In yesterday’s Khara Saach teaser Mubashir Luqman showed a smaller clip from the interview of Asim Malik. He brought Dr Moid Pirzada as a guest commentator. The smaller clip showed snippets from different recordings of Rana Mashood, battling Punjab Law Minister receiving money from Asim Malik on behalf of Punjab’s Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
Before I analyse the contents of the interview by Asim Malik and its implications, let’s look at the history of Dr Pirzada. Though educated and trained as a Physician, in recent years the Doctor decided to complete his Masters in Political Science. The sole purpose to change the direction was to enter the “lucrative market” of Pakistani media. This fact should always be kept in mind while listening to the comments from people like Dr Pirzada. Pirzada is not an exception, there are others like him. Another Physician comes to mind, he hoops from channel to channel in search of his dough. His reputation evaporated from my head, the day I heard him saying that he was getting £60 a week in benefits during his stay in the UK. As a citizen of the UK I am well aware how benefits are calculated in the UK. I am also aware where the Physician resided in Tooting during that period. It wouldn’t be difficult to find out “Housing Benefits” paid on the property. A short letter to the LB of Wandsworth could bring the truth in the open.
During that infamous interview the physician turned political pundit in response to a question accepted that his case was referred to the authorities. In July 2012 Dan Penteado, a presenter on BBC programme “Rouge Traders” was jailed for 12 weeks for benefit fraud. Dan’s case has an uncanny resemblance to the case of Pakistani physician with one difference. The Pakistani physician was working for a “Pakistani Channel” rather than BBC. Dan was claiming housing and council tax benefits while working for the BBC, the work he failed to declare. Pakistani physician was also working for a media outlet but he escaped the wrath of the law by declaring he is working as a volunteer.
I have thrown the second name in the mix to provide strength to my arguments. How a sensible person can give credence to such personalities after listening to their twisted answers and commentaries, at time laced with blatant lies.
After giving a brief history of “Wannabe” political pundits and their reasons to join the media, let’s move on to the history of Shahbaz Sharif before we look in to the allegations made by Asim Malik during his interview in Khara Saach and the comments made by Dr Moid Pirzada.
A video of Shahbaz Sharif’s conversation with retired Justice Qayyum is circulating over the internet for years, but strangely it has escaped the attention of Pakistani law enforcing agencies and its media. The voice recording is damning for various reasons. In any civilised country that recording would have been authenticated and the culprits puts behind bars. Considering it is Pakistan and perhaps it has the worst Police in the world, no small thanks to politicians like Sharif brothers, the clip didn’t ruffle any feathers. Shahbaz completed his last term without any murmurs, both brothers passed the stern tests of articles 62/63 of Pakistan’s constitution successfully and re-elected to the assemblies. Surely, these fact could come as a surprise for westerners after hearing the recording, but we have to keep in mind Sharifs and Zardari haven’t reach the height of fame and wealth without deliberate ignorance by Pakistani media and authorities. For decades Pakistani media has looked the other way on criminality of its political elites.
What were at stake after the first video became public knowledge? The clip showed Sharif brothers using the Judiciary for their own political benefits. Even though Shahbaz was issuing orders to the Judge, but he was relaying the instructions of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif then PM of Pakistan. In the UK the matter would have been taken up by the Police as soon as the video becoming viral on the internet. Let there be no misunderstanding, perverting the course of justice is a serious matter in every civilised society. It is national catastrophe when important post holders are involved, i.e. PM of the Country, CM of the most populous province and a High Court Judge taking instructions from the politicians like he is their personal secretary.
God bless Pakistan, the serious matter was treated as water over the duck’s body. Pakistani commentators kept quiet like nothing had happened. They still consider Sharif brothers as legitimate politicians who are elected from popular votes. What would happen to Sharif brothers in a civilised western country after the authenticity of the tape conversation is established? They would be prosecuted and sent to the nick, their rightful place. Their names disappearing from the political landscape forever. That is the difference Pakistani political commentators failed to understand and that is the reason, I for one would never give Pakistani political pundits any credence or respect. It has proven over and over in last 6 decades that the Pakistani political pundits and journalists could ignore the most basic tenet of journalism to earn their livelihood. Time and again this dictum is true in Pakistan once you separate the wheat from the chaff.
It is not the persons but the mind-set which bothers me a great deal. This blinkered mentality has brought Pakistan to its knees, but astonishingly the well paid Pakistani journalists still closing their eyes from the realities faced by Pakistan and its citizens. The same mentality was displayed in an episode of “off the record with Kashif Abbasi”, Kaira made incredible comments when facing the questions on the income and taxes of Zardari. What he said is a damning verdict on the state of affairs in Pakistan, on its judiciary, on its journalist community. According to the very “respectable” Kaira, it is not a big deal if President Zardari tax returns showed “Zero” tax liability. Kaira said Pakistan has free judiciary and anyone having gripe with the income declared by Zardari should take the matter to the courts. How true and how convenient? Indomitable Kashif, another self-proclaimed big gun of Pakistani journalism shrugged his shoulders and moved on. We have a right to conclude, Pakistan has reached abyss due to such blatant disregard to international norms. Pakistan wouldn’t be in doldrums, if the taped conversation of Shahbaz Sharif was not ignored; if Pakistanis were stringent with the finances of their politicians. Kaira wouldn’t have dared to insult the collective wisdom of the Pakistanis. He can do so, because Pakistani judiciary regularly has let the camel through the needle without raising a murmur and Pakistani journalist diaspora have let the mountains of corruption disappeared in thin air.
In such a society, Kaira is entitled to his vituperation; Zardari is entitled to live like Kings without showing any income. Bilawal has a right to say he is the new kid on the block, deserving respect and reverence. Pakistani journalists are entitled to earn big six figure salaries without having the guts to speak the truth. The truth is a scarce product in Pakistan; most of the journalists toe the line given by the corrupt political leaders. Who is there to ask “respectable” Kaira not to give us pathetic extenuation, instead he should tell us how Zardari maintains his properties around the world and a King’s life style without declaring any income?
What Dr Pirzada said after watching a brief clip of Asim Malik interview gave me collywobbles. He considered and rightly so that these are allegations made by Asim. He is right to this extent, these are indeed allegations, which should be investigated by the authorities and culprits taken to the task. I agree wholeheartedly with this approach. But with the same token, who gave Dr Pirzada the right to say, he doesn’t think that Shahbaz Sharif would have ask for a “Crore” in bribe? Or that Shahbaz Sharif would be personally behind the heavens falling on the head of Asim Malik? I am certain he does know the history of Sharifs in Pakistani politics. In such circumstances, his comments could only be taken as well out of the mark.
An honest and appropriate reply should be that knowing the history of Sharifs it is every bit conceivable they were involved in the miseries faced by Asim Malik. The saga narrated by Asim Malik looked like a Taylor-made situation created by Sharifs. They are the past masters in the creation of such scenarios.
Malik’s saga is a typical spectacle often played in Pakistan, when someone refused to toe the line given by the corrupt political masters. As a consequence of his refusal, the person faces a prospect of losing his livelihood, family and even his life. What Malik described is nothing new; thousands of Pakistanis have faced similar scenarios and lost everything they ever worked for, including their lives.
Recently we heard the story of another Malik, the Ex-Chairman of NADRA, having uncanny resemblance to the story of Asim Malik.
Tariq Malik was first pressurised to toe the line, then threatened with dire consequences, his family harassed. In the end he had to resign due to the enormous pressure applied on him and his family by the corrupt Sharifs and their cronies. He fled the country exactly like Asim Malik. Bogus cases registered against him after he left the country.
Did it make Pakistani journalists any wiser? One look at the political programs and articles reveals that instead of learning their lessons and mending their ways, Pakistani journalists have gone miles ahead in their greediness, in their vengeance and unprofessionalism. After watching and reading such episodes of professional dishonesty every day, I am entitled to conclude, Pakistani journalists are part of the problem rather than the solution.
The worse aspect of this entire skull dungaree is that these corrupt and unprofessional journalists have formed a mutual appreciation society to praise work of each other. For example, Dr Pirzada very recently praised the work of Ex Parliamentarian and Journalist Mr Ayaz Amir. Amir had been a MP of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz for years. During those years Nawaz was exactly the same person he is now. To no one’s surprise, Mr Amir saw no faults, no dishonesty in Nawaz Sharif during those years. But as soon as he is refused the party ticket in 2013 general elections Mr Amir conveniently had a bout of truth descended upon him.
Dr Pirzada should excuse my blunt approach, but in my book it is called opportunism. Sharifs were suspected criminals then and now. The telephone conversation between Shahbaz and Qayyum and what Asim Malik described in his interview about another judge of Lahore High Court are the main reasons why Sharifs are not convicted in a court of Law in Pakistan. That’s why Zardari can live like a King without anyone raising a finger against him and Kaira is also entitled to shower his twisted logic and sermons on Pakistani nation. In a recent interview, Kaira’s demi-god Zardari proclaimed Imran Khan is very naïve in politics. Zardari is entitled to call names, Imran Khan is certainly naïve and a kindergarten student compare to Zardari.
What are Zardari’s achievements in the politics? He took over the helm of affairs of one of the biggest Party in Pakistan on the basis of a Will allegedly left by his deceased wife. You wouldn’t be the first one if you are surprised from mention of a will in political context . A man could be elected as Co-Chairman of a political party on the basis of a will; this fact alone is a good parameter to shed light on the nature of Pakistani politics. It gets stranger, due to incident of his birth Bilawal the son of Zardari is the Chairman of PPP now.
Zardari has managed to expand his empire around the world. Kaira shouldn’t glee too much; Zardari’s acquisitions in the UK, USA and Europe could easily be identified through records. Compare to Zardari’s wealth what Imran has? A big house in the outskirts of Islamabad as a fruit of two decades of hard labour on the turfs of the UK is not much to boost.
Second notoriety Zardari has is the completion of 5 years term by PPP. Even though it wasn’t technically a five year term completed successfully, he did lose one of his PM Gilani during the period. But we can say the wheeler dealer succeeded to complete 5 years of his party rule, but on what cost? At the cost of huge and massive corruption, compromises against the interests of state of Pakistan and against the welfare of its people. In Pakistan, your utter failures are considered your political achievements.
A sad reality is, In Pakistan powerful people have evaded the prison cells in the past and they would continue to do so as long the status quo continues. Even if they had been in the prison cells for considerable period of time, they always claim that they were victims of political vendetta. In some cases there could be some truth to their claims but not always. In the guise of that political victimisation, Pakistani politicians have escaped the iron grip of the law and have amassed billions of Dollars in foreign countries.
It is also a ringed fence reality that Pakistani media had been and still is a protector and proponent of this corrupt political mafia and status quo. One message should be understood by all, criminals rightful place is the jail not the Parliament. The law should be applied universally to all Pakistan’s citizens. No amount of twisted logic and circular reasoning could exonerate Pakistani media from their bad deeds. The acid test is most Pakistani politicians have vast foreign fortunes despite showing meagre income, which cannot support their life styles, let alone justify the massive investment in foreign countries. None of them could provide the proofs how they have transmitted the money to invest in properties and businesses overseas. Are these two facts not enough to establish their crimes and guilt? Why Pakistani journalists have purposefully ignored these very basic principles to judge someone’s case? Even though for sake of brevity, in this article general comments are made, but for in case of every politician very conclusive arguments can be made, supported by the provisions of the law.
Fundamental changes are the needs of the hour in both Pakistani politics and in Pakistani media, otherwise Pakistan has no future in the world. Day by day it is and would continue to emerge as a “Piranha” in the world community. A dangerous amalgamation of corrupt politicians, an intolerant and violent society.
I know this article cannot find its place on the pages of Pakistan dailies; not because it is inferior but because naked truth is an alien commodity for Pakistani media.