IRSHAD SALIM (May 16, 2018) — On May 3rd, I attended the World Freedom Day event organized by Karachi Media Club — its president Mubasher Mir and General Secretary Manzar Naqvi says it’s a media think-tank focused on Karachi as its ground zero and the whole country in its outreach program.
However, with outer contours of its perspective touching every corner of the land, Mir says Karachi being a mini Pakistan because of its past, present and future ability to absorb huge economic immigration from upcountry of all cast, creed, ethnicity, race, color, religion, etc., the country’s largest city of 20 million (census says its 16m while the city Mayor insists its 30m) and its civil societies, socio-cultural groups, political parties, pressure groups and the media hold unique positions — with responsibility, authority and accountability though — leading the pack is the electronic media, which according to one speaker at the event, has become a state within the fourth state.
KEC aims to fill this gap by providing inclusiveness, positivity, connectivity with its thoughtful studies, reports and insights backed by interactions with movers and shakers, stakeholders and thought-leaders without getting sucked into the jetsam and flotsam of the industry it means to address — while being associated with it.
The year-old forum’s leaders say they have made May 3rd (the World Press Freedom Day) as as their annual anniversary date. As veteran journalist Agha Masood pointed out at the event, “freedom” is not “license to think, infer and say” whatever you “feel, understand and decide to write, report or speak on a given issue of public import”. “Responsibility and accountability” is the baggage it travels with”.
Mir and Masood, both, were of the opinion that the situation has led to confusion due to free-for-all positioning of stances — mostly politically-tainted, intense and divisive in outcome. The end results manifest in skewed and biased dissemination of news and views to the masses — Karachi has been one of the most effected by the schism.
Lack of capability and capacity of each must-perform entities of the state and the government (political and bureaucratic) compounded the problem and continues being so — the community therefore suffered and continues to suffer.
Solution? Mir says first and foremost is the need to synchronize all narratives out there on each major local and national issue and enable an ecosystem for a singular, cohesive narrative for each major issue, dovetailing a comprehensive one on the national level, so as to evolve effective counter-balancing narratives against externally driven ones which have been seeping into the society through the electronic and social media– such as terrorism and our counter-terrorism efforts to name one, Mir explained.
“We’ve have been unable to define terrorism from our our national interests standpoint,” Mir said with a heavy tone and steel grin on his face. “We (media) are partially to be blamed for this,” said one female scribe with a meaningful smile — she was listening to Mir’s comments.
For example, Mir said, the National Action Plan’s (NAP) 20-point agenda and its executing authority called the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) have not been effectively enabled nationwide despite the elapse of several years — it was launched as a civil-military initiative to transform the society progressively.
“For every point of the agenda a committee was formed and as a result hurdles kept creeping into the initiative. Most important matter which has remained unaddressed to date is the Madrassas Reform,” Mir pointed out. “It’s as important as countering terrorists and deweaponization”, he said.
According to Mir, there are more than 20,000 Madrassas and 2 million students studying in them and 5 different schools of thought with each having its own syllabus. “Pulling out hate materials from all of these is a huge task but carries utmost importance to our society, and the country’s national interests”.
Also, he highlighted that after producing thousands of such students, some of whom would become religious scholars, teachers and Ulemas. “Isn’t it prudent to think now of how they will be embedded in the economic net of the society, and shouldn’t therefore they be taught other subjects also, and imparted skillsets so that their mainstreaming becomes not only a non-issue but an empowering tool for them,” Mir asked.
Mir responded himself, and said none of these are possible until and unless a cohesive and one and only one national narrative from national interest and national security standpoint is evolved, and all stakeholders comply with it. He gave the example of the U.S. including his interactions with major media like The Washington Post and his visit to the State Department.
The KEC president cited the example of criticisms against the military and the judiciary at home as example of failure of national narrative, if at all it exists — according to him, it does not.
“No national narrative once decided and accepted by all will be effective unless it’s implemented,” Mir concluded.