Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Oh Dear! ... Then Again...

Chanced across this news on the MusicPakistan website, posted on September 20. I have no idea if it is true or not, but don't say you weren't warned. If Mohammad Asif flunks his return match today, we will all know what happened...

Here is the item, reproduced warts and all:

Veena follow Asif to South Africa
Lollywood actress Veena Malik has obtained South African visa and will leave for Johannesburg from Islamabad to meet pace maker Muhammad Asif, reliable sources reported on Friday in Lahore. The sources revealed that Veena was going to South Afria to meet Asif as the bowler was already there for the Champions' Trophy.

Love affair between Veena and Asif was started in December 2008. Veena rejected the claim that she ever tied the knot with Asif, when her ex-boyfriend Babarak Shah pursued them. The scandal was revealed in the country's newspapers.

The sources said Veena would set for South Africa on Sunday night. She would celebrate Muhammad Asif's return to the national team there.

When Veena contacted, she told that it's her right to go wherever she wanted and that it's her personal life and nobody had right to interfere in it. "South Africa is a beautiful country and she often visits the country", she added.

On the other hand, if Asif shines, perhaps that pro-sex dossier by the Indian coach / physio makes sense after all!

On a completely different note, here's my take on the whole thing, for what it's worth... Losing today's match to Australia may not be such a bad thing in my book, because it would put us in second position in our group. Which in turn means we would be playing New Zealand (who are on top in the other group) in the semis. Now, regardless of the injury problems facing the Kiwis, if you recall, both times that we have won the World Cup (1992, T20 in 2009) we have faced New Zealand in the semis.

I just think it would be a good sign.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Eyes Wide Open

So, once again we've all disappeared for a bit. Eid and all that...

Just wanted to share this story from Dawn's Business pages with everyone, which certainly made MY eyes pop. It's worth reading.

Here is what it basically reports:

"A foreign-sponsored local bank has called shareholders to an extraordinary general meeting on Oct 19 at which Item three on the agenda would be of interest.

It seeks to obtain shareholders’ approval of remuneration to be paid to non-executive directors of the bank’s board for attending board meetings and its committee meetings.

Some market watchers believe that the proposed scale of the sitting fees of directors is preposterous. Chairman and deputy chairman (DC) would receive a packet of US$25,000 per meeting, while other members on the board would be handed down $10,000 for every time the board meets.

Converted at Rs82.85 to a dollar, chairman and DC would receive Rs2 million and other members on the board Rs0.8 million per head.

The board meets on an average five times a year, so that the directors would be able to reward themselves with Rs10 million for the top two men and four million for each of the other six non-executive directors."

For readers' information, the bank Dawn was too coy to name, is UBL.

Now go back and read it again. Or actually go and read the whole story, which puts things into more perspective. As a further reference, let me point out that an entity such as Sui Southern Gas Company pays its non-executive directors an honorarium of around Rs. 10,000 - 15,000 for their time, per meeting. Which seems fair enough since the board members are not really employees of the company.

And you thought all that "excessive emoluments" category was limited to the AIGs and Lehman Brothers of this world. Of course, Junaid Jamshed will probably say these rates were fixed by the morning angel and this is the way Allah meant it to be.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Junaid Jamshed Needs a Commitment ...To A Mental Asylum

First of all, a big shout-out to Tazeen who wrote an excellent post on her blog about that neanderthal proto-Talib Junaid Jamshed and what he said on that charlatan Aamir Liaquat Hussain (aka 'Dr' Evil)'s show Jaahil Online... er, Aalim Online.

You really should read the post and see the video of the show yourself, available thanks to vidpk. But basically, this is what Mullah JJ had to say about the tragic incident in Karachi wherein 19 women queuing up for free food rations lost their lives in stampede:

1. Allah has created the poor (and a few rich people) and that's the way it's meant to be
2. The poor should not complain and should show patience, even if it means starving
3. These women died because they had lost their faith in God and Islam
4. The biggest problem in Pakistan is that the poor have lost their faith
5. It's better to starve to death than lose your self-dignity

Of course, Mullah JJ can say all this because the closest he's ever been to poor people is when they irritate him by knocking on his car window, as he himself admits. And of course, the call by the rich (after all Mullah JJ is rolling in millions from his Vital Signs days, his clothing line and from doing the odd endorsement of Lays chips) for the poor to not become a nuisance, to accept the social and economic status quo as God-ordained, is nothing new. The Vatican had followed the same line for centuries in support of monarchs and emperors, which is why "liberation theology" that sprang out of socially left-wing clergy in Latin America was (and is) considered almost heretical. But it's interesting to see the Tableeghi Jamaat (of which Mullah JJ is an avid proponent) come full circle from the revolutionary interventions of Muslim scholars like Ali Shariati and Mohammad Iqbal and proclaim the same hackneyed principles of economic status quo so publicly. Mullah JJ is of course no Iqbal who had proclaimed:

"Jiss khait se dehqaan ko moyassar ho na rozi
Uss khait ke har khosha-e-gundum ko jala do"

[The land that does not feed its farmer / Burn every sheaf of wheat in that land]

It's highly unlikely that Mullah JJ has even read anything other than the washing instructions on his over-priced clothes. But what is particularly galling about this insensitive, arrogant wanker (man would be too dignifying for him) is that these women were not even protesting dire economic conditions, which Mullah JJ obviously does not like (the protesting, that is, not the dire economic conditions). They were simply trying to survive as best as they can in a time of rising inflation and unemployment.

But I don't really want to repeat what Tazeen has already eloquently written about. What I wanted to point out was something else Mullah JJ said, further on in the clip, which left me even more dumbfounded and is solid proof, if any were needed, that this idiot needs to have a straitjacket slapped on him and led gently into the confines of a padded room. This bit comes in around 22:45 on the clip and I am reproducing it verbatim here:

"Mehngai insaanon ki wajah se nahin aati. Subah ke waqt aik fareshta aata hai aur aa kar ailaan karta hai, aur..aur..chawal ke danay se le kar tael ke saaray nirkh tae kar ke jaata hai. Ab laga lo jo aap ne karna hai aap ne, jitni stock marketing mein karna hai, yeh karna hai, woh karna hai, jitni aqlain lagani hain laga lo. Bula lo finance minister ko bhi aur falaanay minister ko bhi aur uss minister ko bhi. Koi kuchh nahin kar sakta. Jab loag farmabardar ho jaatay hain tau Allah ta'ala ki taraf se moafaqat ke faislay hotay hain oopar se."

[Inflation is not caused by human beings. In the morning an angel arrives and announces the rates for everything from rice to cooking oil. Now, you can do what you will, try what you will, in the stock market or wherever. You an call the finance minister, or this or that minister, nobody can do anything. It is only when people become obedient that Allah takes decisions in their favour.]

Un-effing-believable. Not only that there are people still out there who actually believe in such  dangerous hocus pocus (dangerous because it chooses to ignore the real reasons of deprivation and hunger) but that they are provided a platform on prime time television to spout their baloney. (I suppose the angel also announces the Rs. 2000 pricetag for each Mullah JJ kurta as well!) One can only marvel at Geo which obvioulsy was not content with sharing the mealy-mouthed inanities of Dr Evil with the Pakistani public but felt there was some lunacy void in the programme that needed to be filled.

On  a final note (and as an eloquent response to Mullah JJ's theories of economics) I just want to share these lines from sufi Baba Bulleh Shah that were quoted by Jang columnist Munnoo Bhai in today's column:

Dekh O Bandeya

Asmaanan te ud-day panchhi
Dekh te sahi ki karday neen
Na o karday rizq zakheera
Na o bhukkay marday neen
Kadi kissi ne pankh pakhero
Bhukkay marday dekhay neen?
Banda ee karda ai rizq zakheera
Banday ee bhukkay marday neen.

[See, O Humans]

[The birds flying high in the skies
Just see what they do
Neither do they hoard their food
Nor do they starving die
Has anyone ever seen
Birds dying of hunger?
It's humans who hoard
And humans who of hunger die.]

Perhaps Mullah JJ can be provided some music of the same in his padded cell.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Civil Society... Not!

I don't even know what to say... On Javed Chaudhry's usually boring-as-hell show on Express 24/7 yesterday, PPP's Firdous Ashiq Awan implies PML(Q)'s Kashmala Tariq is from Heera Mandi and has bed-hopped her way into the parliament... all while the host and the new editor of The Nation, Shireen Mazari, look on stunned. Can't say I blame them.

Eegad! And we thought the blog comments on the Arif Nizami episode were veering into uncivil territory!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Meera and the Media

I was planning on writing something about the despicable hypocrisy and shallow classism of the media's handling of the Meera controversy, where the Pakistani actress' personal troubles with a man alleging to be her husband have become fodder for regular, snide reports on television. But Faiza S. Khan has beaten me to it on an Indian web magazine, so I will just reproduce it below.

But before you read Faiza's analysis (which I happen to agree with), do also take a look at some examples of what I am talking about.

Here's Geo's 'news report' giving its "unbiased" opinion on the developments of the Meera story:

Here's Geo showing its professional ethics by not only continuing to film after the subject (that would be Meera in this case) specifically asked for the cameras to be turned off, but then broadcasting the unauthorized footage:

Now, this is hardly the entire story. Geo's anchors have been the worst (unfortunately, I could not find the clips of the anchors' comments on youtube), using language and innuendo hardly appropriate for news presenters and offering their unsolicitied personal opinions on the issue, usually to make fun of Meera. Among the lines I have personally heard used in the headlines (Headlines!) are "Bakray ki maan kab tak khair manaye gi" ('How long can the lamb escape slaughter', announcing the discovery of the alleged nikahkhwaan) and "Urdu tak tau baat saheeh thi lekin Angraizi mein train pathri se uttar gayi" ('Matters were all right in Urdu, but English derailed the train', announcing Meera's statement to reporters outside the court). In other instances, channels have used the song "Jhoot Bolay Kawwa Kaatay" as theme music for their segments on Meera, and even implied that her protestations about the matter are just a big drama.

The question here is not whether Meera is being truthful or being disingenuous or even of her "moral integrity." The question is one simply of why the media has chosen to relentlessly attack her, sometimes for her alleged crime,  sometimes her personal morality, sometimes her language skills, and sometimes her "bold" scenes in films across the border. Could it be, simply, that Meera is a 'soft' target without power and influence? One who can be counted on not to be able to strike back, legally or otherwise?

One may well question the media wolf-pack whether they have ever been as biting on television about illustrious politicians, military generals or other public figures with far more egregious personal lives (I can think of many, many who have led far more scandalous lives but who receive utmost respect on our channels!). Or would they think it's fair game if they themselves - as public figures - were ridiculed and mocked in the same way for any of their indiscretions? What do you think, macho-man Javed Iqbal? I'd like to hear you speak some proper English myself.

In any case, on to Faiza's analysis:

A Girl Called Meera
By Faiza S. Khan
Meera’s story challenges the hypocrisies of the liberal-minded swish set in exactly the same way as Rakhi Sawant’s does.
News on the drawing room circuit this week revolves around the private life of a local media personality: the statuesque, achingly beautiful actress Meera, who, like Cher, goes by just the one name. Meera is a Lollywood film star, in so much as one can be a Lollywood film star. The Lahore-based Pakistan film industry hasn’t enjoyed anything resembling brisk trade since the ’80s and hasn’t seen quality cinema since the ’70s. Currently, a percentage of their talent is culled from sex workers. In an odd reversal, if you’re going to find successful actors and thoughtful directors, it’s most likely to be on television. Meera’s tried her luck that side of the border (where film sets are paved with milk and honey) but so far it’s come to naught. Well, almost naught. She was picked up by Mahesh Bhatt (for a movie, I hasten to add) in 2005. Her controversial kiss with co-star Ashmit Patel in Soni Razdan’s steamy Nazar made it to the international press due to the now customary death threats from lunatic extremists. While it remains unconfirmed, there are suspicions that some of the threats may have come from film-goers irked at having spent good money on a clumsy remake of The Eyes of Laura Mars.
It doesn’t really matter that the film was a turkey; Meera is not known for her acting and draws a sizeable income from advertising campaigns and personal appearances. She is known by the in-crowd primarily for her novel use of the English language. ‘Meera-isms’ regularly circulate at parties, a running joke being the time when she was asked what her favourite feature was and replied, ‘my ass’, obviously meaning her eyes, Meera announcing she has a headache in her stomach, and so forth. That she largely works in Pakistan and is fluent in both Punjabi and Urdu makes no difference. And if it isn’t bad enough being tittered at by pretentious socialites (many of whom think ‘rocking’ is an adjective), for not having had the opportunity to attend a Grammar School, there’s the most recent scandal that shows up an even uglier quality in society at large.
The rumour, which in itself isn’t terribly interesting, involves a Dubai-based businessman claiming to be Meera’s husband, complete with photographs of what appears to be their nikkah, attempting to take possession of the house she lives in, which he alleges belongs to him. According to Meera, he has threatened her with physical harm. She has responded by swearing up and down that she has never been married and will tell anyone who’ll listen that an opportunistic plot has been cooked up to use her fame to seize her assets.
I don’t particularly care if it’s true or not; like I said, not very interesting. I am however taken aback by the utterly disgraceful treatment meted out to her by the media. She’s presented as comic relief, shown as an exhibit at a zoo, worse yet, a contestant on a reality show. She’s patronised by smirking, smug little news anchors, who appear to forget that they’re not in fact opinion-makers, closer to human teleprompters. She constantly confronts hostile questions, has been filmed secretly having an off-the-record conversation and the footage of her crying at a press conference has been set to a jaunty little tune on YouTube. A particularly nasty blog included the comment, ‘I feel so bad for that man. All these bazaari women marry men for their money.’ Ah yes, as opposed to all those eminently respectable girls from ‘good families’, well, obviously money has never crossed their noble minds, which is why we see so many of them eloping with the milkman for love.
All the liberals (and we have many who wouldn’t be considered broad-minded if there weren’t the Taliban as a point of comparison), fully cognizant of the fact that women are particularly at risk in Pakistan, are too busy sniggering up their sleeves to care. There’s a self-satisfied air in the re-telling of Meera’s misfortune, a sense of justice that an upstart of dodgy origins, who flaunts her new money and her outrageously large Versace glasses, should be brought down a peg. The unsubstantiated suggestion lingers that some of her newly acquired wealth may have come from the world’s oldest profession. Here’s the deal: you create a society where women are neither permitted nor equipped to make a substantial living, a society where, out of sheer politeness, you’re supposed to be born and die on the same social echelon. Then you hate people for finding ways around this.
You’d think a country aged 62, itself a parvenu in the global arena, would be more forgiving, perhaps even encouraging of social mobility. Apparently not.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Arif Nizami's Termination - Update 2

So yeah, while the mud keeps flying between the Majeed and Arif Nizami camps - apparently nowhere more so than right here in the comments section of this blog - here's what Dawn reported today:

Arif Nizami to launch newspaper

By Our Staff Reporter
Sunday, 13 Sep, 2009 | 05:45 AM PST

LAHORE, Sept 12: Arif Nizami, who was recently removed as the editor of The Nation, plans to bring out his own newspaper “within months” and hopes to promote professionalism in the media.

Talking to Dawn about his future plans, he said he was not a rich man but could count on friends to help him launch his paper. He described the project as “a moral obligation” since one of his aims was to provide jobs to all those colleagues who had resigned to protest his sacking.

“The unprecedented support that I have received in the last few days only goes to prove my professional credentials,” Mr Nizami told Dawn by telephone. “It is heartening to see so many professionals standing by me.”

Arif Nizami’s departure last week from the group that was synonymous with his name has led to a raging debate in journalistic circles all over Pakistan. He has been hailed as someone punished for his professionalism and alternately described as a victim of internal strife.

Mr Nizami himself blames his ouster on a combination of “professional and personal reasons”. “Professionally, the space for independent journalism was getting squeezed with time because of certain economic and unprofessional pressures.

“During the last three months of my tenure, I was under intense pressure to resign. I withstood the pressure because I believed that the demand was being made of me because of personal and not professional reasons,” he said.

I guess what is interesting in this report , beyond the actual announcement, is the fact that Dawn has broken it. Keep in mind that Arif Nizami was always close to Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon. As for Majeed Nizami, I'm not really sure who he's ever been close to, professionally speaking of course. Other than Nawaz Sharif of course. Hmmm.

It's not that I haven't enjoyed the back and forth between the two camps, obviously coming from people rather close to the main parties on both sides. (And who knew people were so eager to spill all the deep dark secrets of each others' personal lives.) But really, folks, a little civility to each other would not be an unreasonable demand.

By the way, for all those holding up Hameed Nizami as some sort of shining beacon, he may rightly be called one of the pioneers of journalism in Pakistan, but he was hardly either an upholder of progressive values or a champion for workers and the under-priveleged. His editorial line was exactly what is wrong with Pakistan today - hypernationalist, pro-establishment and right-wing. McCarthyist would not be an inappropriate appellation for him with regards to the left / liberal sections in Pakistan. And en masse lockout of workers protesting non-payment of salaries was fairly common during his days.

Just to set the perspective straight.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Incompetent Authority Ad of the Day

Have a look at this quarter page PAID paean in today's Dawn, from Sindh Minister for Local Government Agha Siraj Durrani to his boss, buddy and former jail-mate, President Asif Ali Zardari...

In case you can't read it, or have missed it, this is what the copy says:

"The leadership of Mr. Asif Ali Zardari has given a consistant (sic) solidarity (sic) and peaceful political system (sic) to the nation. He fought hard to defeat the dictatoriship (sic) and striyed (sic) to implement the demoratic (sic) systemi (sic) in the country. During the short period of 1 year (sic), he did his best efforts (sic) to eradicate mis-management, terrorism and economical (sic) crises across the country."
"Saluate (sic) to (sic) our Hero, to his dynamism and consistant (sic) nature."

Saluate to him indeed! I'm no longer upset that public money, OUR tax money, is once again being used for shameless, unnecessary chamchagiri. I'm just over the moon that, thank God, Mr Durrani did not mention his hero's achievements in education or in appointing competent ministers or proof-readers!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Geo Does the Dirty Once Again

You need to view this report from Geo in its entirety to evaluate just how "revolutionary" and "progressive" our electronic media has been for Pakistan...

Yup, this is the side of "fearless journalism" that we never hear about from the champions of media freedom who do not tire from telling us about their "principles" (i.e. "Geo Asool" in this case) and their fight for a more just and educated Pakistan. That is, when they're not inundating us with prattling talk shows about petty political intrigues...

A few questions that come to mind about this report for the Geo Asool people to answer:

1. It mentions that the entire "issue" was first highlighted by Geo itself. Did Geo create this "issue" or was there actually some protest before Geo got their cameras in there?

2. The poor terrorised principal states that the same curriculum is being followed by other schools. Did Geo's reporters make any attempt to check this? And if so, why was it not included in the report?

3. Is there something inherently wrong about teaching biology? Human biology? Sex education? Geo should tell us what its position is on the matter.

4. The thrust of the report seems to be that these kids are much too young to be given information about sex or human biology. Really? Is puberty too young? Is Geo implying that it would be okay if this information came slightly later? Or not at all?

5. What is the background of the moronic "Adviser on Education, Naveed Zuberi" who claims that Pakistani 'kids' are not even aware of sexual issues before they get their National ID card? Is he qualified to discuss educational matters? Does he know that the 'age of consent' in Pakistan is 16? And does an 'adviser' have the authority to conduct 'raids' on a school?

6. The report goes on to accuse the school of using further 'objectionable' material in its curricula, without specifying what this is. What is this objectionable material and who has deemed it objectionable? We see the cover of one book on Islam, with the implication that this is the offending material. If it isn't, Geo owes the writer /publisher of the textbook and the school an apology. If it is, why was it not spelled out so as not to tar everything else with the same brush?

7. Why was this particular school targeted? What connection does the reporter / commissioning editor have with this school? A full disclosure is necessary especially since it has tarnished the image of an educational institution without anything being proven.

Can anyone take up these questions with Geo and it's self-righteous owners?

Arif Nizami's Termination Notice - Updated

So, here is the first update to my earlier post... just in case you thought I was making up the bitter tussle between chacha-bhateeja...

Here is the text of the notice sent out by Majeed Nizami to the staff of The Nation / Nawai Waqt:

Please note that the services of Mr Arif Nizami Editor of The Nation have been terminated with immediate effect.

You are informed not to deal with or to take any instructions from Mr Arif Nizami regarding the business of the newspaper of the company. The new Editor ie Ms Shireen Mazaari has taken charge from today and shall be responsible for the working of the newspapers.

(Majid Nizami)

Ooh. This is masala-time.

Update: Had missed this bit of live theatre, with Arif Nizami live on Aaj TV talking about how and why he was sacked. Thanks to khabardrama for pointing me in this direction... You don't need to watch the entire piece, it's only in the first few minutes. By the way, you can ignore Nusrat Javed's platitudes about the Nizamis, it's the kind of false crock that people come up with before they plunge in the knife... And that bit where Arif Nizami says that Majeed Nizami has become more self-centred and unable to hear opposing views with age... more crock, he's always been that way!

Nizamis Battle It Out, Lakhani Moves In

Apologies for being AWOL for so long. I couldn't explain it even if I wanted to.

In any case, some major developments in the media in the last few days, which really I should have posted as soon as I found out about them. But better late than never I guess.

First off, there has been a major quake in the house of Nawai Waqt. Yesterday, i.e. Monday 7 September, the grouchy old patriarch Majeed Nizami (who must be in his mid-80s now and, yes, the guy who claimed it was he who forced Nawaz Sharif to explode the bum by threatening to explode HIM if he did not) staged a coup of sorts in his own empire. He ousted the founding editor of The Nation, Arif Nizami, who it must be pointed out is his nephew and the son of the late Hameed Nizami, the founder of the Nawai Waqt group. In his place, he appointed... and this really beggars belief... Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf Secretary General and spokesperson, Shireen Mazari, as the editor.

A friend was joking that Majeed Nizami obviously thought The Nation was becoming too leftist a paper (ha!), and wanted to correct the dangerous tilt towards liberalism by bringing in the woman who makes no bones about her connections with the intelligence agencies of the country, and who has been on the warpath against the US ambassador of late. But jokes aside, it is being said that this coup has to do with family turfs - Majeed Nizami would like the "spoils" (a most appropriate term for the Nawai Waqt empire) to remain in the hands of his (adopted) daughter, rather than be taken over by his nephew. Nevermind that he himself took over the media house by default when his brother passed away. Shireen Mazari, according to this version, is merely keeping the seat warm. What it doesn't explain is how Majeed Nizami's benefactor, Nawaz Sharif, will see the PTI Spokesperson being appointed editor at his favourite English paper. And will the new editor continue in her role as the Secretary General of the most irrelevant party in Pakistan?

But there's more: today, according to some reports, the entire editorial team of The Nation has resigned to protest the sacking of Arif Nizami. This is now getting really interesting. Watch this space for updates.

Meanwhile, Sultan Lakhani, known more for selling consumer goods as Lakson Group and who began the Express newspaper and Express 24/7 channels mainly to spite the Jang Group - at whose hands he had received some not too positive coverage - is now thinking of launching a new English language newspaper. His son, Bilal Lakhani, is going around meeting all sorts of journalists on a major recruitment drive for the paper, which is set to be launched in the coming January or February.

Whether there is space for another English paper, I leave to you to judge. But so far the following people have already signed up: Dawn's former Islamabad resident editor and London correspondent, the veteran M. Ziauddin, will be the "Executive Editor". Abbas Athar, currently editor of the Urdu language Express, will be called the Group Editor, which I suppose means he will be higher in the heirarchy than Ziauddin. In addition, the Editor Reporting of The News (and ex-Dawn) Kamal Siddiqui has also apparently jumped ship, though as what, it's not exactly clear.

All those being recruited may want to ask one simple question of Mr Lakhani: what about Business Today? Some of you may remember that that paper, also owned by Sultan Lakhani, was shut down one fine day at 5 pm with Mr Lakhani coming in and telling the newsroom that the paper would not be publishing the next day and that everyone should henceforth go home. They may want to ensure that this is not the fate awaiting them one fine day down the road...

As I said, watch this space for updates...