On Wednesday, Custom inspector Chaudary Ejaz who was probing into Ayyan Ali’s money laundering case was killed by unidentified gunmen in Rawalpindi. In March, Ayyan’s father was shot while he was on his way to his daughter’s case hearing. Surely these are highly serious incidents, which not only indicate the existence of powerful interest groups behind the case, but also showcase their ruthlessness – making this a matter of public importance. Yet popular media remains content detailing her plans to offer food to fellow jail inmates during the month of Ramadan and her choice of attire on her bail plea hearing. This case, and its coverage, has reached the highest stages of incredulity. Something needs to change.

Ayyan Ali’s detention at Islamabad airport and the following investigation for money laundering has been a bit of a media carnival; drawing attention from all walks of journalism and inviting even experienced journalists and politicians to jump into the fray. Yet where Ayyan’s highly visible public profile could have been used to draw attention to the serious and damaging issues of money laundering, embezzlement, and corruption at the highest level, it has regressed to a tabloid-esque coverage of the detention, choosing to focus on the juxtaposition of her supermodel lifestyle on the vagaries of the Pakistani criminal justice system. Similarly, politicians wasted no time in linking her to their opponents, where they could have used the opportunity to initiate a debate about capital flight and overseas assets. The whole episode is made worse by the fact that the allegations against Ayyan are far from trivial, and a dedicated investigation could ruffle some important feathers – as the desperate attempts to derail the case demonstrates. The media needs to treat this case with the solemnity it deserves. It must behave professionally; recognise the gravity of the situation, stop sensationalising the unimportant aspects and realise that a hardworking, honest government official is dead, while they jape about illicit affairs and designer jeans.