For every thoughtless action there is an opposing overreaction. Faisal Vawda’s outlandish stunt may have been in bad taste, but it certainly does not deserve to be officially sanctioned by the state. What is more, the punishment has been inexplicably misdirected. In an official notification, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) banned the anchorperson of the concerned talk show - Kashif Abbasi – and his show from being broadcast for 60 days rather than the perpetrator of the offending act, the Federal Minister for Water Resources. Thus one needless act follows another.

This is sadly not the first time PEMRA has forgotten its real responsibilities to focus on content policing. The regulatory body has the power to restrict vulgar, criminal or incendiary content from being aired, but it has no right to stop people from invoking ill-conceived metaphors. One thing must be absolutely clear, be it through props, mime or even dance, a person is free to express his opinions and views under the constitution. The court of public opinion is the proper forum to judge those views, and the verbal lashing the anchorperson of the show and the Federal Minister have received for their actions is punishment enough.

PEMRA’s actions become even more ridiculous when we consider that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) had already punished Mr Vawda. Only the party he represents has the standing or any reason to pass a sanction – they were the ones embarrassed by the stunt.

Finally we come to the perhaps the most head-scratching part – choosing to lay the burden of this punishment squarely on the shoulders of the show host. Claiming that the show host was “unethical” and “unprofessional” for not intervening is an impossible and arbitrary standard. Show hosts are not responsible for the actions of their guests; their job is to simply provide a curated environment for the guest to debate in. What was the host supposed to do? Physically restrain Mr Vawda? Criticize him immediately? Cut the transmission?

Guests on TV talks shows are notorious for getting into heated debates that border on confrontation, especially in Pakistan. Will talk show hosts be held responsible for brawls that break out on set too? Will they be responsible for the derogatory or defamatory remarks passed by guests on their shows?

PEMRA did not need to wade into this mess at all, and definitely not in this knee-jerk and disproportionate way. They need to learn they cannot simply ban what they don’t like.