Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sleazebag Flippancy of the Day

I have to say I am almost speechless.

Was watching a long wrap up report today on Geo News about Hillary Clinton's visit to Pakistan and her various engagements while here. And suddenly, over images of her visiting the Bari Imam (or was it Data Darbar) shrine - where she laid a ceremonial chadar and then paid her respects by raising her hands in 'dua' - the correspondent's commentary went something like:

Hillary at Iqbal's tomb: Not what I'm talking about

'Hillary Clinton ke shauhar Bill Clinton ne unn se Monica Lewinsky aur doosron ke saath bewafaii ki thi...unhon ne dua ki hogi ke woh raah-e-raast pe rahein.'

[Hillary Clinton's husband Bill Clinton was unfaithful to her with Monica Lewinsky and others. She probably prayed for him to remain on the straight and narrow.]

I mean, this is a SERIOUS news channel? Can Geo get any more sleazy and flippant?

Can't we pray that Rah-e-Nijaat rid us of such reporting too?

Update 1:

Thanks to Huma Imtiaz's diligence, below is the full report as seen on Geo. The bit about Bari Imam is at around 5:02 but there's another bit of speculation about Hillary's thoughts at Iqbal's tomb right before as well. The exact words of the commentary were (sorry for the rough memories earlier):

"Hillary, jin ke shauhar Monica Lewinsky se dost ban kar biwi se baywafaii kar chuke hain, yahaan Hillary ne haath baandh kar kayi ke nazdeek apnay shauhar ki hamaisha raah-e-raast par rehnay ki dua ki."

[Hillary, whose husband was unfaithful to his wife by pretending to be friends with Monica Lewinsky, in the presence of many, clasped her hands together and prayed for him to forever remain on the straight and narrow.]

Geo's Galling Gol

Geo tried once-again to be hip today. The results were predictably funny. (I was alerted to this by a forwarded text, so thanks to the writer!)

They ran a feature in their normal bulletin about the Asterix and Obelix comics turning 50. Of course, this being Geo, neither their scripters, editors or newsreaders had a clue about what they were talking about. Obviously getting a news feed from Reuters or AP is no guarantee of comprehension. So, even as Salman Hasan, the newsreader struggled to pronounce "Asterix", he announced that "Asterix comics ka markazi kirdar Gol aaj pachas baras ka ho gaya" [Gol, the central character in the Asterix comics has turned 50 today]. Gol, in case you're wondering, was obviously Gaul, as in ancient France.

I kept wondering what the original line in the English wire feed must have been for them to interpret the setting for the comics as the central character, which the series is named after. Then I came across this in the Guardian and it all made sense. The opening lines read:

"Asterix fever is hitting the French capital this week. As the doughty little Gaul and his man-mountain of a friend Obelix mark their 50th birthday, the whole of Paris seems to be celebrating with them."

Trust Geo to have the gall to report a story they don't even understand.

We really should start a bloopers update about our media. We'd never run out of material!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fatima Bhutto Goes Down the Slippery Slope, Sadly

Ok, so I have to admit I have always had a soft spot for Fatima Bhutto. Not only because of all that she has endured growing up and because she is easy on the eyes, but also because she is a fairly intelligent and sensitive young woman who has not let her personal tragedies and lineage turn her into some sort of caricature of an arrogant feudal or a bitter slave to dynastic politics, both of which things her background could easily have fostered in her. For the most part, she seemed also to have her head resting firmly on her shoulders.

Sure, she had her failings - for example when she wrote about her aunt with a little too much personal vitriol than necessary, or let her crafty feudal uncle Mumtaz use her to further his political goals, or wrote about her father Murtaza's untimely death when she was just 15 with all the objectivity that a young loving daughter can muster about a father - but one reasoned she was, after all, only in her early twenties still. One could forgive her her youthful passion and naivete. And most of all, because she kept insisting that she would rather write than enter politics as everyone assumed she would. The way she was built up as the next great white hope for Pakistan - mostly by Western journalists - was after all, a construction of their minds, not hers.

And now look what's happened to her. Like all people exposed too much, too soon in the media, Fatima has let the limelight bloat her head. One could see it coming for a while now, ever since she got her own column in The Daily Beast. Slowly, but surely, her heartfelt prose started giving way to rhetoric and political vitriol that made one really question whether it was political ambition that was driving her or a misguided sense of her own importance.

Unfortunately, this gradual deterioration has led to this latest piece, which not only overreaches in its flamboyant rhetoric - telling off Hillary Clinton for the Peshawar blast that  has claimed over 115 lives so far, and instructing her to go home, when most agree that whatever they may think of US policies, Hillary has taken great pains to add nuance to her interactions with Pakistanis - but also makes some truly egregious mistakes in its statement of facts. Does Fatima really believe what she has written? - in which case, one can question her understanding of matters - or has she deliberately spread untruths? - in which case, one can question why she gets to hold forth in places like The Daily Beast.

I will quote just three examples of "facts" that Fatima gets severely wrong.

1) About Waziristan, she writes:

"One week ago, the Pakistan army—aided by U.S. drone technology, no less—launched its offensive against the South Waziristan region, the new home of our fabled local Taliban. The Taliban moved there after last summer’s Swat offensive, which was declared a resounding success. So successful, apparently, that the militants were able to pack up and shuffle right into a new region of the country."

South Waziristan, the 'NEW' home of the Taliban??? They 'moved there after last summer's Swat offensive'??? The militants 'were able to pack up and shuffle right into a NEW region of the country??? I don't really know which world Fatima has been living in - perhaps access to news is difficult at 70 Clifton - but South Waziristan and North Waziristan have been the ORIGINAL home of the Taliban in Pakistan since 2002! For the record, the Pakistan Army first went in there in 2004 only to get beaten black and blue by the militants. It has long claimed that the linkages of most suicide attacks in Pakistan extend to the Waziristan region. The Swat Taliban - Fazlullah et al - were loosely allied with the Waziristani Tehrik-e-Taliban - i.e. Baitullah et al - but were distinct from them and if anything, it was Baitullah's fighters who were alleged to have infiltrated into Swat. Not the other way round.

2) About the NRO, she writes:

"During its one year in office, the Zardari government has passed two measly but scurrilous bills. The first, called the National Reconciliation Ordinance..."

Ok, Fatima, we KNOW you hate Zardari and we're not fond of him either. But out and out lies to bolster your argument are just pathetic. First of all, the number of bills passed by the government is certainly NOT "two measly" bills. I would be the last person to hold up Pakistani parliamentarians as a model of conscientious lawmakers, but hell, even the Finance Bill is a bill you know. All you had to do was go here to see what legislative business the current parliament has been involved in. But no, that would probably skewer your argument wouldn't it? Or is a little bit of conscientious research now passe for columnists?

To add stupidity to ignorance, you claim for your American audience that the bill "National Reconciliation Ordinance" - by the way, by definition an ordinance is not a bill - has been passed by Zardari's government. As any child in Pakistan knows from the endless stream of verbiage on television about it, the bill to make the NRO permanent is currently being debated in parliament, and there is no guarantee it will actually pass. Which by the way, is the hottest topic pertaining to Zardari's future, at the moment.

3) About the Kerry-Lugar Bill, she writes:

"The Kerry Lugar bill promises $1.5 billion a year (for “development”) but the fine print is a gift that keeps on taking. While Pakistan will be flush with development dollars, we will have to send the U.S. government detailed reports regarding our armed forces, including assessments of the civilian control of our very independent army, updates on our prevention of nuclear proliferation, and expertise and analysis of how much we have expanded or diminished our nuclear programs."

Ok, so Fatima, now you are really beginning to scare me. It would seem your source of news is Hamid Mir or Dr. Shahid Masood. How else to explain your parroting of the line put forward by the establishment? Personally, I don't think we should be taking on aid in the first place and that if you must beg, it is the donor's prerogative whatever conditions it wants to tack on. But leaving aside my personal opinion, the KLB is an AMERICAN law. The stipulations about "detailed reports" such as the ones you mention are for the US administration to provide to the US Congress, not for Pakistan to "send" to anyone. Of course, proper accountancy is called for from Pakistan - and why shouldn't it be? - but that is not what you have an issue with. I can even understand the establishment - read army - making up this myth, of Pakistan having to submit its internal policies for approval to the US, as a nice brick to beat Zardari on the head with, since it wants him out or at least neutered. What's your excuse as an "honest reporter"?

The point is this: If this is the credibility of her "facts", can one really trust Fatima Bhutto's analysis? It would be a good friend who could tell her to just stop writing for the time being. Then again, maybe politics is her thing.

Swine Whine

Wow! How time flies! Just realized it's been a full two weeks (!) since our last post! This is of course troubling, because it's not like NOTHING happened in this time or that we didn't WANT TO HOLD FORTH on something or the other. It's because all of us have been either too busy with all that's been going on OR just to damned lazy to write anything for the blog. We probably wrote about these things for our day jobs or satisfied ourselves by texting each other...And that dear readers is the problem with a format that asks for a lot of time but which is PERCEIVED to be a form of intellectual (or worse, emotional) masturbation... Then again, maybe it's just that it's not PAID - it's doubtful that our worthy contributing bloggers (myself included) would blow off writing if there was a deadline and financial compensation dangling at the end... Ah, well, it ain't changing, so there. I just thought I'd put this out there with the solemn promise to be a bit more diligent about posts.

In any case, here's what I came across this morning, which made my day. You have to LOVE the headline but I do think they may have it wrong. I think they may have tested not for the flu but for being a swine itself!

Narendra Modi tests positive for swine flu
30 Oct 2009, 1235 hrs IST, TNN

 AHMEDABAD: Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi has tested positive for swine flu. The confirmation of the test carried out on Thursday was announced by the state government on Friday morning, sending a wave of panic among a group of top industrialists who accompanied him on a recent visit to Moscow.

The whole Gujarat cabinet is also now being tested for the disease as the ministers were with the chief minister in a three-hour cabinet meeting on Thursday after his blood samples were taken. One minister said: "He should not have taken the meeting if he was being suspected of having swine flu. He could have waited for the results of the test."

Reports about Modi having swine flu had started trickling in on Thursday evening. However, the government had refused to confirm it. Once the first test gave a positive result, another confirmatory test was carried out late on Thursday.

 The government has earlier tried to hide his identity and the sample was labelled with a different name- "Ramesh.".

 Modi, who returned on Wednesday, will be kept in isolation for seven days at his residence, where a team of doctors are attending on him.

 All his public functions have been cancelled.

Friday, October 16, 2009

News Media Trashing of the Day

How I wish there were a similar programme about Pakistani TV news! Watch this hilarious clip and tell me you didn't think of Geo!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Samaa of Another Bubble Bursting

So, apparently, the latest victim of the bursting media bubble is Samaa TV, which today sacked some half a dozen people, and rumours are rife within the channel that more pink slips are about to come. Ironically, many of those laid off today were refugees from DawnNews, i.e. they had been snapped up by Samaa when they were served their marching orders during DawnNews' scaling down spree a couple of months ago. Doesn't say much about Samaa's financial planning does it? Considering the fact that Samaa's owner, Accountant Zafar Siddiqui, has a reputation for such "spontaneous" decisions - he used to run the now defunct Telebiz before launching the CNBC franchise CNBC Pakistan and Samaa -it should hardly have come as a surprise though.

The buzz within the organization is that those who stay will also be asked to take a pay cut.

The news has followed the apparent demotion of Director News Amir Zia a few days ago. He was asked to move from Karachi to Islamabad as the Director Current Affairs. In his stead, ex-Dawn reporter Ehteshamuddin has been made the new in-charge of the News section. Meanwhile, according to reports, Server Moosavee, a director of commercials and music videos, has been annointed the new head of the channel. He was previously serving as adviser to Siddiqui. It's not clear whether former CEO Amir Jahangir has been replaced or Moosavee's position is a new one. Let's see how long that lasts.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Wanker of the Week

I have been meaning to do a proper post about the Kerry-Lugar bill and the nauseating media frenzy that's been whipped up about it, for a few days now, but just haven't found the time. I will, I will, I promise.

But in the meantime, I came across this bit of supreme wanking from Pakistani electronic media's Wanker-in-Chief, Zaid Hamid, and just had to share it. I mean, LOOK at this guy - red beret, photographer's jacket, scraggly beard - this guy must really think he's Pakistan's loony answer to Che or something.

But you have to have a strong stomach - or the absolute cluelessness of an Ali Azmat or whoever that bimbo is who's 'interviewing' him here on TV One - to listen to him. He begins by fabricating complete fiction about the bill - among his contentions is that the bill's wording includes that "those who love Pakistan should be removed from Pakistan's intelligence agencies." I mean, really?

He then goes on to call Pakistan's ambassador to the US, Hussain Haqqani, "Israel's ambassador", "Mir Jaafar", "Mir Sadiq", "beysharam" and "bayhaya". Ok, so I'm no fan of Haqqani, not by a long stretch, but hearing this from this lunatic, I almost feel inclined to support him. But Hussain Haqqani is only one of the targets. Others are the PML(N) - also "baysharam" - and the Awami National Party - which is warned to 'straighten itself out' ("hosh mein aa jayein") and 'stop operating at the behest of the CIA' or 'get a clobbering greater than what it has already endured from the Taliban' ("jo maar parri hai woh thorri hai"). Blackwater personnel, meanwhile, are apparently going to find themselves hanging from the trees very soon.

But my favourite bit is where he goes off about how "we, the patriotic people, are controlling things" and how the government's days are numbered. I personally think this madman's 'we' may simply be usage of the royal pronoun but, on the other hand, he may be letting slip who his backers are too. You might get further clues from who he thinks is the most patriotic organization in Pakistan...

The Wanker Guerrilla growls: "We are warning them, we are warning this government and the Americans... We will consider them traitors... It's a clear warning. Wake up!"

Which of course begs the question: who the F*** are you?!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Editorial Makeovers in the Offing?

There are some very interesting things happening in the media sector, our moles are telling us... It would seem that some major upheavals are about to take place in the English language print media. Yes, there is a (rather large) world beyond what's happening at The Nation and the upcoming International Herald Tribune (Pakistan franchise) being put together by Sultan Lakhani.

First, that rather redundant paper known as the Daily Times, whose only utility as a second or third paper seems to be to let the world at large know about what the Taseers an their friends are up to.
It turns out that the ENTIRE SENIOR EDITORIAL STAFF has submitted their resignations, including founding editor Najam Sethi, Aaj Kal's (the Urdu version of the aforesaid Daily Times) editor Khalid Ahmed and News Editor Ejaz Haider. The apparent reason? Non-payment of salaries and running costs for over two months. It seems Governor Taseer has decided to stop throwing good money after bad investments. Even if they did provide his daughters free publicity for their jewellery and artistic ventures. On the other hand, perhaps daddy held back his money because he felt there wasn't enough coverage of his family in Sunday.

So where will the editorial staff go? Well, they always have The Friday Times
to fall back on, don't they. And at least Sethi and Haider (whose email chat status recently has been "Goodbye Daily Times") have built up a nice sideline with their television programmes on Dunya TV and DawnNews. We'll have to wait and see what happens to Daily Times though.

The other big shocker concerns that bastion of tradition and staid-ness, Dawn. Rumours are rife within the establishment that editor Abbas Nasir - who had come in as editor only just over three years ago after previous editor Saleem Asmi was laterally shifted - is getting ready to call it a day and go back to London with his family. You may recall that he was the South Asia head at the BBC in London before he shifted to Karachi for the Dawn assignment. This shift may happen as early as the end of the year or by the middle of next year and is apparently motivated purely by personal reasons, or so they say. Such a move would obviously mean that a search would begin once again - if it has not already - for a worthy successor for the most powerful job in English journalism in Pakistan. My money rides on Zaffar Abbas, currently Dawn's Resident Editor in Islamabad, moving into the position.

In any case, remember, you heard it here first.