There is nothing debatable about the evil plan to kill our colleague Hamid Mir. Obviously no motive, no differences, no association or breakup with any group or institution, justifies cold-blooded murder. An inquiry commission and a joint investigative team, with members from the intelligence and police, will now seek work towards identifying the target killers and the planners. All possible suspects will be identified and investigated by these two bodies.

Equally, Geo’s irresponsible and illegal reporting which almost editorialized the man and the institution behind the target killing, (the ISI and the DG ISI), is condemnable. This was no journalism; it was baseless accusations and propaganda against a national institution and its head. Hamid Mir, the man then fighting for his life, had on record pointed the finger of blame towards both. Still, running an 8 hour unceasing accusation against the ISI chief was a shocking breach of journalistic ethics. The ISI, via the Ministry of Defence, has taken the correct step of complaining to PEMRA seeking action against GEO including the cancellation of its television license. PEMRA has sent a notice to Geo to explain why this action should be taken. It is heartening to see at least, that we do have a system that investigates the illegal act of editorially accusing the ISI chief. Of course, PEMRA at present is a spineless body. How it will investigate such a high profile, power case is a key question.

The government’s reaction meanwhile to the April 19th Geo transmission was self-defeating. It is incomprehensible that the government did not engage with Geo directly to advise it against continuing its transmission. Neither did it ask PEMRA to intervene with Geo on the government’s behalf. Even worse, the government refrained from making the statement which could have eased frazzled nerves on many sides. It could have said, “We strongly condemn the attack on Pakistan’s leading journalist and will institute an immediate inquiry to determine individuals and groups behind the deadly attack on Hamid Mir.” Meanwhile, the Information Minister should have stated, “Any attempt to accuse and defame our national institutions is unacceptable. We share Geo’s pain but it must behave responsibly and operate within the PEMRA code.” This never happened. Instead, the government opted to say nothing about Geo’s maligning of the head of the ISI, in an act of solidarity with the journalists, Geo and Hamid Mir. This was a fundamental mistake, and far too much has been lost in the mishandling of the issue.

Does the government not realise that to realign the power dynamic, shoddy and reactive ways are not the line to take? The more difficult the task, the more mature and logical the subsequent corrective steps must be. Perhaps the government’s ministers should read Nelson Mandela’s autobiography to understand what it takes to lead in divided and difficult times; what vision it takes to climb from the dungeons of our embittered pasts.

As for the Hamid Mir and Geo issue, both are moving ahead within the constitutional framework, though extra-constitutional moves are at work as well. Hamid Mir has gone on record saying he has received threatening messages from his ‘dushman’ and is being asked to leave the country. We may see Hamid leave for Dubai, it seems, where his treatment will continue.

As for the Geo issue, beyond the PEMRA inquiry it is under severe criticism. Some of it is genuine and some is contrived. Geo’s indiscretion has allowed viciously competitive media houses to draw their daggers, targeting Geo. Meanwhile, the army and intelligence agencies are pleased with this backlash and are also perhaps facilitating it. A section of ARY programming has sharpened its knives. First, it questioned the credibility of the attack on Mir, accusing it of being staged and subsequently declared that Geo itself had planned it. The somewhat foolish letter initiative by India’s former Foreign Minister was vastly used by the program as evidence of Geo’s alleged Indian connection and of Hamid Mir being an Indian asset. And so on and so forth, the conspiracy continues to be woven.

The political parties including Lashakar-i-Tayyaba, Sunni Ittehad, Jamaati-i-Islami, MQM and the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf have held public rallies and protests to condemn the damage, they claim, Geo has done to the ISI and to the Pakistan army. There are calls to ban Geo and to cancel its license. The Sindh assembly’s resolution also criticized Geo’s irresponsibility in reporting the deadly attack.

Whatever this real and contrived anger against Geo, no extra-constitutional and illegal step should be taken against the habitually errant media house. PEMRA and the Courts should decide what penalty Geo must pay for its error. Any calls for punishment or a ban must be placed within a legal framework. And all the sloganeering on the media and the streets lamenting the damage caused to the ISI and the army, and declaring that both have been “weakened” should stop. The narrative must make room for the fact that the Pakistan army and the ISI are no weaklings. They are robust, they are strong, professional and resilient. The sympathy for these strong and sturdy institutions which we need to be proud of, should stop. Oversight of these institutions still remains imperative, but must be pursued wisely.

As for the media, never before has the poverty of our professionalism been so starkly exposed. It is time at last for us to buckle down and work by a code of ethics.

And PEMRA’s days of being a posting ground for non-performers unconcerned with their regulatory responsibilities, must finally come to an end. Lets push for PEMRA to function as independently as the Election Commission.

Let us seize the opportunities this present mess presents.

The writer is a columnist and senior anchor at Capital TV.

Tweets at:@NasimZehra