Unlike several countries in the Muslim world whose media is simply not allowed to criticize the establishment, Pakistan’s media, for years and years, has been frank and fearless. During Zia ul Haq’s martial law in the Eighties, several journalists were even whipped for their outspokenness, but it hardly came in the way of their spirited criticism of the nexus between the government and Pakistan’s army.
But it has been in the last few years, with the blossoming of private television channels, that the Pakistani media has become a powerful force to reckon with. Several observers say the media began to increasingly intervene in the moulding of public opinion after Pervez Musharraf used the air force to bomb the Baluch leader Akbar Khan Bugti in 2006. Some journalists even returned national awards given to them by the Musharraf government as a measure of their dismay.
Ever since, the Pakistani media has had a field day. Its coverage of Musharraf’s consistent refusal to cede power to political parties, from his sacking of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chowdhury, the return home of exiled leaders Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto, her subsequent assassination as well as the consequent political and economic instability in the country, has made the Pakistani media a key player in national affairs. The constant play and replay of these events, especially in largely oral South Asian societies such as Pakistan, means that its already imperative to have the media on your side.