Cowardice is certainly not a crime but there are occasions when one simply cannot forgive political cowards. Unfortunately for Pakistan, after the 2013 general elections, there is no dearth of such cowards in our parliament and provincial assemblies. Every time a terrorist attack takes place, some such coward will come forth and say something to justify the attack and the attackers, i.e. the Taliban. Most of these men are the members of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) or Mian Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
Mr Khan himself is guilty of making most callous and insensitive of statements after several terrorist attacks. When the government is unable to stop deadly attacks against its citizens, the least one expects is for our leaders to condemn the terrorists in no uncertain terms and show compassion towards those martyred. Instead, what we see is PTI and PML-N leadership calling the attackers our ‘misled brothers’ who will see the light as soon as drone attacks are stopped and/or the US-led forces leave Afghanistan. If only it were that simple. In a country besieged by violence almost on a daily basis, we need brave leaders. Instead, we have ‘leaders’ who are afraid to offer funeral prayers of their fellow politicians slain by the terrorists. We have ‘leaders’ who do not have the guts to call the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) our enemies while standing outside the house of a martyred soldier. It is at times like these that one misses Shaheed Benazir Bhutto, Shaheed Salmaan Taseer, Shaheed Bashir Bilour and their ilk even more.
As if the cowardice of our military and political leadership was not enough, some rightwing segments of our media do not want to be left behind in this race of unethical behaviour. Apart from some honourable exceptions, our media has become a conspiracy-mongering and dangerous platform. Recently, Mr Ansar Abbasi wrote an absolutely devious and dangerous book review (if it can be called that) in a local English daily analysing Malala Yousafzai’s book. By selectively choosing some paragraphs from her book and giving a twisted explanation that could put Malala’s life in even more danger than it already is, Mr Abbasi proves he has no ethics. This is not surprising. Abbasi and his coterie of journo friends have run vicious campaigns against people like Asma Jahangir, Ali Dayan Hasan and others whose worldview they do not agree with. After the assassination of Governor Salmaan Taseer, one cannot even ignore such malicious media campaigns any longer because they can lead to actual killings. Such journalists (nay criminals) have certainly given a bad name to the media in Pakistan but our tragedy is that they keep thriving in the media industry.
While we can only condemn the cowardice of our leaders — military or civilian — when it comes to their policies on terrorism/terrorists, the least we can do is challenge their false narrative. As for those media persons who put people’s lives in danger by fabricating stories, we should collectively boycott them (stop reading their stories and/or watching them on TV). We must all do our part in standing up to such hypocrites.
The writer is a Pakistani journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org