Ahmad Noorani and nationalist bigotry


Violence substituting constructive debate

Some Pakistanis still revel in a state of oblivion that Pakistan was not founded on a democratic demand and process in 1947. These skeptics think that Pakistan was an automatic outcome of the division of India, and hence any system of government can be established in the country by hook or by crook.

Hook or by crook hogs the central place in Pakistan. Religious dogmas push Pakistanis to one side called pan-Nationalism or pan-Islamism whereas the political dogmas sway Pakistanis to another flank called hypernationalism and hypercentralism. To add insult to injury, whether Pakistanis believe or not, the doctrine of necessity is still the extant subtext.

The crop of defence analysts now make appearances on every electronic media propagating their ideals of “should” and consequently discredit the sitting government. The low quality of their arguments mostly steeped in conspiracy theories and parochialism worries an educated Pakistani what they might have been doing when in service.

They unanimously – and there might be a few exceptions – invite military intervention (or a technocratic government) under the ruse that the politicians are all corrupt and have been looting the country which had been made prosper by military dictators.

Condemnation of political governments to demean them in the eyes of the public and incitement to make room for a military intervention leads to stacking animosity against those media personnel who reveal stories which somehow buttress the image of politicians and repudiate any excuse for a military intervention. Ahmad Noorani is one such reporter who is abhorred for his reporting on various issues including the Panama case. Ostensibly, Noorani is guilty of exposing flaws in the judicial process of conducting the enquiry (i.e. the JIT).

This situation begs two important questions. First, who is next in turn for being beaten in broad daylight by anonymous persons? Second, what stage is being set for the future if the prospective nuisances and challengers from the media are being dealt with punitively? The thrashing given to Noorani might be about his past iniquities and frailties but the manhandling prognosticates and foreshadows his potential for the future.

In the ongoing Karachi operation by Rangers, every sundry (“nathu khaira”) criminal has been caught except those who attacked Hamid Mir in April 2014, if there was any local criminal element involved. Such is the complexity of both Karachi and the state machinery running Karachi’s affairs. Consequently, Mir had to forgo his vociferous support for the Baloch cause.

Similarly, the Gestapo tactic imposed on Noorani was not only to frighten him into stifling his voice but also to radiate a message to his ilk active in the media to be avoiding expressing their point of view. The Gestapo was not famous for arguing and debating a case but it was notorious for subjecting dissidents to brutal methods and torture to muffle their voice. As is the practice in autocratic societies, dissidence itself is the major culprit, the scalp of any dissident should be ready to abide the strikes inflicted with iron rods.

The attack on Mir opened a new chapter in the history of electronic media in Pakistan. The section of the electronic media, which was in the throes of survival, suddenly spurned into action to offer a counter narrative to the attack on Mir. Afterwards, the counter narrative expanded to feed many journalists of dubious repute and a trend was witnessed in which anti-Mir journalists assembled on a platform to run a counter media house now branched out functionally into many new media outlets. All of them banked on a single theme for their survival: let out a stream of invective, vituperation and expletive, even if the channel runs the risk of penalty or closure.

The July 28 judgment by the Supreme Court in the Panama Papers case is a blot on the face of the judiciary. The judgement was not a substitute for any retribution for corruption if done by Nawaz Sharif. This is no cogent excuse that Sharif had to be removed from the power to run his cases in the NAB, as touted by defence analysts. The judicial removal of the elected prime minister should have been on clear convincing grounds. The judgement, a product of incompetence and ineptitude, brought more ridicule to the higher judiciary than respect. Why was Noorani punished for highlighting this fact?

2017 also reveals that, in Pakistan, there are good dissidents such as defence analysts and bad dissidents such as Noorani. Good dissidents are those that have already proved their patriotic credentials and appear on TV talk shows not because of their intellect or the power of argument but on the basis of their ranks.

Interestingly, despite their collective wisdom and behind the scene oneness, none of the defence analysts are capable of writing a book to rebut the narrative of Hussain Haqqani. The Memogate scandal (or the Mullen memo controversy) of October 2011 was used to hide behind the judiciary through a writ petition in April 2012 to penalize Haqqani, and not to jog their own memory to write a counter narrative.

What Noorani has served to all Pakistanis is that he has exposed the true mishmash existing behind the proceedings in the name of the Panama case. He has written such stories to help analysts reach a cogent conclusion. His effort to expose the truth needs to be appreciated. This was his duty to perform as a journalist and he has performed his duty aptly. Analysts are beholden to the efforts of Noorani for the analyses they make and the conclusions they draw.