Court side seats


Waqt News’ Matiullah Jan doesn’t pull any punches. His program, Apna Gareban, had originally started on another channel, and was meant to take on the media itself. Prior to the program, there had been an omertà a la Sicilian mafia amongst the media groups; animosity aside, they used to refrain from criticising each other. When Jan had started that program, the shaming from within the community was enough for the channel to shut it down.

Even on Waqt, the target isn’t the media. But he does take a couple of shots at some rather powerful institutions. Like the military. And, on the episode on September 11th, the judiciary.

It is worth a watch.

The idea was rather novel. Have a round table with career court reporters. Yes, reporters, not anchors who visit the courtrooms only when an extremely high profile case is being heard; not lawyers, who are there because of bar politics. Actual beat reporters who have to file the goings on for their newspapers or give live beepers to their television channels. And these weren’t even “beat parachuters”; one had put in eighteen years at the beat, another six, another nine and so on.One got the impression that the reporters that Matiullah selected were, broadly speaking, from his own bent of mind i.e a shade irreverent (or at least not as reverent as expected) towards the judiciary and generally pro democracy. The consensus amongst this lot – no surprises there – was that the honourable judges’ attitude has left much to be desired.

That the judges have taken to political theatrics was one point that some of them raised. That sometimes the conduct of the court was guided more by political grandstanding and showmanship than the cool and crisp letter of the law.

Though the conversation in the program was (understandably) more about the Panama case, the topics segued to other areas, like the missing persons cases.

Perhaps the most amusing bit of the program related to the craft of political reportage itself. Sometimes we have to see what the honourable Lordships meant when they passed a particular remark, said one reporter. Ironic, in that the reporters interpret the words of the judges, whose job is to interpret the words of the law.

Sometimes, we even have to expunge some of the words within their remarks in the courtroom, the reporter continued. Really, asked an incredulous Matiullah. Yes, replied the reporter. For instance, in hearing, an honourable judge said that the EOBI building looks like a girl in a bikini, we cannot possibly report that.

For the benefit of the readers, given below is a photo of said building. Even though we are a family paper.