Two days ago the nation’s collective conscience was rattled. A simple ad by a Telecom company seemed to have done the trick. There were many other rattling stories that day, however the image of Nargis Fakhri lying down holding a mobile phone on the front page of Urdu newspapers was definitely far more nerve wrecking than the rest of the newspaper and the stories put together. Immediately the national defence league of Facebook and Twitter sprung in action. Our defences were raised, comments were made and the collective conscience of our nation was saved. All in a day’s work.

The liberals raised their hue and cry over the objectification of women. Really? Objectification of women bugs you now? I thought you were championing the right of Ms Veena Malik to bare her body as she pleases. But a fully clad Ms Fakhri displeases you? And you comment about how she has been objectified in the ad? Okay. Let’s just try and count on our fingers the number of ad campaigns being made in Pakistan that don’t use this tactic to promote their product. You’ll have a rather tough time doing that.

The fundos did their astagfirullahs. This image is definitely more appalling than a TV show host shoving a mango in the guest’s mouth during Ramzan transmission. It’s also more appalling than the comments spewed by our heart throb, Maulana Hazrat Junaid Jamshed Sahib about women. It is definitely more appalling than the anti-Ahmadiyya or pro-Mumtaz Qadri posters plastered outside Hafeez Centre and during election campaigns. And obviously, it is more appalling than the face of Maulana Abdul Aziz.

Pakistan never fails to surprise me.

I mean, how many times have we seen construction companies plastering almost full page ads on the front pages of our newspapers? How many times have the advertisers stopped stories just because they didn’t suit their interests? How many times have editors allowed reporters to report after they have been pressurised by the advertiser of severe consequences if a report exposes their fraudulent practices? How many times have we allowed ratings to drive the kind of ridiculous content that we do? How many times have we sold our souls to the devil just trying to sell everything on TV, from religion that is branded by laal sharbat to morning shows branded by mobile phones and detergents to game shows branded by jewellers, motorcycles and insanity. And you are telling me that Nargis Fakhri is vulgar? No sir, you are.

What bothers me is the complete lack of direction that this debate has taken. It’s not about a vulgar ad. It’s about how over time advertisers have been usurping the right of reporters to report objectively and fairly. And the media companies are complicit. We all know that. We crib and complain when a story is killed and then just give up a few days later. While the advertiser gets his way. It doesn’t matter what the ad is. As long as the advertiser is paying up, we’ll plaster it on our pages. No questions asked.

And we’ll be silent about the stories that matter. We’ll be silent about cases of tax evasion by huge corporations that spend millions of rupees in their marketing campaigns. We’ll be silent about cases of cartelisation. We’ll be silent about cases of price fixation. We’ll be silent about cases of environmental damage by these corporations. We will be silent. Our silence is being purchased quite systematically by the advertiser that gets to dictate editorial policy.

And I have yet to see a talk show about this. While I won’t be surprised if our talk shows do end up discussing Nargis Fakhri and the offensive way she was lying on the front page of our newspaper. I think this ad merely holds a mirror to what media has become today. Nargis Fakhri didn’t do anything wrong, neither did the advertiser. He did what he knows best – selling a cheap product through cheap tactics. And the media did what it knows best, selling their soul to the advertiser