Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blocking Corruption at the Seams

This was crying out to be taken notice of. According to a news item in The News, Nepal's authorities have come up with an innovative way of curbing corruption by airport officials. Here's what it said:

Nepal airport workers to wear pocket-less pants

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

KATHMANDU: Nepal’s anti-corruption authority has come up with a novel solution to rampant bribe-taking at the country’s only international airport: the pocketless trouser.

The authority said it was issuing the new, bribe-proof garment to all airport officials after uncovering widespread corruption at Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport.

“We sent a team to observe the growing complaints about the behaviour of airport authorities and workers towards travellers and we discovered that the reports were true,” said Ishwori Prasad Paudyal, spokesman for the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

“So we decided that airport officials should be given trousers with no pockets. We have directed the ministry of civil aviation to implement our order as soon as possible,” he told AFP.” We believe this will help curb the irregularities.”

Paudyal said CIAA investigators had observed theft as well as bribe-taking by airport officials, who would lose their jobs if the situation did not improve.

His comments came a day after Nepal’s new Prime Minister Madhav Mumar Nepal expressed fears that corruption was tarnishing the airport’s reputation.

Nepal’s tourism industry employs around 300,000 people in one of the world’s poorest countries. The landlocked Himalayan nation attracted a record 550,000 foreign visitors in 2008, two years after a peace deal that ended the decade-long Maoist insurgency. It has set an ambitious goal of attracting one million tourists a year by 2011.

I think Pakistani authorities should also take a leaf out of Nepal's book and institute these trousers not just at airports but in all bureaucracy and particularly the police. Of course, I have a few suggstions of my own for further streamlining:

Make the trousers zipless as well: Not only would this prevent our much more resourceful bribe-takers from stuffing notes inside, it will have the added benefit of making their wearers much more jumpy about getting to the toilet to relieve themselves, leading to greater efficiency. No more long waits while the guy at the counter chats away.

Tank tops on top of pocketless / zipless trousers for all field officials: It may cause some visual discomfort for ordinary citizens in the short term, but the embarrassment of plainly visible pot-bellies will surely lead their wearers to do something about them. (I was going to suggest transparent shirts - adding a whole new dimension to Transparency International - but I think that it would be too much to take for our long-suffering countrymen and women.)

Full-body x-rays at the end of the shift, using the Green Channel scanner: for the even more industrious of our people.

Provision of tea and water at stands near any officials: So the usual line about needing money for "chai pani" can become ineffective.

That's all I can think of right now. Any more?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cruel Dunya Update - 1

Ok, so with reference to the sexual harrassment allegations against MD Dunya TV Yousaf Baig Mirza (YBM), first reported on Cafe Pyala here, YBM has chosen not to respond. In his stead Dunya TV's Current Affairs Director Nasim Zehra has written a letter to PFUJ's Secretary General Shamsul Islam Naz, who circulated a statement about the matter.

The text of Nasim Zehra's letter follows. Watch this space for updates.

Subject: PFUJ's News Item on Dunya News

AOA Shamsul Islam sahib,

I have just seen the news item, reproduced below, prepared by the PFUJ secretariat under your signature on June 27 and circulated by email. It concerns Dunya TV. It would have been appropriate if the concerned organization should have been contacted before a responsible organization like PFUJ would have issued a news item.

Dunya News takes such allegations seriously and hence an Inquiry Comitteee was immediately initiated. Pending the Committee's findings all that I would humbly point out is that PFUJ upon reading the complainant Ms. Maheen Usmani's letter(reproduced below and attached) must have realized that the complainant claims sexual harrasment on the basis of a phone call. This therefore is a case that requires close scruntiny of the letter and of the events that have led to the complainant's allegations.

I regret that the news item circulated by a responsible body like PFUJ appears to have taken a one-sided position on a very serious matter; one that requires thorough investigation.PFUJ's news item appears to give its own conclusions on the case whose inquiry results are still pending. PFUJ must stand for the rights of journalists, as we all must, but indeed remaining within a credible process. in this case PFUJ has taken a unilateral position without checking on the complete picture which could only emerge after a credible Inquiry.

Let me also point out that Dunya takes matters of Gender Equality very seriously and has previously taken action against a on an earlier complaint raised by the complainant. Hence while underscoring the seriousness with which all organizations must remain committed gender equality and gender respect I would again like to point out that unfortunately PFUJ has completely the importance of of due process. Unilateral conclusions on such a serious matter do not behove a body like PFUJ which indeed stands for the rights of journalists who shoulder the responsibility of conveying the truth to people.

Thank you,

With Regards,

Nasim Zehra

Director Current Affairs

Dunya News


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stuff We Never Got Round To

Okay folks, have been trying to remember all the bits and pieces I wanted to blog about over the last couple of weeks but which I never got round to... I really should write them down immediately. In any case, here are the few I do remember...

First off, it was Dawn's fairly good exclusive interview with President Barrack Obama. (For some strange reason it is inaccessible at this time on Dawn but here's the full text of the interview.)

Yes, the interview was pretty good, dealing as it did with wide-ranging topics such as drones, the war on terror, Pakistan's economy, military and his ability to make a mean qeema and daal. But was it just me, or did anyone else find the front-page banner heading to that interview a bit strange? This was the heading:

"Beat extremists you can, says Obama"

Is he, like, our Yoda to Zardari's Luke Skywalker? I mean, he didn't actually use that phrasing in the interview so one would have to assume this is Dawn's interpretation of our intergalactic struggle.

The second thing is something that really sent my blood pressure rocketing. Who else, but Amir Liaquat in Aalim Online on June 24, celebrating (yes, you read that right: celebrating!) Ali Haider's renunciation of music and acting. I mean, is there no end to the schizophrenia of the Pakistani nation?! Or at least of Geo, which provides this madman the platform to hold forth at direct odds with Geo's supposed own policy of promoting an enlightened (i.e. non-Taliban) version of religion?

You can see the programme in three parts, here (part 1), here (part 2), and here (part 3). (Thanks to vidpk.com.)

The first part begins with ALH holding forth against the Pakistan government, people and media for not using the appellation "shaheed" for those killed in drone attacks, who have been killed by the forces of "yahood o nassara" (Jews and Christians)... watch it if you have the stomach for conspiracy theories (I found it offensive apologia in the extreme, couched in the usual verbal gymnastics of the manipulative mullah) or you can forward to around 09:00 when he turns his attention to Ali Haider. Don't miss, however, his bubbling over excitement at Ali Haider's renunciation of showbiz and the effusive call-ins and texts congratulating the singer/actor. Truly, perhaps Pakistan does deserve the Taliban.

In the beginning, Ali Haider claims it's the despondency at the current state of affairs that made him want not to sing any more. Of course, that did not satisfy the madman. He keeps prodding him to admit that he's done this because of the "nur" (enlightenment for you angrezes) filling his heart. When Ali Haider tells a caller (at 16:00 in the first part, continuing on in part 2) that he is not immediately going to start performing hamds and naats, the madman interjects that "yeh kehna chahiye ke abhi tau aap wazoo karein gay, uss ke baad mussallay pe kharray hon gay" (one should say, you will first do the ritual washing up, then stand on the prayer mat)... Eventually, he even expresses the hope (around 9:00 in part 3) that Ali's Haider's divorce (from showbiz) is permanent, not temporary.

Ali Haider may be one more confused soul following in the confused steps of Junaid Jamshed. But what do we make of Geo and it's schizophrenia? Jiyo tau aisay bhi? As for the fake-doctor-turned-madman, can no one rid us of this insufferable fellow?

The T20 final as NOT seen on Geo Super

The third thing I wanted to blog about was what a little (absolutely credible) birdie told me and relates once again to Geo's hypocrisy. While all of us were forced to watch the T20 World Cup only on Geo Super and subjected to the abominable Mr. Jeem's intrusions into the play (irritating choruses of "Jiyo tau aisay" breaking out at every bloody boundary, break-aways for commercials often before the last ball had been bowled in an over), guess where the top management of Geo watched the final? Not on Geo Super you can bet your ass!

Apparently the entire top management of the Jang Group (including owner Mir Ibrahimur Rehman (MIR, son of CEO MSR), Geo president Imran Aslam, Managing Director of Jang Group Shahrukh Hasan, Marketing Director Sarmed Ali et al, collected together at the Defence Karachi entertainment space Area 51 along with the other Geo staffers to enjoy the final between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on... South Africa's SuperSport channel, considered illegal in Pakistan and pointedly banned through Geo's efforts on cable across Pakistan during the World Cup.

No wonder, they could not fathom why Mr. Jeem was Hate Figure No. 1 across Pakistan the next day.

Parliamentary Cretinism - Part I

Two stories, from two provincial assemblies had me in fits. Or they would have, had I known what to make of them.

The first comes from the Sindh Assembly, which in its session to pass the provincial budget, also took time out to observe one minute of solemn silence for... Michael Jackson. Yes, believe it or not. WTF?!? As Dan Qayyum of the blog Pakistan Ka Khuda Hafiz observed in his post 'A Minute's Silence for the Death of Common Sense, Please':

"The point isn’t whether Jacko was a global superstar or that he had reportedly converted to Islam – Michael Jackson had absolutely f*ck-all to do with Pakistan, its history, its culture, its language, its people and its politics. This is the Provincial Assembly of Sindh, Pakistan, not the California State Assembly. Or are we now officially the 51st state?

What next? Will Muttahida’s gun toting ‘activists’ and PPP Jayalas forcefully shut all businesses in Karachi for a shutter-down strike next time Britney shaves her head? Or will we have a national day of mourning when Paris Hilton’s little pooch dies?"
I always knew that MJ had a special place in the hearts of Makranis (understandably) and Sindhis (inexplicably) but irrespective of the Sindh Assembly wanting to Heal the World, surely this is setting a Bad precedent. In the face of the myriad other problems facing the province, this bit of sentimental tomfoolery could even be termed Dangerous. Perhaps all I want to say is, they don't really care about us.

The second news item comes from the Punjab Assembly where Shakespearean quotes seem to have sparked off an offense-taking spree from Lahore-loving MNAs. According to Dawn (pg3, 'Of Lahore, Rome and Prickliness'):

"Sheikh Ala-ud-Din of PML-Q Forward Bloc on Saturday must have made history in the Punjab Assembly when he walked out of the house in protest against something that was never said. The ire of the Sheikh, a member from Kasur (PP-181) fell on Mohsin Leghari (PP-245, DG Khan) of the PML-Q when Mr Leghari, while accentuating his southern roots, read a few lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Mr Leghari, delivering his budget speech, maintained the finance bill was more of an urban document, which excluded rural development. Speaking on the neglect of southern Punjab, he said though he loved Lahore – a city where he was educated, got his first employment and still resides in – he has not forgotten his ancestral land. Explaining his predicament, he quoted from the last scene of the Julius Caesar, where Brutus explains his killing of Caesar by saying: “It’s not that I loved Caesar less, but I loved Rome more.” Provoked either by his lack of understanding or knowledge, Mr Ala-ud-Din immediately stood on a point of order and started grilling Mr Leghari for insulting Lahore, which gave him education, employment and residence, and thundered:
“This Lahore bashing must end, especially by those who have benefited immensely from the city.” Both Speaker Rana Iqbal and Mr Mohsin tried to convince their colleague that no insulting remark had been passed against Lahore, but to no avail. After making an emotional speech, Sheikh Ala-ud Din walked out of the house in protest against “insult to Lahore”. He was later brought back by Education Minister Mian Mujtaba Shujaur Rahman on speaker’s request, and the minister also lectured the house on avoiding hurting each others’ territorial feelings. As if all this was not enough, Dr Asad Ashraf of the PML-N found a new dimension to the innocent quote and stunned everyone in the house. On next point of order, he took off by saying: “Since Mr Mohsin has called himself Caesar, he must know how Caesar was born. It was his difficult birth, which gave birth to Caesarian Operation (C-Section). How bad Caesar proved for his mother.”"

You know what they say, about a little education being a bad thing?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

It's a Cruel, Cruel Dunya, After All

Apologies for the long absence... a bunch of stuff to catch up on, which I hope some of my fellow bloggers will also get round to. But before all that, wanted to share a statement issued by the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists, reporting on the accusations by journalist Maheen Usmani against former PTV and Geo and current Dunya TV Managing Director, Yousaf Baig Mirza aka YBM.

It's worth a read (despite the abundant proofos and grammatical mistakes) if only to understand how "news" and programming is shaped in the media. Obviously, it's not all about dedicated, intrepid journos and channel managements in search of the truth and commitments to the public, as Geo would have you believe! Obviously Mr. Sleazebag, who married the actress / compere Ayesha Sana during his Geo tenure (he was still married to his first wife, and may still be), picked the wrong person to take on. Maheen Usmani has worked as a journalist since 1993, joining The News when it first came out, and has pretty strong family connections of her own (her father was a well known former bureaucrat). Of course, YBM may have a completely different take on it (count on that!) but readers should be aware that this is not the first time he has been accused of having dubious intent.

It would also pay to remember how YBM rose from a small-time marketing person in London (with Prime TV if I remember correctly) to MD in a number of organizations. He was initially picked by Nawaz Sharif (on one of his usual regal whims) to be made MD PTV in 1997. He had no background in running such a huge organization (and such a white elephant to boot) but apparently dazzled the powers that be with his supposed marketing wizardry. All that resulted was that PTV's most talented producers, including Shoaib Mansoor, Sultana Siddiqui, Sahirah Kazmi, Zaheer Khan et al, made a beeline for the exit. The crass commercialisation of PTV that YBM initiated soon meant that PTV lost whatever cache it still had in terms of quality entertainment programming while news remained the dead fish it has always been on the state controlled station.

Considered close to the man of steel, he was surprisingly not sacked when Musharraf took over, since he simply switched loyalties to the new powers that be. Soon enough, however, Mir Shakilur Rahman of the Jang Group, a genius when it comes to hiring people with no credentials whatsoever (Aamir Liaquat anyone?), threw the world at his feet and made him MD Geo TV. After making everyone at Geo (and associated with Geo) tear out their hair in frustration, he moved on as MD ARY, thanks to the other genius of idiotic hiring, Haji Abdur Razzak. He didn't last long there and was soon snapped up by Mian Amer Mahmood for his newly launched Dunya TV, which is where he now presides.

Whatever the merits of Ms. Usmani's accusations (and there is no prima facie reason not to believe her) this can't be doing the reputation of Dunya TV or its owner Lahore nazim Mian Amer Mahmood any favours.

In any case, here's the statement (you can skip to the actual letter from Maheen Usmani towards the end if you want)... Read on and weep...

PFUJ Secretariat:


ISLAMABAD: 27 JUNE 2009: Journalists fight for the rights of others, but how can they do that when their own rights are not protected and are trampled upon at will by some shady characters.

Harassment of female members in the workplace has always been a problem raised by the electronic and print media, but what happens when the guardians of women’s rights themselves indulge in unprofessional and disgusting behavior?

This seems to be the case of a certain TV channel whose CEO allegedly not only allows such incidents to take place, but also makes it a point to punish the woman involved for her right to complain against such issues at work.

The Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) is in receipt of a complaint from a female broadcaster/ correspondent, “Dunya News”, -Maheen Usmani, who tendered her resignation owing to harassment. Although the woman had joined the channel at the time of its launch, she could hardly continue her job for over seven months as she was angry with the continued harassment, coercion and unethical conduct of the top management.

She finally got disappointed with the organization and realized that her employer was protecting the managing director, who did not stop abusing his official position and put an end to his tactics.

The said media manager like in other channels has been given an upper hand over the journalistic staff and they dictate their terms and violate the journalistic norms. The woman says that she had worked best media organizations during here career and never faced such an ugly situation.

She was shocked to receive a phone call from the MD who according to her counted the expected benefits that a less important bureau reporter can get in return for keeping a direct contact with the MD on his personal number. She alleged that the MD’s talk was loathed with innuendoes and offers.

The PFUJ regrets that CEO instead of empowering the directors news or respective bureau chiefs gave the MD more powers to interact directly with the reporters who already felt harassed by him.

The PFUJ says that she noted all these months that while contractual rights of male staff members were being denied by the said MD despite repeated reminders, but he was going out of way to oblige a female staff member.

She brought the matter to the notice of the director news who took up the matter with the MD who apologized over this incident. However, with thesudden departure of the director news the MD found an opportunity to take revenge.

She alleged that “instead of reigning in MD, the CEO/ owner of the channel gave him an open hand” and the MD immediately embarked upon a campaign to place obstacles in her path. Her special assignments were withheld on frivolous grounds. Later her programme Meri Dharti Meri Dunya a weekly landmark programme of the Dunya, which proved its popularity, was not aired at the scheduled time and instead a documentary was aired and as such the programme was distorted and chopped several times and once it was aired as a filler for a brief time prior to the scheduled live coverage of the President, Richard Holbroke and Shah Mehmood Qureshi. “There is a need to improve the legislation to protect women at workplaces and create awareness about malpractices in Pakistan’s media industry,” the PFUJ added.

The woman broadcaster, Maheen Usmani, who was a correspondent of the Dunya TV, narrates her ordeal at the TV channel as follows:-

“It was with great expectations and high hopes that I became part of Dunya’s launch team in November 2008, and I took great pride in being part of Dunya ‘family’ as it climbed the ladder of success and gave tough competition to leading channels.

Seven months later, it is with great regret that I have decided to tender my resignation as the circumstances have forced me to leave this organization due to the continued harassment, coercion and highly unethical conduct of the top management of Dunya News.

Now it has become unbearable to work here as the situation has increasingly turned out to be insecure, rather punishing, for professional female journalists who want to work, as well as, protect their self-respect.”

I have waited with patience since May 11, 2009 that the Managing Director of Dunya News, Yousaf Beg Mirza, would stop abusing his official position and put an end to his ugly tactics of harassing a senior female journalist working here.

I, however, was totally disappointed with this organization when I realized that Mr Mirza’s employer, CEO and the owner of this news channel, is not interested in protecting the female employees from the advances of the MD but is in connivance with him.”

It was shocking to know that Mr Mirza is being shielded by the CEO of the organization, Mian Amer Mahmood, who was told about Mr Mirza’s indecent advances but he did not stop the MD from abusing his authority. Once it was brought to his notice, Mr Mahmood had given the assurances that no such harassment would take place but not only that this harassment continued, the CEO instead of empowering the Director News or respective Bureau Chiefs, gave the MD more powers to interact directly with the reporters who already felt harassed by him.

This all started on May 11th, 2009 at 10:01 p.m., when I received a call from one of the staff members of the Managing Director, Yousaf Beg Mirza, aka YBM to confirm my cell number. This was followed by another call at 10:07 p.m., made by the MD. During that phone call, which continued for few minutes, his suggestive talk was loathed [sic] with innuendoes, and offers as he counted [sic] the expected benefits that a less-important, bureau-reporter can get in return for keeping a direct “contact” with the Managing Director on his “personal number.”

I was shocked to hear the “friendly” MD, who had been denying the contractual rights of male staff members all these months despite repeated reminders, going out of his way to oblige a female staff member. I have worked with country’s best media organizations during my career and never faced such an ugly situation.

Finding the whole monologue, which continued for few minutes, detestable, I immediately brought the matter to the notice of Director News because he was the one who had hired us assuring that our rights will be protected in this organization, which had developed an unsavory standing in the media industry and we also had our reservations about the reputation of the MD before joining it.

I had decided to resign then but the DN asked me to withhold it and let him talk to the MD first. The DN took up this issue with the MD who apologized with the DN over this incident and said he would seek apology from me as well in the presence of the DN.

The DN assured me that such an incident would not happen again and the MD would make an apology to me as well. However, with the sudden departure of the DN, the situation took the worst turn and the MD found an opportunity to revenge, and hence re-launched his harassment campaign. This was going to happen despite CEO, Mian Amer Mahmood’s, assurances and promises to the outgoing DN that no member of his team would either be thrown out or be harassed by the MD.

Since the CEO was informed of MD’s harassing tactics, Mr Mahmood repeatedly reassured the former DN that no female employee would be harassed by YBM. “Humaray employees hamaray bachon ki tarah hain. Hum un ko protect kartain hain,” were the words which the former DN quoted me as the CEO had told him. Hearing these lofty words, I took a sigh of relief that my life and respect would be protected in this organization but what I forgot was that I was not their own daughter.

What they forgot was that despite their discriminatory tactics, before Allah all daughters are equal. Ayat 195 of Sura Aal-Imran says: “I never let go waste the labor of anyone that works among you, whether male or female, for in my sight all of you are alike.”

Instead of reining in the MD, the CEO gave him an open hand and the MD immediately embarked on a campaign to place obstacles in my path. He insisted on personally scrutinizing a special assignment report of mine in Islamabad instead of previewing it in Lahore. After previewing the report, and throwing his weight around in the Islamabad office, he ordered to withhold it on frivolous grounds.

I did not comply, because the changes were devoid of logic and reason. I had done extensive research for my project and the MD had been unaware of the historical context of Sri Lankan conflict which was not surprising since he is not a journalist, and reasons of his survival in Pakistani media, particularly during former military dictator Musharraf’s era, were other than professional. The bottom line is that the package has been dumped in Lahore, because of the MD’s intransigence and my refusal to “contact” him.

I have been associated for a long time with ‘Meri Dharti Meri Dunya,’ a weekly landmark program of Dunya, which has proved its popularity by garnering commercials, and a wide viewership. On the rating chart the program has been going from strength to strength and at times it registered a much higher rating than any other Current Affairs program of Dunya News and that too without any extra investment of the company.

Due to this huge success, the program got commercials and sponsorship of multinational companies which had also asked for increase in the frequency of the program and to be made it twice-weekly. Unfortunately, my association with ‘Meri Dharti Meri Dunyai’ has proved to be its death knell, because the MD has set out to destroy this program to teach me a lesson. What he forgot, however, is that he was trying to mess with a credible senior journalist and not one of those female opportunists, who are masquerading as journalists and are being heavily promoted for the last few days on Dunya News.

On 18th May, 2009 I was symbolically put in charge of the program’s production in Islamabad just to streamline the links, their quality and better coordination with the head office. Consequently, we had tried to introduce some innovation in the production and script which got us excellent feedback. However, on 1st June, 2009 the MD forced all concerned working under him to issue another notification and remove me as Production Incharge. But no reason was given for the abrupt and irrational change.

In the next few days, Meri Dharti Meri Dunya’s repeat slot was repeatedly taken away and given to Current Affairs programs which have their own fixed slots as well. On June 1st, Meri Dharti Meri Dunya’s producers were suddenly told at 5:30 p.m., by the Transmission Incharge that the program would not be aired that day at its scheduled and publicized time slot of 7:05 p.m., and it was being replaced by a ‘documentary’. When the producer protested at the sudden axing of the program, he was told that the orders had come directly from the CEO. When the ‘documentary’ aired, we were shocked to see the program ‘One 2 One’ which has its own time slot. Again no reason was given for this unexpected change in schedule.

We were informed that this episode of Meri Dharti Meri Dunya would air next Monday. Two days later, on Wednesday, June 3rd, the Transmission Incharge informed Meri Dharti Meri Dunya’s producers at 6:30 p.m., that the program would be going on air in 30 minutes at 7:00 p.m., instead of the scheduled sports program. The producers protested at this arbitrary and unfair treatment being meted out to Meri Dharti Meri Dunya once again, but were told that the MD had issued the orders.

This was being done despite the fact that a day earlier an announcement was made that President Zardari, Richard Holbrooke and Shah Mahmood Qureshi would address a press conference which would go live at the same time. Having no choice in the matter, the puzzled producers readied the program and it went on air at 7:05 p.m. Barely 15 minutes later, the program was trashed to live broadcast the scheduled press conference. Instead of spoiling their sports program or airing a 10 minutes bulletin as a filler as is the norm, Meri Dharti Meri Dunya was selected as the sacrificial goat once again.

On 5th June, the CEO, Mian Amer Mahmood, held a meeting with the Islamabad Bureau and when his attention was drawn to the unfair and discriminatory treatment being meted out to Dunya News’ most popular program he was unable to provide any justification for such unprofessional behavior. He did concede that Meri Dharti Meri Dunya had extremely good ratings, and said that the program’s timing was being changed ‘to improve its production value.’

Is the CEO not aware that such distortion of the program has a negative impact on the channel’s credibility, not to mention its marketing value? Despite the Islamabad meeting of June 5th chaired by the CEO, nothing improved for Meri Dharti Meri Dunya and it continued to suffer the wrath of the top management.

On June 10th, the most popular program of Dunya News was once again used as a filler when it was aired at 4:05 a.m. This time it was used to fill Ayla Malik’s program’s repeat slot as the management preferred to withhold her show due to the bomb blast in PC Peshawar earlier in the night of June 9. It was surprising as Meri Dharti Meri Dunya was not repeated during its scheduled time-slot on June 9.

Same day on June 10th, Meri Dharti Meri Dunya was chopped to 20/25 minutes duration and was once again aired, without any prior announcement, at 2:20 p.m.---again as a filler in place of Ms Malik’s show. Feeling disturbed over the situation, I separated myself from the program and told the producers last week that I will not be available for the next episode.

My colleagues are perplexed and keep asking me why a successful program is being systematically destroyed to the detriment of the channel. I owe them the truth and they must know why it is happening. The reason is self evident---a personal vendetta of the MD against me for not “contacting” him, and which is being aided and abetted by the CEO. The very same CEO, who starts every meeting with a recitation from the Holy Quran and who keeps instructing us to speak the truth and not be corrupt, has given the MD his blessings and sanction to harass a female employee just because she won’t compromise on her principles.

I advise the CEO to refer to Ayat 124 of Sura Al-Nisa: “And those who do good deeds, whether men or women, provided that they are believers, will enter into paradise and they will not be deprived in the least of their rightful rewards.” When I was hesitant to face an elderly employee at Dunya News who had spoken to me in a vulgar manner a few months ago, Director Current Affairs, Nasim Zehra, had advised me to be brave and “look him in the eye.” Because, Ms Zehra said, he was the one who had stepped out of line. She asked why female employees were so reluctant to speak out and adhered to a conspiracy of silence when in fact there should be a policy of zero tolerance against such creeps. She said that “our” silence encouraged such sleazy elements to continue their sexual harassment.

Her advice made sense to me then and now it gives me the motivation and courage to look the senior management in the eye and ask them: Does this policy of zero tolerance not apply to them?”

The PFUJ urged the President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice of Pakistan, the International Federation of Journalists civil society activists to take notice of increasing incident of young women crews’ harassment at TV channels at hands of media manager enjoying top executive position in these channels.

Shamsul Islam Naz

Secretary General


12-Nazimuddin Road, F-6/1,

Islamabad, Pakistan.

Phone Office +92(0)51 2870220-1

Facsimile +92(0)51 2870223

Cellular +92(0)300 8665523



Monday, June 22, 2009

Paksploitation nation

Brought to you by the makers of The Friday Times, I give you Ali Sethi, the next big name on the Pakistani literary scene.

A publishing prodigy who produced his 400 page opus at the age of 24, Sethi will be, Mrs P predicts, an important regional voice in the next few years. However, his debut, The Wish Maker, doesn't quite hit the spot. As first books go, this is written in confident, controlled prose and displays quite the gift for metaphor and a set of descriptive skills that belie his tender age. In a sense, Sethi's book has it all, a diverse set of characters, a vast historical span, lashings of style, everything, that is, barring a plot. You could write the story arc on a grain of sand, and, at times, you kind of wish the author had just done that instead.

What one gets is an inventory of events rather than experiences, a list of things that happened in Pakistan and to Pakistan from the 90s to present day. While Sethi manfully resists the usual cliches (not an honour killing in sight) to present a modern, recognisable country, no newsworthy happening is left unturned. One suspects at times that too wide a net has been cast to incorporate everything from Partition to Kashmir to Zia to Benazir's assassination (to the gratuitous and freestanding account of Najam Sethi's arrest). It's a great shame that one gains a far better understanding of the political climate than of the narrator's innermost desires. For a coming of age story, it was disappointing that the only person who convincingly aged over the course of the book was me, the reader.

Far more entertaining is the critical response which is laden with White Man's Burden, the readers' reviews as seen on the odd blog and amazon.com tend towards a certain sense of guilt and shame. Samples include, "I found it hard to get into, but that could be because I don't know enough about that part of the world", or "I felt it could have been shorter, but I have never read a book about Pakistan before". The Paksploitation train is rolling down the platform, next station: Hefty Publisher's Advance. All aboard?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Guv, actually

Okay, so Salmaan Taseer owns the Daily Times. If you had any doubts on that count you could do worse than check out this week's Sunday magazine.

Let's see now. On the cover is the dashing Shehryar Taseer modelling the diamond encrusted cuff links created by sister Sara Taseer Shoaib. Wow. Two incredibly talented Taseers spread across eight sensational colour pages of dad's paper.
If that does not quench your Taseer thirst, you can check out a hymn to governor daddy by the same daughter in the Father's Day special (cousin/aunt Salima waxes lyrical over her rather more illustrious dad on the same page, incidentally). Then a second daughter, Shehrbano Taseer, makes an appearance discussing (wait for it) her father on the very next page.

And just when you thought you have had enough, those blasted cuff links make yet another appearance in the section devoted to gift ideas for Father's Day. And lest we forget, Ms Taseer Shoaib is back again with an ad for her jewellery spread over two colour pages.
Did not have the stomach to check out the society pics for traces of more lurking Taseers. Can you spot any? Or has the notoriously reclusive and publicity-shy family magnanimously kept out of the roving camera's way this week lest some jealous so and so falsely accuse them of overkill? Now why on earth would anyone do that?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Qaim and Punishment

What is the first word that comes to mind when Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah is mentioned? Soft-spoken? Mild-mannered? Ineffectual? Weak? All of the above? Well, think again. How about unduly harsh? Or a bit extreme? Or Sindh's Man of Steel? Surely not!
Well, read Dawn's front page coverage of the Sindh budget and you will see a side to the man that no one thought existed. (Then again, maybe it doesn't, as Dawn refers to the gentleman presenting the budget as 'Qasim' Ali Shah in the very first para. So perhaps someone else read out the budget speech and no one noticed).

Tucked away right at the end after all the dreary figures and statistics is a line that literally leaps off the page. It states:

"He also proposed death penalty for driving a vehicle without registration, prevent default and reduce the misuse of unregistered vehicles in crimes."

Let's not quibble with the grammar or construction here but do notice the harshness of the penalty. Death for not getting your car registered?!!! The Taliban would be proud of meek old Qaim, don't you think? No wonder Altaf bhai is freaking out at the Taliban at our gates.
Will we now be flogged publicly by the bank clerk if we pay our gas bill after the due date? Or beheaded for jumping the queue at Agha's?

Come to think of it, my secret inner Taliban does sometimes want horrible things to happen to certain types of people - especially those with four-wheel drives with tinted windows, party flags and no number plates that park wherever they please. Of course, I wouldn't hurt a fly in real life but what's the harm in fantasising a bit?

So who would you secretly (and purely in theory, of course) like to instantly get their comeuppance? Motorcyclists who believe traffic signals are just quaint bits of street furniture? Or the jerk of a bank clerk who prefers to chat to his colleagues even as the queue in front of his till is on the verge of rioting? Or the idiot trying to text a love letter while driving in front of you and blocking all the lanes?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Afridi's Special Moment

So here's that wonderful, wonderful catch by Shahid Afridi to get rid of New Zealand's Scott Styris in the on-going ICC T20 tournament. Who says we're above pandering to the feel-good feeling in the country at the moment regarding our cricket team?

And the way I figure it, 1) such fielding is SO RARE in the Pakistani cricket team, we should really relish it when it does come our way; and 2) better to enjoy those fleeting moments of feel-goodness while they last. For all you know, we'll all be glum and moaning again after the semi-finals...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Kayani Channeling Shakespeare?

"General Kayani takes Ariel view of operation Rah-e-Rast"

You can imagine my surprise when I saw this poetic heading in The News. I mean, who would ever have thought that literary demons lurked inside our chief of army staff? And that too of such a Tempest-uous nature?

Of course, nothing of the sort was actually true. The excited click-through yielded only the most banal of news items about F-16 trips over Swat and the like. Chalk one more up to the unerringly jaahil sub-editors and worse proof-readers who still can't spell aerial...

But it got me thinking: what if this heading were true? What if, in the middle of the "fight for Pakistan's survival" and the drive to "uproot militancy from the country", COAS Ashfaq Pervez Kayani were, in fact, channeling Shakespeare? What if, he were taking an "Ariel view of Operation Rah-e-Rast?"

Would he be saying to the public still ambivalent about the Taliban: "If of life you keep a care,/ Shake off slumber, and beware:/ Awake, awake!"

Or in an address to the jawans: "While you here do snoring lie/ Open-eyed conspiracy/ His time doth take."

He could even send out a message to Baitullah Mehsud: "Being most unfit to live. I have made you mad;/And even with such-like valour men hang and drown/ Their proper selves."

Of course, he could also express the army's abiding distrust of politicians thus: "Before you can say 'come' and 'go',/ And breathe twice and cry 'so, so,'/ Each one, tripping on his toe,/ Will be here with mop and mow."

Please feel free to add more Ariel quotes at leisure. May Pakistan Prospero.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Blew Me Away

I almost spilled my morning tea and toast when I feasted my eyes on this in this morning's Dawn. I mean, you know you're in some deep, deep shit when your local newspaper casually carries advertising like this, right next to yesterday's obituary notices (!). I mean, this could have been an ad for Head & Shoulders shampoo or Jafferjee's leather wallets for chrissake!

I could imagine myself at the check-out counter of the local supermarket, with the clerk zapping my purchases through as he calls them: "One dozen eggs (beep), Dawn Bread (beep), Very Berry shampoo (beep), bullet-proof vest (beep), 4 packets of Maggi Noodles (beep, beep, beep, beep), toothpaste (beep), one bomb suppression blanket (beep), two pairs of socks (beep, beep), one packet of Lay's chips (beep)... anything else, sir?"

I wonder if Deepak Perwani will get into making designer bomb disposal suits.

Monday, June 8, 2009

In Defence of Pakistani Cricket

Saeed Ajmal tries slapstick in effort to entertain

There has been much too much negativity around the Pakistani cricket team's performance after yesterday's match with England. Most of it, I think, is uncalled for.

People have criticized our fielding since we dropped at least 5 catches in the space of 20 overs, Saeed Ajmal dropping two, Ahmad Shehzad, Salman Butt and Yasir Arafat one each, and gave away, in the "shoulder-shrugging estimation" (as Andrew Miller termed it on Cricinfo) of skipper Younis Khan, about 20-25 runs through shoddy fielding. This is just looking at the bad aspect of things. Nobody's talking about the fact that we actually managed to take 3 catches (one of them not even a sitter) and restricted the English to just 185, when they could easily have crossed the 210 mark. I prefer to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

Critics are also complaining about Pakistan's batting performance, claiming we never got going, or, as Waseem Akram put it in terms he understands best now, never "teed off." They point out that when we knew that we needed over 9 an over to begin with, we should have made full use of the fielding restrictions in the first 6 overs (as every side in T20 actually does), and when the required run rate shot up to over 16, gone for the big strokes rather than trying to gently nudge the ball for singles. They have also criticised the fact that whereas the English were hitting the ball at will over the boundary, our guys could hardly cover half the ground before being caught out at mid on. Personally, I think this was all a bit of miscommunication and does not warrant the kind of vicious attacks on Pakistani players we have seen. I have it on good authority that the captain had worked out a comprehensive strategy whereby the goundwork was being laid for the big assault between the 40th and 50th overs. Apparently panic set in around the 17th over when it was communicated to him that there were now only 3 overs remaining. Can happen to anyone.

There have also been calls for the head of the coach Intikhab Alam, especially since he is reputed to be earning in excess of 700,000 rupees per month without much to show in terms of success, or even a competent display on the field. Stories are circulating about him and Younis being at daggers drawn over strategy. Apparently this division arose particularly after the 17th over of Pakistan's batting when Younis began to panic, because in Inti's opinion, Pakistan should have tried to see the day out by preserving wickets. After Misbah holed out, Inti was in favour of sending in a night-watchman, a tactic Younis apparently rejected. This vilification of Inti, again, I think is, unfair and petty. Those who follow Pakistan cricket as assiduously as myself, know that all Inti ever promised when he took up the job was that we would get to see the "Pakistan team in a new light." I think he has lived up to that promise.

People bitching about our performance have also shut their eyes to the other positives that the game provided. It was lovely evening, the stands were full, they played "Dil Dil Pakistan" on the stadium speakers before the start of the Pakistan innings, a tune we thought had been consigned to the dustbin of history (and I don't agree with those who think that should have given us a clue to what kind of innings we would see), the rain didn't stop play in the middle and apparently the beer stall did roaring business despite (or perhaps because of) the Pakistanis present in the stands. Best of all, despite this being The Oval and the umpires being Billy Doctrove and an Australian, nobody walked out of the ground and refused to return.
In any case, as skipper Younis said to CricInfo, who really cares what happens in the T20 World Cup???:

"It won't be a disaster even if we exit before the Super Eights," said Younis. "It would be sad if we don't make it, but I have never attached too much importance to Twenty20 cricket, as it is fun cricket. I mean it is more for entertainment, even if it is international cricket. It is all for the crowd. Twenty20 is all about fun. Everybody expects players to come out and entertain."

I think the captain has it perfectly right. We have been highly entertained and we should be happy with that.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous

In the middle of the frenzy about the army operation in Swat / Buner / Dir, the news of kidnappings and recovery of scores of cadets, the apparent killing of thousands of militants and military personnel, and the disaster of the millions displaced from their homes and living in dire conditions, it's good to see some people are able to keep a sense of humour about things.

First it was the Minister for Sports of the North-West Frontier, who announced the holding of a sports festival in the IDP camps in Mardan, "to provide the refugees sports facilities." He obviously correctly surmised that the importance of adequate shelter, food rations, toilet facilities and electricity was being given undue importance by those actually working with the displaced, though he thought better of his initial idea of introducing lawn tennis as part of the sports festival.

Now we have an enterprising soul called Meher Tareen, who has announced the launch on June 7 of her summer collection of "limited edition" tee shirts, under the banner of Sublime.T, to support the fashionable war effort. In her own words (posted on facebook), she says:

"These slogan tshirts represent the Sublime patriotic and eco friendly theme of going green while showcasing uplifting messages in these troubled times to build patriotism and the general Pakistani spirit, fashionably.

Most importantly this new label marks Sublime’s support for the umbrella organisation Hum Pakistan and its Green Ribbon campaign. Hum Pakistan unites 20 Ngo’s with the common purpose of supporting Pakistan and is also currently dedicated to the repatriation of internally displaced citizens of the country."

What can one say about such patriotism that is not only sublime but also eco-friendly AND is dedicated to repatriation. I can almost see the army of volunteers dressed in Sublime tees, pushing the great unwashed in Mardan back to their homes. Could one ask for anything more?

"Sublime will be distributing green ribbons in support of this campaign and will also be channeling part of their sales proceeds to Hum Pakistan."

Oh my God! Will Ms. Tareen's generosity, patriotism and eco-friendliness never end? Not only do we get green ribbons (also limited edition and biodegradable, no doubt) for free, we get cotton t-shirts for, well, I assume less than a meal at Jason's Steak House in the PC. And although, she doesn't quite spell out what "part of their sales proceeds" mean, I am sure it is not less than 50 per cent of the tag price... 25 per cent?... well, at least 10 percent certainly.

But wait, there's more pep talk to get the nation into a fashionable frenzy:

"Please join Sublime-T this Sunday and be a part of this drive toward patriotism, unity and change."

Ok, so she threw in the 'change' bit just for kicks, since a "drive toward patriotism and unity" are usually antithetical to any kind of change. But what the hell. I'm not gonna let semantics come in the way of me and the Sublime Flagship Store on M.M. Alam Road! 

Ms. Tareen then lists all the "slogans" her sublime t-shirts will be carrying. While I find them entirely commendable, patriotic, uplifting and eco-friendly, I thought they could do with some little tweaks and additions. I have added my tweaks as comments to the original slogans. Let me know what you think or if you have other ideas. After all, anything for Pakistan!


1. My heart belongs to Pakistan

[The back should read: "My brain was repossessed long ago"]

2. J'adore Lahore

[Small print beneath that could read: "We Lahoris love French Fries Too." Or "The Heart Symbol Was Already Taken By Some Sod In Karachi." Or "Je d├ęteste Faisalabad." Ms. Tareen should be careful about promoting this T-shirt in Mardan and Swabi though, since it might send the wrong message to the IDPs. In which case, it might be better to put another line on the back that says "So Keep the Displaced Out of the Punjab."

3. I believe in miracles

[Back: "I believe the Taliban will soon disappear" Or "My immigration is in process"]

4. The sun always shines on me

[Below: And out of my ...]

5. Yummy Mummy

[Below: "Only I Know What's Under My Hijab"]

6. I don't need to be rescued, you do!

[Alternative version: "I don't need to be repatriated, you do!"]

7. Addicted to tea

[Back: "The rest we don't talk about"]

8. Love is blind...marriage is a real eye opener!

[Small print on front under 'Love is blind': "I love Pakistan"; Small print on back under 'marriage is a real eye opener': "I'm married to notions of Muslim glory" 

9. Life is complicated enough,I like simple things

[Back: "Kill, kill, kill"]

10. Got it all!

[Back: "Including a green ribbon"]

11.Diva Pakistani

[Back: "And you thought Talibs were the worst thing about Pakistan"]

12. Pakistani Royal Tee

[Back: "With A Uniquely Pakistani Sense of Fashion"]

13.Made in Fabulous Pakistan

[Back: "Exported to Toronto"]

14.Viva La Pakistan

[Smart thinking. This'll come in handy as an exile in France or Spain. Alternative Version (to cover all bases) with Full Sleeves: "Viva La Islamic Republic"]

15. Be yourself. Who else is better qualified

[Back: "Except If You're Part of Lahore's Elite or Pakistan's Patriotic Fashionistas, It May Be Better To Be Someone Else"]