On March 24, Prime Minister Imran Khan got together senior electronic media journalists, the well-known and famous talk show hosts, to talk to them about the coronavirus and preventive measures his government was taking to stop its spread. No doubt the coronavirus has become the biggest challenge of Imran Khan’s leadership and the very idea of calling these journalists for a one-on-one session on the subject was not bad.

Unfortunately, most of these renowned electronic media show hosts did not carry themselves well during the question-and-answer session. Most asked questions that had nothing to do with the subject of coronavirus. Their questions and remarks were mocking, sarcastic, scornful and it seemed that not one, but all of them had come with a preconceived idea of running the PM down on matters that had nothing to do with coronavirus.

Those of us that do PhDs get a hard time seeking a job, their degrees are scrutinised not only at the institution where they serve but also by higher authorities like the HEC that oversee the verification of these degrees. What degrees do these renowned hosts of the electronic media programmes hold and what standards do they meet? We don’t even know if they are actually qualified to speak on the subjects on which they run their programmes.

The public and the entire media, including the seasoned programme hosts who met the PM, are witness to how the Nawaz Sharif- and Zardari-led governments functioned in the past. What contradictions their governments addressed, and which institutions grew in their standing and stature during their tenures is all a part of recorded history.

We all know that we face tough times and it is difficult to find a cure; but do we remember the times when “the cure was worse than the disease?” When institutions were being forced to become accomplices to the corrupt and criminal policies of the governments. Where was the ‘watchful brigade’ of these hosts of electronic media programmes? Political power during those times was not defined as “best expressed by sharing” but was defined as “the opportunity to acquire riches and prestige, to be in a position to hand out benefits in the form of jobs, contracts, gifts, free rides to Hajj, etc, to relatives, bandwagon jumpers and political allies.” Unclean cities, closed industries with no electricity to operate them and rampant corruption with no job opportunities was all overseen by political appointees whose vested interests could only be served not by the cure but with the continuity of the disease that spread and sickened the entire country.

What has changed today is that we have a leader who is focused on changing the people’s attitude towards themselves, their state and majority of the poor people who live in it. What we are looking at is a leader who wants to mobilise the society to make the state work better, who not only wants to deliver more but deliver right. To the senior journalists who let themselves down in the meeting with the PM, I would like to say in the end that “meritocracy values a sovereign whereas mediocrity always resents and contests it.”

Muhammad Ali Ehsan,

Islamabad.