For one year and two months this nation, one third of which exists below the poverty line, has been held hostage to an issue involving the judiciary - in essence, one specific member of that honorable pillar of state. Admittedly, the whole thing started with a moment of madness on March 9 2007 and since that day, with the most able assistance of a freed media which President General Pervez Musharraf allowed (until suspended temporarily by another moment of madness on November 3) it has been kept at boiling point. For many who have far more pressing issues that affect their lives this media madness has become an irritant, for many others whose pockets and stomachs are aching it is an irrelevancy. It needs to be solved and put behind us pronto - in whichever manner the solution may come. This country cannot afford to be suspended in mid-air by an issue that is, if kept in its true perspective, non-people related. (One burning issue that is people-related is the matter of the dishonest National Reconciliation Ordinance. Just what are the deprived masses to think of that most discriminatory of laws that has let off the hook and continues to let off the hook a large number of former and present government officials who have been charged with gross corruption and who in the eyes of the people at large are guilty as so charged? They could all rightly claim immunity for their far lesser sins.) As an illustration of the madness of the media let us look at the May 3 frontpage headlines of one national publication. 'Judges will be restored on May 12 - Nawaz says govt will move resolution to restore 60 judges...; 'Restoration of judges may occur after May 12: Naek'; 'Zardari stresses formula for judges restoration'; 'PPP not aware of May 12 deadline for restoration'; 'Coalition not interested in restoration of judges: Q'; 'Musharraf agrees to restoration of judges'; 'Court can stay executive order - Expert says restoration without consent of all stakeholders will complicate issue'; 'Rupee falls to record low against dollar'. What was a relatively sane reader to make of all this? And what are we few readers of newspapers to think of the Ministry of Information, a ministry which has no justification for its existence? There was an amusing story carried by one publication last month on how the ministry, with its old habits and pathetic stupidity, had been caught out. The newspaper in question had carried an article mildly critical of Asif Zardari and his approach to the judicial crisis. That very day, sent to the newspaper by none other than the press information officer of the InfoMin were two letters to the editor from obviously fictional writers stoutly defending Zardari. This rubbish was printed the next day, not in the letters columns, but in the main body of the newspaper next to a column outlining the InfoMin's perfidy and that of the PPP. To quote: "While the PPP has a brigade of media managers and spokespersons including Sherry Rahman, Farhatullah Babar, Farzana Raja, Farah Ispahani and perhaps a few others still the party chose to use the Information Ministry and depended on unfamiliar commoners (if they really do exist) to rebut the story." Of course they do not exist. The Ministry is playing its familiar games - concocting letters or articles, or actually paying people to write for they press under their own or fictitious names. That is how the taxpayers money is spent by this infamous ministry. Joseph Goebbels, master of propaganda, termed the British war-time ministry of information (done away with immediately after WW-II) 'The Great Lie Factory.' This appellation is eminently suitable to Pakistan's InfoMin. As commented the writer of the article found offensive by the ministry: "This is really unfortunate that the PPP which claims to be a champion of democracy and press freedom in Pakistan has charged this correspondent.... with the kind of allegations that the former military ruler, General Musharraf, did only towards the end of his rule....". Reportedly, Minister Sherry Rahman "has directed officials of the ministry and its attached departments to desist from violating rules, warning that strict disciplinary action will be taken against violators." Well, violations of norms and rules are far too ingrained in this ministry and the only way to take strict remedial action is to disband the ministry and to do away with our Great Lie Factory. She will go down on record has having achieved something worthwhile, and of having, for once, actually acted in the 'national interest.' Not only will this be good riddance of bad rubbish, but it will free her to apply her not inconsiderable talents elsewhere where they are needed. She has additional charge of the health ministry - well, she should have full charge and get on with doing something about the deplorable state of the nation's health rather than presiding over a Great Lie Factory which wickedly eats up and spits out a fair amount of the government's budget. Ms Rahman in the Senate last week stated that all laws discriminatory to the media, including the Pemra ordinance, will be revoked and that a bill on the freedom of expression and access to information will be tabled in parliament 'shortly' (presumably after the judicial mania has dissipated). The general feeling was that the media should have its own code of conduct and get on with life, and reportedly "one lawmaker even questioned the logic behind retaining the Information Ministry." Good for him, and let us hope that there are many others who think alike. E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk