personal biases aside and appreciate those rare moments instead of taking them as blows.
The PPPs tenure has been challenging, but our challenge as citizens is to see through deception as a whole.