Attack on PTV headquarters and off-airing PTV World and PTV News transmission by the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) workers in an attempt to occupy the state-run TV channels, have been condemned by politicians, lawyers, media persons and civil society activists.
This has reminded the countrymen of October 12, 1999, a black day in the country’s history when General Pervez Musharraf came in a military coup dethroning the democratically elected regime.
Unfortunately and coincidently today when PTV transmission was off-aired the regime is the same democratic one. The political party in power is also the same and the elected prime minister is also the same – Nawaz Sharif. However, fortunately there is a visible change in Pakistan since October 1999 to September 1, 2014. Our media dynamics have totally changed and now there is freedom of speech and expression, which cannot be suppressed easily. Our civil society is awakened and lively having powerful voices of lawyers, judiciary, teachers, trade unions and political parties. Media has educated our society on its constitutional rights and the power of citizens in a democratic country.
This change in the power dynamics and mass awakening among the people and the state institutional heads have ensured a very responsible response to this illegal act by around 200 baton-wielding PAT workers. The PTV administration immediately called the army who were already made responsible to protect all state-owned buildings under Article 245 of the constitution. At around 11:20am, PAT workers occupied and off-aired PTV transmission, within 20 minutes the military personnel reached the spot and within another 20 minutes the building was cleared from the illegal occupants and the transmission was resumed. Millions of Pakistanis, as well as expatriates, breathed a sigh of relief. Now without any hesitation this can be written in golden words that for the first time in Pakistan’s history a civilian group has off-aired state-run television and ‘the military has restored its transmission with any coup’.
Earlier, whenever PTV transmission was off-aired or headquarters were held the regime was changed bring in boots, martial law and dictators. This happened many times. Every time PTV was forcefully occupied, its stations and staffers were hijacked, Noor Jehan songs were played and ultimately there was “meray aziz hum watano”. Later on seven or up to 11 years dictatorships by the men in unifom and the boots were the unwanted and uncalled for gift to the nation. This is our history since independence in the year 1947. Resultantly the army has directly ruled this country for around more than half of its age. Hence PTV’s forceful occupation and the military coups came side by side.
Now, although dozens of private television channels have been established and taking possession of only PTV cannot work for any coup, yet resuming state-run television’s transmission by the army has immense importance even though symbolic. This is really a great change in the society. It signifies that now stealing the mandate of a democratically elected government is not that easy even for the supreme powers of the country. A few supporting excuses to change regime by the power of fist cannot work simply.
There is strong concern and questions in some progressive and liberal circles that why the PAT workers were allowed to enter the PTV headquarters and later allowed to leave the venue without any arrests although there were reports of cameras theft and damages to the installations. The answer is same. This required change would come in due course of time in the society. Let the people be more awarded and more empowered through the democracy and this will surely happen. At this moment of time the society needs to enjoy and celebrate the present positive change and this development.
Regarding ongoing political developments, in simple cricket terminology the match is in the final round. The political leadership and the power of media have failed to come off the standoff. Now the national is eying on the military establishment, which is already playing very calculated and responsible role. It is expected that soon the national will come out of this mental torture drama. The democracy, although in some weakened form, will be saved and reforms agenda will be furthered to bring electoral reforms – the very roots that give real empowerment to the democracy, the state structure and the governance.
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