I am resuming my weekly column after a week’s unavoidable absence. A lot has happened in these seven days – for example a wave of solidarity with the Armed Forces has swept the country in the wake of some thoughtless remarks by a sitting minister and even more thoughtless finger pointing by a private television channel with regards to an incident that occurred in Karachi a few weeks ago.

I was in Lahore on the day that the army celebrated the ‘Youm e Shuhada’ or Martyrs Day. I have been an outspoken critic of the Armed Forces, whenever my conscience has prompted that I do so, but that evening I sat spellbound before the television as tribute was paid to those who lost their lives and limbs for the country and the nation. These were the men and women who wrote history with their blood and there wasn’t a single dry eye as story after story unfolded, starting with the youngest of these heroes – the boy Aitezaz, who willingly embraced death and saved scores of children in his school.

Journalistic curiosity led me to talk to dozens of people from all walks of life, some of whom I knew and others who were perfect strangers. Many of the former were known ‘army bashers’, but I found that a change had come upon them, for gone was the vitriolic criticism – replaced by a subtle respect for our fighting men and their sacrifices. Many of these individuals were ardent supporters of the ruling party, but I found this support wavering, when it came to the question of what one of our honorable Ministers had said on and off the floor and how the Government had failed to effectively take serious and constitutional note of how the defenders of our country were demonized by a particular section of the media. Almost everyone I spoke to said that the Government had failed in its duty to protect the dignity of an institution that was defending our domestic and external frontiers.

The second event during my seven day absence was the confirmation of the news that sit ins would be organized on Sunday, the eleventh of May, in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi. In the former, the protest would be led by Imran Khan and in the latter, by Dr. Tahir ul Qadri. There is some ambiguity as to the motive behind these demonstrations. Some statements from participating elements say that the events are to show solidarity with the Armed Forces, while others indicate that they are in reaction to the failure of the Government to alleviate gas shortages, load shedding, poor law and order and the inability to redress election misdemeanors. Whatever the case may be, the Federal Capital and its twin city is girding itself to undergo another day or perhaps days of inconvenience and apprehension – inconvenience because of likely official attempts to block converging protesters by setting up container barricades and apprehension due to the possibility of the protests turning ugly.  My hope is that both sides act in a mature and responsible manner and the protestors are allowed to register their point of view unhindered and peacefully, without any uncalled for provocation or reaction.

What started off as a competition between two media groups has of late escalated into a ‘war.’ While other channels are sensibly staying out of the fray, everyone in the industry is hoping that matters do not escalate any further, for the situation has all that it takes to make us the laughing stock of the world. In this hour of trial when we are beset with internal and external threats, the media industry has a pivotal task to perform i.e. changing mindsets for a better Pakistan. This can only be achieved if this additional ‘pillar of the state’ demonstrates ethical behavior, responsibility and maturity.

The writer is a freelance columnist.