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Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Show of All Shows

Original Article: Daily Times
Date Published: June 21, 2012

A show' is always a show. It is a display, an act, a make-believe scenario if you will, mixed and laced with some reality, but a show nevertheless. The recent development in the Pakistani current affairs talk shows is a compelling testimony for my usual abstinence from this mind numbing and perhaps, mind-'dumbing' exercise. Anytime my twitter timeline lights up, either complaining or praising, then I am out of luck and reluctantly succumb and subject myself to such a 'cruel punishment'.

Before my readers get an unsolicited take on the recent 'earth shattering' developments that are 'cleverly' dubbed 'mediagate', I offer my unconditional disclaimer. I am not employed (not even at this venue) at any print or electronic media organisation in any capacity. Nor have I ever known personally, worked or served at any business concern of, say, the 'Donald Trump of Pakistan', Mr Malik Riaz. Therefore, my commentary solely represents my personal views, and in no shape is meant to ridicule any parties at all — be it any plaintiffs, defendants, media or the respected judiciary. It is solely independent and unbiased, purely based on an objective analysis.

I witnessed the on and off-camera 'episodes' of the 'show' that brought such a firestorm of criticism and the usual bashing from our public. Somehow, respectfully, I do not agree with the public's expected and 'plainly reactionary' attitude. The shock displayed by many, to me, is worth a shock. By the way, I disagree with both anchors vehemently on most occasions and criticise them on Twitter very regularly. In this particular incident, I believe both are being made a 'scapegoat' and here are my reasons.

If you recall, the whole incident between the two parties, Mr Riaz and Dr Iftikhar is a 'purely civil' matter. It is a case of the 'alleged monetary transactions' between the two. In other words, the respected Supreme Court (SC), when it discovered this issue, should have directed the parties to go to the lower courts or another proper venue to hash out their differences. When the respected SC intervened in the name of the public interest, it actually jumped the gun, thus making itself a party into a matter that is shrouded with 'conflict of interest'. Then the Honourable Chief Justice's subsequent recusal and formation of a two-member bench added more questions, rather than answering them. Thus in my humble opinion, by making itself a party in the case, the august bench has actually hurt the cause of an independent and unbiased adjudication of the matter.

Moving on to the great discovery of the unauthorised footage of the 'shock and awe' show of the two aforementioned anchors. Firstly, a stolen property, in any reasonable country, will be considered 'inadmissible evidence' in a court of law. Try taking Wikileaks as a sole basis of your complaint; more than likely, it will be thrown out as in most western courts. The basis is, if any evidence is obtained without prior consent of the parties, their right of privacy protects it. Any footage that is meant to be off-air, is exactly what it means. The conversations, comments and actions are thus private. So legally anyone who let those out is not a hero, but for lack of a better word, a thief. It is almost equivalent to stealing cash from a vault, as the company suffers from monetary damages due to negative publicity. Lastly, it is a breach of any company policy to share its material with others without its prior consent.

Now to the so-called smoking gun and as they say, if you were to go to the kitchen of a restaurant, you would perhaps think twice before eating out again. What goes on behind the scenes on a set is no exception. Everyone knew that Mr Riaz was going to deliver his side of the story in multiple instalments; as a clever businessman he knows that the primetime slots will be the prime spots for his 'revelations'. If sensation is what sells in town, then all he was trying to do was sell it, perhaps to the highest bidder. To demonise him is very disingenuous, to say the least. Granted he is no angel, but as I indicated last week, he is not a devil either, at least, as per my feeble interpretation.

Any high profile guest who wants to appear on TV has a certain vested interest, regardless whether he is a PM, president or the chairman of a political or religious party. He wants to get his point of view across in a way that it resonates with the intended audience. Thus if a question was 'planted', or for that matter, the entire show was planted, what is the big deal? Please, re-read my opening sentence. After all, it is a show. A show is not a court of law. The evidence, assertions, revelations or statements technically are not under oath, and not within a jurisdictional venue. Thus, those statements are nothing more than a citizen's right to free speech. Let us reverse the role; had it been Dr Arsalan on the airwaves, there would have been many who would want certain questions to be asked, which would clarify his side of the story. In the era of live TV and crazy ratings, there would have been almost the same amount of pressure to let him speak as much as possible.

Those who read me here will recall that on memogate, I had said that "truth always resides somewhere in the middle, any time we face a contentious issue." This one is no exception. Sadly, we have mortgaged our brains. The fun of reality TV has overpowered us. The heart of the matter here is an allegation of 'financial impropriety'. The proper venue for its redress is available. Very respectfully to those who are marketing this as an 'attack' on any institution, they are actually inflicting an irreparable harm to that institution. As I said last week, no individual is greater than an institution. Principles, not individuals, drive an institution. The matter in question is not implicating the individual at all. If we obfuscate and not let the proper legal process at a proper legal venue take its appropriate course, then we are active participants in this so-called show. Yes, I repeat, this show. Very respectfully, a show of so-called justice.

Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

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