Why Memogate doesn’t matter

Published: January 3, 2012

The main headlines of every newspaper were about some silly memo allegedly written on behalf of our ambassador. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

If you held a gun to the head of any prominent Pakistani journalist and asked them to explain the energy crisis in the country, the overwhelming majority would be unable to tell you what actually caused it.

Yet ask any one of those same people to explain to you exactly what happened in the Memogate scandal and almost all of them will be able to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happened and their own views on what was most significant about the whole affair.

The problem with most of us in the media is our absolute obsession with the games of power. Everybody is keenly following even the most insignificant of details about every major power player, wondering who is doing what, saying what, to whom and why in order to get into the corridors of power. Hardly anybody seems to be concerned with what our rulers do with that power once they get it.

That is why – on the day that the government of Pakistan effectively defaulted on its sovereign obligations to energy companies – the main headlines of every newspaper were not about what that meant for the economy but about some silly memo allegedly written on behalf of an ambassador that was deemed so insignificant by its American recipients that they effectively chucked it in the trash.

The political analysts will argue that civil-military relations have an enormous impact on everything that happens in Pakistan and thus that issue deserved to be on the front page. I do not disagree with that.But I do want to ask my journalist colleagues, most of whom are ardent advocates of democracy, one question: how different would the national conversation about civil-military ties be if an elected civilian government was delivering 7% economic growth rates?

Every advocate of civilian rule seems obsessed with pushing the boundaries on criticising the military and discrediting their attempts to influence the government. This is a noble enough effort, but what will really push the military permanently back to their barracks will be competent civilian government. Instead of obsessing over such silly machinations of the military establishment, how about we just focus on holding the civilians accountable for policy?

Unfortunately, that would require a solid understanding of economics and other social sciences which, alas, even most of our most sophisticated of journalists lack. Hence more drivel about memos it shall be for the foreseeable future.


Farooq Tirmizi

The author is an investment analyst. He tweets as @FarooqTirmizi (twitter.com/FarooqTirmizi)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • alicia

    Memogate doesn’t matter because right now as I speak we are having gas loadshedding. In a couple of hours we will have electricity loadshedding. We did not have water in our house for 2 days a month ago. Food shortage, lack of security and trust . One of our neighbour was killed by a theif in her street in broad daylight.
    Because of this I cannot care less about a piece of paper that somebody allegedly dictated to somebody who allegedly passed it on to someone else. We Pakistanis have enough problems on our hands and Memogate is just Baray logon ki apas ki larai for me now. Recommend

  • Adnan

    very well put! can’t dispute the logic! it is the media’s inherent bias towards sensationalism that is diverting the national narrative away from more critical issues of governance. however, this is a global phenomena, not restricted to Pakistan. Recommend

  • Raza

    Its just another tactic by the government to deviate the publics attention from the core issues like gas loadshedding and power shortages.
    Last year the cries were lets charge the phones before the light goes again. Now that problem has gone worse and now people are forced to cook thier food at odd hours to ensure that they do cook at all. We are actually at one of the worst times in our history. I think more than anything else the government should overall address the power and gas issues.
    We have had enough of the promises and the lies that the elected members of the parliment have been producing. We are suffering as a nation and would eventually fade away as a nation on the map of the world unless these issues are resolved on a priority basis. I completely agree with this blog that i dont , as a layman care about a piece of paper. Recommend

  • http://www.halaltamweel.com NSK

    truly agree with your ending paragraph….nice readRecommend

  • Sabiha Bukhari

    Ijaz established the authenticity of the said memo (unsigned by the unnamed author) through the transcripts of BBM conversation that Ijaz claimed took place between him and Mr Haqqani. The BBM conversation involves many subjects of discussion and looks like a heap of different chinwags that someone gives out while establishing himself as an informed person of worth. One thing that the Pakistani media has conveniently chosen to ignore is Ijaz’s confirmation to Mr Haqqani in the BBM conversation that some ‘P’ had gotten the nod from some Arab states for toppling the Zardari government in Pakistan. One wonders if the initial investigator paid any heed to this part of the said BBM conversation transcript or tried to know who that Mr/Ms P was. Recommend

  • Ch Allah Daad

    Excellent article. Recommend

  • Pab

    The basic issue highlighted is applicable for all developing countries as well. We all can have an intelligent discussion on this but do little to change the situation. The only solution is education of the masses. This is one investment that should be absolutely top priority for any developing country to move ahead and make some real progress.

  • http://guldaan.wordpress.com/ Hamza Balouch(@H_Balouch)

    Discussion or investigation of memo issue does not mean you ignore all other issues.

    Govt leave this issue to court and few persons which are related to this case… While do his work on other crises of Pakistan… Simple.Recommend

  • Amir Naseem

    Well as I see this “memogate” despite all your points, its not just a piece of paper. Actually what happens in the third world countries like ours is only FEW are there to manipulate the masses.. I totally agree that a competent civilian govt. is the only solution towards progress but to attain this level we have to have a system which we UNFORTUNATELY lake to the very extent.
    So what I believe is we have to have a MIXED approach towards solution i.e., moving on towards the “competency” and not just leaving the current “power politics” scenario.Recommend

  • Parvez

    How do you hold the civilian government accountable for policy ?? They loot and plunder at will and shamelessly claim that the people have the right to change us at the end of our five years of loot and plunder and not before. After 5 years a so called democratic election takes place and another corrupt lot come in. The laws and systems in place to check corruption are managed by the same civilians law makers, so I come back to my opening question. Recommend

  • Tahir

    “………..but what will really push the military permanently back to their barracks will be competent civilian government.”
    Though I am from the military, but you nailed it! Indeed, competence is an all encompassing term. It means to be above and beyond personal interests too beside its literal meanings.
    By the way, military is not found of governing, they are neither structured not meant to govern, But salute to our politicians who have always tried to commit blunders of magnitude that forced the military to take lead. Interestingly, most of today’s champions of democracy have been in fore front to entice military to take over! Recommend

  • http://- Abid Khan

    Isn’t it the re-run of “Bread & Circus”?Recommend