The media has an unenviable role in Pakistani society; a role that puts all those working in the industry in harm’s way almost every day for the thankless job of having to provide people with the most accurate information they can gather. True, Pakistani media has its flaws, sensationalism among them, but this does not mean that an entire profession should be maligned on the basis of a few bad examples. And yet, once more, media persons and their offices were attacked in Karachi, Hyderabad and Lahore on Friday. The reason behind this atrocious move was that television channels followed PEMRA guidelines for once, and did not cover the protests that followed Mumtaz Qadri’s execution.

What should be commended as a brave move that sidelined the usual aim of increasing ratings, was instead used as another excuse to undermine the law and attack media persons.

It is the government’s responsibility to first establish a state narrative and then ensure that society follows as well. One of the government’s bravest moves is being vociferously opposed, and that is okay, but only as long as this dissent remains peaceful. The moment violence is included into the equation, the government has the right to take whatever measures necessary to ensure that no one undermines its writ. So why is there no action being taken against Ittehad-e-Ahle Sunnat, the umbrella organisation responsible behind attacking journalists for doing their jobs? By taking the law into their hands, the organisations within the alliance are essentially doing exactly what Qadri did, except that they spared the lives of those they attacked.

The government is right to be wary, for religious groups within this alliance wield a lot of influence, and clearly have the street power necessary to make the government’s task difficult. And yet, inaction only makes the chances of a repeat incident more likely. The reason conservative right wing groups love to flex their muscles whenever they don’t get what they want is because the government idly stands by way time they do. This cycle has to end if things are to change in Pakistan. The government has the law to support it; throwing the book at these groups would be a good start to establish a deterrent and counter the extremist narrative in one swift stroke. In this whole tumultuous affair, it was the media’s job to stay silent while the government took some action. The media has done its bit. It is time for the government to do the same.