Two Points for Pervaiz Rasheed to Start With

Tazeen Akhtar - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's cabinet was sworn in the other day. Senator Pervaiz Rasheed has been appointed Minister for Information and broadcasting that was already expected only because of his media friendly personality and long term close relations with the big wigs of media industry. Pervaiz Rasheed headed Pakistan Television from 1997 to 1999 during last Government of Nawaz Sharif. As the Chairman of state owned TV, his performance was remarkable.

Pervaiz Rasheed, son of Abdul Rasheed, was born in 15 January 1937. He hails from Rawalpindi but lives in Lahore. He got his education from Rawalpindi. He was a brilliant student of famous Gordon College. Many of today’s senior politicians were his class or college fellows at the time. During these days he started his political struggle as a student leader.

He went through the very difficult era of 70s to 80s. He continued the struggle for political freedom and human rights in the country. It’s a long story of ideology and courage that brought Pervaiz Rasheed near Nawaz Sharif in 90s.

Pervaiz Rasheed looked after the media cell of PMLN at the beginning. He used to visit media offices and developed personal relations with not only the owners but the workers as well. He usually would sit with the sub editors at the news desk and discuss with them the political scenario and the problems of common public. That is why he is highly respected by media people, owners as well as the workers. This made his work easy and smooth.

In recognition his services for party he was issued ticket for the upper house of the parliament in March 2009. Pervaiz Rasheed is representing his party in senate until March 2015. Again it is a confidence in his personality and expertise. Till then he has not only performed very active role in the legislative process but he is participating wholeheartedly in the matters of Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Resources, Standing Committee on Information Technology and Telecommunications and Standing Committee on Railways as well.

A political worker does not see everything green in his life. There are times of dismay and tyranny. 1997 when he got the highest slot in PTV and 2009 when he became the senator were not the only milestones of his life. In between these two, there is a long time of General Musharraf. The dictator unleashed a rein of terror, torture and persecution for all those who did not give in to his orders and did not leave Nawaz Sharif in the lurch. There were only a few of such diehard PML-N workers that can be counted on fingers. Pervaiz Rasheed was one of them. He was picked up by the agencies, kept in safe houses and tortured profusely. He and his family were mentally tortured by threatening of dire consequences but they were not ready to leave Sharifs.

When it was realized that Musharraf is bent upon hanging Nawaz on the pretext of so called Hijacking case, Pervaiz Rasheed was among the leaders who decided to start a struggle on the roads. Then a housewife Kulsum Nawaz came out with the support of remaining loyal party workers and the world watched the movement of a wife to save his husband. She was not a political worker. She never went through that kind of situation ever before. But she took initiative and succeeded. The dictator of the time was trembling in his power house and a woman was challenging him on the streets, which could happen only because she had all out support from workers such as Pervaiz Rasheed.

Musharraf was not of the view that PML-N workers would give him that much tough time. Unlike, the dictator was told that PML-N is a cake that he could swallow without any ado, nevertheless the said cake became a hard nut to rack for him.

Pervaiz Rasheed soon recovered from the torture and started work for his party from behind the curtains. It is another story of him. The person, who portrays the image of his leaders and party in the media, does not use this leaver for his own projection. He does not like even the routine coverage of his work. The example is, on Saturday 09 June he took briefing of his ministry but did not allow the media to cover it. That is why when, I was writing this article, I Googled but could not find much information about him except his basics and some points about his working in the Senate. One has to rely only on his memories or self knowledge to write on Pervaiz Rasheed.

Now it is the new test of Pervaiz Rasheed. A successful media man of 90s can deliver in 2010s totally changed media perspective? That is the million dollar question for not only Pervaiz but for PML-N as party and for Nawaz Sharif as PM also. In 1990 there were only a few newspapers and one state-owned TV channel. Media in 2010s is at least 80 news channels and dozens of newspapers. Another media that has acquired importance and relevance happens to be the social media.

By and large, Pakistani Media does not believe in developmental journalism. Most of them prefer detrimental journalism, showing everything fishy, misty and dirty. They are strictly following the definition “If a dog bites a man it is not news, but if a man bites a dog it is news “although if a dog bites a man it can be news, why not. At least for that man and his family, it is news. And what if the man dies? It is news. May be the man is a news maker? Again it is news.
I mean our media (mainly the channels) are not the real journalist orgs. They are just media houses. They look the things with their own tailor-made perspective. Negativity is the keyword in their definition of news. They took guideline from western media and don’t apply their own mind. The worst situation is a recent talk show on a new channel that aired abusive language for a high official of security forces, because of which the TV channel had to remain off-air for a while. That clearly depicts the training and grooming of the staff in the channels.

Pervaiz Rasheed has a gigantic task on his table. This kind of media is abundant in our country. It is also a fact that a section of this electronic media is funded from abroad. Some most renowned anchors are the spokespersons of different fountainheads of power and even some are planted from outside as well. Skills and knowledge about the field and the current affairs is a second thing in selection of the anchors and directors. Main thing is who represents who? Who comes from whom?
PML-N government is determined not to do anything wrong and minimize corruption. PM is saying that he would give the nation good governance. Balochistan has the first ever middle class CM who is determined to put this province on right path. KPK and Sindh are moving ahead with their own mandate. It is very appreciative.
It is the hope that we need badly. But it is not that our “friends” are looking for us. Pakistan on right path is not the priority of the regional and international powers. The proxy games they are playing here not only include the terrorist activities but the propaganda is also a big weapon of them against our solidarity, integrity and prosperity. Our main private channels are “contesting” for capturing India, a market of more than one billion viewers. A media house that claims to be No; 1 of Pakistan has a history of confrontation with Nawaz government in the past. This media house is so ambitious that it demands to be a part of decision and policy making process. It looks itself as powerful as it can pass and fail the governments.

Qamar Zaman Kaira in a recent interview with us was saying “There must have been our faults but the propaganda was many times bigger than our mistakes”.

That problem will be faced by every political government that intends to unite the country and want to bring stability. Pakistan Television is not in a position of neutralizing the propaganda of a section of TV media. Radio Pakistan is performing well but it is not the players of that field. Press Information Department mainly deals with the newspapers from where there is no threat only because newspapers are still observing their responsibility towards the nations. Pervaiz Rasheed will have to deal with two main fronts, TV channels and Social Media.

Social Media is another long story, mainly Facebook if we talk about Pakistan. Everyone who has a computer and internet connection can say anything about anyone without any fear of accountability. And if Perviaz Rasheed has an account on FB and he also visits it, he may already have felt the same.

Ministry of Information Technology is not doing its duty. It should have evolved such a mechanism to stop this kind of unbridled abuse of IT that disfigures and defames the national leaders. Perviaz Rasheed may seek Pakistan Telecommunication cooperation through Ministry of IT to solve this problem.

Secondly, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority has to be strengthened and trained to cope with the situation accordingly. Sometimes you need not authority or force to make your point. You only have to convince the other side with your argument and you get the result. Pemra hierarchy needs to be revamped and reorganized. If Perviaz Rasheed starts from these two points, his success as the spokesperson of the government is guaranteed.

10 June 2013