One by one, doubts are melting in the wake of the intense electioneering heat. It seems that they will be held on July 25 after all, notwithstanding former Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif’s boycott of the NAB proceedings against him anticipating his conviction, as well as the’revelations’ in Reham Khan’s still to be released memoirs. Because of all this, these are very interesting times for Pakistan’s media industry, even if it wasn’t having its freedom threatened by extra-terrestrials.Since I am quite far from home, I don’t have direct access to means of news that could be called authentic. More and more of the fourth estate seems to be sleeping with the enemy. Obviously, in this age of engineering when political parties come about through test tubes, dwarves are made giants-though it took this particular dwarf 22 years. Of course, all the signs were always there that this would happen. One of them was last year’s blackout of the Faizabad Dharna.Since then, there have been numerous developments that have shown how the noose has tightened around the necks of free media and voices of dissent. Slowly but surely social media activists, columnists and TV analysts who did not toe the establishment line reigned themselves in.Having lived a long period of my career as a journalist I know how traumatising it is to be ruthlessly censored. However, many senior colleagues would remember how we tenaciously fought to bypass censorship and succeeded in conveying our message. Back in the days of General Zia-ul-Haq’s draconian martial law, newspapers were censored much more heavily than they are today. Journalists were not only imprisoned for violating the Zia regime’s rules, some were publicly flogged to terrorise the entire media industry. Despite this barbarity, we soldiered onBack in the days of General Zia-ul-Haq’s draconian martial law,newspapers were censored much more heavily than they are today. Journalists were not only imprisoned for violating Zia regime’s rules,some were publicly flogged to terrorise the entire media industry. Despite this barbarity, we soldiered on.General Zia was a favourite of American President Ronald Reagan. When somebody in America contemptuously called him ‘illegitimate’, President Reagan shut him down, saying “So what–he is our child.” I remember how a furious General Mujibur Rehman blew his top when we mischievously headlined President Reagan’s quote,”martial law is war against people”, urging nations not to pay taxes during martial law. It was not a violation of the regime’s rules, but it was still dissident journalism. The message here is that we have been through bad times before, but the truth always won. Through use of dirty tricks, high-handed intimidations and oppression the powers that be could suppress dissent, but not forever. However, things are particularly dangerous now because of how the establishment’s control over the media could influence the general elections. It is high time caretaker PM Nasirul Mulk wokeup to what is happening to our media at a time when it should be playing its role in a free and transparent election process.Before relinquishing his charge, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi too had expressed concern over the encroachment on free expression, and warned of serious consequences, which would be detrimental to national interests. The browbeating of the country’s largest TV network into submission was a grim omen in this regard. When one tunes into it now, one only sees a poorer version of PTV. It is said that finally feeling the financial squeeze round its neck at a time when it was already defaulting in payment of salaries, the network was left with no option but to sign a surrender deal. But this was not enough. The other thorn in the establishment’s back was the newspaper founded by Quaid-e-Azam.This is the sad state of Pakistani media today. The gold rush of TV channels in the early 2000’s has given a means of income to some, but not all journalists. Pakistan is rated as one the most dangerous locations for the profession. More journalists are being beaten up, killed or kidnapped. The case of Gul Bukhari, is the most recent example. I would like to conclude with my favourite quote, which is very relevant to the state of Pakistani journalism. Martin Niemöller, a theologian, was a German anti-Nazi Lutheran pastor during the Third Reich. He is best known for his quote, “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-because I was not a Socialist… then they came for trade unionist… I did not speak since I was not one of them… then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”Pakistani media owners, journalists and other stakeholders should wake up before there is no one left to speak in their defence.The writer is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalistPublished in Daily Times, June 13th 2018.