Pakistan is rated as one of the most dangerous country for journalists – reporters who probe too deep in sensitive areas are often found dead. It is not surprising that in this environment ‘respected’ journalists are those who have personal relations with powerful officials and can get the inside scoop, not those who highlight the shortcomings of the government.  Iqrar ul Hassan’s act of taking a firearm inside the Sindh provincial assembly may not be akin to daring acts of investigative journalism in Baluchistan for example, but should it really be condemned so heavily?

The Sindh Assembly and its management were thoroughly exposed and they have no excuse. A man walked inside the provincial assembly building with a weapon by giving ‘gifts’ to security officials in a city wracked by terrorism and political killings– a damning statement no matter how you view it. The fact that he voluntarily approached the speaker to demonstrate this lapse in security makes it so much more embarrassing. The fact that he was arrested only compounds the government’s misery – turning this incident into a campaign for his freedom.

It wasn’t long before MPA’s got involved in the ruckus, with opposition members roundly criticizing the government, but these angry parliamentarians need to remember that they are part of the problem. MPAs arrive with heavily armed entourage and bristle at the suggestion that they be patted down by a lowly security guard. This exceptionlism isn’t restricted to the assembly building – government officials flaunt their prestige by demonstrating their ability to bypass procedures that the common man goes through. We can blame the security guard, who took a perfume to let the media team through, but the culture of exceptionlism is built in the system, he is just a victim.

This could have been a moment for self-reflection, but the Sindh government went for blame deflection; a harried looking Chief Minster dodged reporters while others called for the prosecution of a man who started this “drama” and brought the activities on the floor to a halt.

It is undeniable that bringing a gun in the assembly is a crime, but whistleblowers that break laws to expose other crimes need to be afforded special consideration. Without such protection, no one will risk upsetting the existing system, no matter how unjust it is.