Sunday, January 31, 2010

Shahid Afridi Having A Ball, A Bit Too Literally


What can one even say? Forget the Khalid Hameed incident. In the absence of anything to say to Afridi that hasn't already been said by innumerable commentators ("What was Afridi thinking?"), bloggers ("A disgrace") and the general public ("Mind boggling madness [from] a guy who's played more than 300 games...Shame on you", "Why would you do anything with the ball with 27 cameras watching you?!"), I thought we'd take a different tack and open up the comments section for YOUR suggestions on possible explanations that can be proffered by his close friends and relatives for this truly bizarre behaviour.

Here are some of mine:

1. Afridi was just really hungry but he didn't want the team to lose motivation if he went off the ground for a bite to eat.
2. Shahid just has a thing for leather and, usually, he's able to keep his fetish in check.
3. Afridi's actually a rodent and sometimes that side of him comes to the surface.
4. Shahid is a method player and he was imagining pulling the pin off a hand-grenade to hurl at the Aussies.
5. Everyone does it, yaar, you just don't see it because the goras never show their own people doing it.
6. Actually, he was forced to because he'd trimmed his nails that morning.
7. I probably shouldn't be telling you this but you know how bowlers shine the ball and where all it's rubbed? I mean, he is a Pathan after all...
8. Yaar, everyone knows the Pakistan cricket team sucks these days.
9. Shahid loves the game so much, he could just eat it all up.

Ok, folks, come up with your own.

Video of the Day

Oh the irony...!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How To Report The News

Oh this is effing brilliant! A must watch for all television reporters. The Guardian's Charlie Brooker, take it away...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sunset at DawnNews

Ok folks, so, I fear we may be over-doing the whole Dawn / DawnNews thingy with yet another post on the same. And some of the epithets hurled at the latter (YawnNews, I'm thinking of you) may begin to rub of on to Cafe Pyala. But what do you do when the (dawn)news just keeps on coming?

And this is a big one, trust me.

So, according to our insiders who kindly informed us, Dawn Media Group head honcho, Ms. Amber Saigol, addressed the workers at DawnNews yesterday on the floor of the newsroom and basically informed them that she wanted to simply shut down the channel because of the losses it had been incurring since its birth. But that she had been persuaded by the management (which would include her daughter Nazafreen Saigol) to give the channel 'one last chance.' So that is what she was going to do.

That last chance would involve restructuring the channel as a hybrid Urdu-English channel and a bunch of sackings. We hear that from February 15, DawnNews will broadcast Urdu bulletins from 9 to 12 in the morning as well at prime time, i.e. 9 to 12 in the evening. The English bulletins and programming would make up the rest of the day, primarily focused on audiences in North America.

 Naveen Naqvi and Nadia Zaffar: Dawn and out

Now, not only does this mean that some prime time programmes such as Saima Mohsin's NewsEye would eventually face the axe (since they clash with the time allotted for Urdu), but that a number of people working on the English programming would also become redundant. A big round of sackings took place almost immediately. So far some 40 people have been issued their pink slips across the country, including 27 from Karachi alone. Among the 'big names' retrenched include anchors Naveen Naqvi and Razeshta Sethna, and senior producer Nadia Zafar and anchor Mariam Zaidi (whose only claim to being a 'big name' was admittedly that she said she was in an interview in latest issue of Xpoze magazine). The entire Current Affairs / 'Infotainment' department under Mazhar Zaidi has been demolished (though he remains) with even his senior producer Nofil Naqvi choosing to walk rather than accept a pay cut.

'It' girl no more

According to our moles, the criteria for the sackings is simply the cost of the personnel. Those anchors with salaries below Rs. 60,000 - 70,000 have been retained while the rest have been let go. A number of cameramen have also been retrenched, with only those with salaries below Rs. 25,000 retained. A number of personnel, such as Creative Department head Alia Chughtai, had already resigned earlier.

As for the rumoured move to shift the newsroom to Islamabad, it seems this is still under consideration, though production would still continue to happen in Karachi. The only explanation anyone can seem to come up with such a bizarre idea is that the current head of news, Mubashir Zaidi, who shifted to Karachi from Islamabad a few months ago, would like to move back. Suffice it to say that, if these rumours are correct, this would be a bigger disaster than DawnNews currently.

Now, I'm no expert on restructuring television channels, but it would seem to me that this will not work out, for a number of reasons:

1) A language-hybrid channel is unlikely to develop a brand loyalty and is likely to simply confuse its viewership.

2) It seems DawnNews is chasing after viewers who watch other Urdu channels such as Geo, Express, Aaj and ARY. But why should they switch to DawnNews for a mere 6 hours a day?

3) Those personnel who have chosen to stay with a pay cut have probably only opted to do so as a stop-gap measure, until they are able to secure a better-paying job elsewhere. The remaining staff are likely to be feeling equally insecure and demoralized and will probably jump ship as soon as they have the chance.

4) You get what you pay for. When you get rid of your celebrity presenters / best cameramen and feature producers (by far the best thing on DawnNews was its documentaries) how would you create your niche in the glut of television channels? Are you then not ensuring that the restructuring does not stand a real chance?

5) No business enterprise (and I'm not just talking about television channels here) has ever survived with half-hearted measures that in reality become a case of 'throwing good money after bad.' DawnNews was probably a losing proposition to begin with in the manner it was conceived.

And how long would Ms. Saigol give for her 'last chance'? Apparently four to five months. No wonder many within the channel are of the opinion that DawnNews will be shut down by the end of the current fiscal year.

A shame, but there you have it.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

What The People Really Want

By far the story of the day. Somehow the absurdity of the event covered was strangely uplifting. You know, people power and all that. Here's a couple of pics to whet your appetite...

The remainder of the story from The News' Karachi city pages today:

Destroying of seized substances
Public raids site; makes off with loot
Bulldozed liquor far less than stated figures; law-enforcement personnel openly pocket bottles
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
By Kamran Mansoor
An event on Tuesday that was meant to be the annual crowning glory of Customs turned into a nightmare for the officials. The traditional mass incineration of narcotics, alcohol and other illegal substances and materials seized by the various authorities of Pakistan, was invaded by the public, who made away with plenty of the illegal substances, throwing the officials and security present on the spot into a frenzy.
As per the details, Customs officials claimed on Tuesday to have bulldozed about 19,413 bottles of liquor and 55,600 cans of beer, and torched 177,223 kilogrammes of betel nuts, 185 kg of heroin powder and medicines, 19,250 CDs and VCDs, 3,700 foreign cigarettes, thousands of kilogrammes of household raw material, and other items. The News, however, saw that far fewer bottles of liquor and only 2,000 cans of beer were bulldozed.
Customs South Chief Collector Sher Nawaz concurred with this number, but said that about 200,000 cans of beer and 207,913 bottles of liquor had been seized. Moreover, it was observed that several policemen, customs officials and other law-enforcement personnel fearlessly grabbed bottles of liquor in front of senior customs officers as well as the print and electronic media. The officers and policemen then calmly walked away unchecked.
Not to be left out, residents of nearby areas also took advantage of the situation, attacked Customs consignments, and made off with liquor, betel nuts and bags of other substances and materials. Later, Customs officials and the Mauripur police baton-charged residents and shot into the air to disperse them – but not before they made away with their booty.
Meanwhile, International Customs Day was also celebrated at the Custom House.

Don't know about you, but I got a 'high' just reading that. Take that, Taliban. About time this annual farce stopped.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Braaallelujah! Brallelujah!

I did not particularly wish to do this story. As far as I’m concerned, as long as they’re not hurting/ maiming/ killing/ reading any column from GT aloud to anyone, what people wish to do in their own time is their own business. But there are aspects to this post at the ambiguously named Pak Alert Press blog that are worth pondering.

'CIA trying to make inroads into Pakistani media'?

1) Who leaked these pictures, and why? If the cunning plan was to subtly imply the journalists featured collaborate with the evil Americans (see heading "CIA Hosts Drinks and Dance Party for Pakistani Journalists at US Embassy Islamabad" and subheading "CIA Public Relations at Work?" for examples of aforementioned subtlety), that’s a fail.

Secret agents apparently don't need secret rendezvous any more

Nobody of reasonably sound mind would be convinced that Pinky, Tinky, Dinky, Minky etc are the spawn of Satan, lovers of Lucifer or buttmonkeys of Beelzebub after looking at a couple of relatively innocuous shots of them with an American or two at an officially sanctioned gathering. Especially when other guests include Asma Shirazi of the ARY Network who, if memory serves correctly, told Hilary Clinton during her last visit to Pakistan that America needed to bugger off home pronto, that the war on terror was not our war, and that using 9/11 as a justification for anything didn’t cut it in a nation where 9/11s happened every day.

If the point was to make the two female anchors featured prominently in most pics – Samaa TV's Meher Bokhari and DawnNewsSaima Mohsin- look stupid, that’s an even bigger fail. Anyone of reasonably sound mind who has seen their shows already knows that they are well capable of achieving that look by themselves. See the episode of Newseye in which the dominatrix of rhetorical obfuscation Ms. Shireen Mazari teaches Saima a little something about humiliation, and the interview in which PM Gillani stuns Meher into silence by asking her to identify anybody who opposes the Kerry Lugar bill (good thing he didn’t ask her to name the four provinces), for examples of why I think so.

If the point of the story, however, was to give the clearly already crazed inhabitants of the Zaid Hamid / Ahmed Quraishi blogosphere - whence these pictures originated and continue to be distributed - a little somethin’ somethin’ to look at, I completely understand. Haters have rights too. Especially Master Bators. Sorry. I meant Master Haters. (Interestingly, all the pics initially proudly bore the 'PKKH' - short for the Pakistan Ka Khuda Hafiz blog run by acolytes of the aformentioned gentlemen and quite possibly themselves - logo and stamp, which was subsequently removed on second thought!)

Saima Mohsin's Freemason handshake?

2) What are the current rules of engagement for local journalists when it comes to networking with people or entities they might not particularly wish to hang out with but have to anyway because if they don’t have access they don’t have anything? If they are uber-nationalistic, should they accept invites to receptions in honor of the ambassadors of countries they secretly wish would explode? If they are Muslim, should they attend Christmas parties at foreign missions? If they do, should they refuse to shake hands with female dignitaries if male and avoid physical contact with male dignitaries if female? Should they wash their hands (and so on and so forth) if such contact occurs? Should they walk out if alcohol is being served? Or should they make sure they drink or dance (if indeed dancing and not the incredibly convoluted Freemason handshake is what Ms. Mohsin was doing) where cameras cannot capture them like so many other ‘good Muslims’ do?

Meher Bokhari aroused great, er, ire from the commentariat...

3) Why are we so darn racist? Incredible ire was provoked in the comments on the post by the fact that two of the anchors were posing with "blacks" or "kalas", with most deciding to completely ignore the CIA/ anti-Islamic bait and advocate the shaming/ stoning/ killing of the women for their proximity to "negros."  One monsieur ‘Khan’ expressed it best perhaps when he wrote of Meher Bokhari:

"…appears to be drunk and drowned in love of the blackman hugging (or attempting to do so) her in every picture. BTW she is real hotty. Why no Pakistani makes her to feel cool? Afterall what’s bad in her? But that ugly blacky, I curse her choice. May be, she know far better and far deep or have a specific taste."

...but for some reason this guy did not

That makes it twice in one day that rapidly circulating items (see Imran Khan in Ilford clip below) illustrate how deeply embedded prejudice is in our national psyche. Is it a reflection of some deep rooted insecurity on the part of our mard hazraat, or are some of us just taking ‘beware of Blackwater!’ too literally?

Video of the Day

One of the funniest versions of the Downfall clip (a true subtitling cult if ever there was one!). Enjoy.

Hitler Finds Out About IPL Snub to Pakistani Players...

The 'King' Of Urdu Columnists Is Dead. But Is He?

Most of you kids probably don’t know who the recently deceased Irshad Ahmed Haqqani was, but the dude ruled the daily Jang's op-ed pages for more than a quarter of a century. I remember reading a column by Haqqani where he quoted his own earlier column which quoted another column that he had written in another decade.

In his early days he was the editor of Jamaat-e-Islami’s in-house magazine Tasneem. But he had a falling out with its chief Maulana Maududi in the '50s because the Jamaat just wasn’t radical enough for him. So, obviously, on to Jang. And after taking up his Jang slot (in 1981) he soon became the most influential op-ed hack in the country. Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Musharraf, all at one point or the other took him along for an umrah, sought his opinion on everything, listened to his whines and dined him. And he diligently reported it all in his columns. He turned namedropping into an art form. Almost every Urdu columnist in Pakistan has called him their ustaad at one point or the other. But now that he is dead, this is what they are writing about him.

This is Abdul Qadir Hassan (a former Jamaat-e-Islami comrade) in the daily Express today:

“Whenever a reader wrote him a letter of appreciation, he would add a few more words to it and include it in his columns. He lived with this mental sickness all his life and found fame that he always craved…I couldn’t attend his funeral but I have been told that not many people turned up.”

This is Javed Chaudhry, also in Express:

“When I published my first collection of columns I wrote on the cover ‘One Hundred Columns by Javed Chaudhry That Will Live For Two HundredYears.' Irshad sahib called and admonished me. I had the line removed but, Allah ka karam, the same book has had 192 print runs and is the best selling book in Pakistan’s history.”

(All you angrezi writers, try beating that! But Javed does have a self reflective side though. His email address is javed CH...)

And finally, Ata ul Haq Qasmi in today's Jang:

“He started repeating the compliments given to him in his columns and this became a weakness and turned into chronic narcissism.”

Of course they have all said nice thing in these obits too, but basically the message is, 'We all learnt from you but good riddance, you bastard. We can do it better than you.'

Whatever they might say about him, he did invent the modern Urdu column, which is half analytical drivel, half dinner menus. Only during the last week, for example, Jang columnist Haroon-ur-Rashid (according to his column) demanded and got desi murghi from the Azad Kashmir prime minister, and Hamid Mir (according to his column) discovered new insights into judicial activism over a Kashmiri dish. I forget the name of the dish but according to Jang / Geo’s brightest star, it is made of mooli and shaljam and served with rice. The host was the Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khwaja Sharif.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kaminey! - Updates

Precisely as I feared in my earlier post. Sigh!

This from Dawn on January 21.

Cable operators to boycott IPL telecast
Thursday, 21 Jan, 2010
LAHORE: As the Indian Premier League (IPL) controversy deepens, cable operators on Thursday announced a ban on the telecast of IPL matches.
Heeding a call by the sports minister, the Cable Operators Association of Pakistan (CAP) announced a boycott of the telecast of all the IPL matches after none of the Pakistani players were selected for the league.
The announcement was made at a press conference in Lahore.
Addressing the conference, CAP President Captain Retd. Jabbar Ahmad said that the association condemned the attitude of Indian Cricket Board.
He said that the decision was taken in a meeting of the cable operators association and it will be implemented across the country.

In addition to this reaction (how will Geo Super deal with this?), so far, there have been calls for banning Indian films in Pakistani cinemas once again (a real case of cutting off the nose to spite the face, if it happens, in my opinion), a parliamentary delegation has cancelled its plans to visit Delhi and the government had stopped the Election Commission from sending some of its officials to meet with their respected counterparts in India. As I predicted, madness now rules.

Video of the Day

Watch the clip till the end.

Three things we know about Imran Khan from this clip of his address to his party workers in Ilford:

1. He has balls.
2. He is a racist.
3. He may have a future as a stand-up comic.

Bizarre Inclusion of the Day

Here's an ad against female foeticide printed in the Times of India today (at least in the Delhi edition of the paper) by the Ministry of Women and Child Development of the Government of India.

You can see the actual page on their e-paper here. The ad is on page 23.

For some unknown and hilarious reason, the picture of the military man featured in it (along with other Indian national icons of sport and music) is that of a Pakistani Air Force officer. I have been told it is former PAF chief, Air Chief Marshall Tanveer Mohammad Ahmed, though I have been unable to confirm it. But there is no denying that it is definitely that of a high-ranking Pakistan Air Force officer. I mean, you can even read the 'PAF' on his wings, for crying out loud.

Chalk it up to the efficiency of state bureaucracy? Or do you think there's some underlying message here about Bharat Mata?

So, yes, it is Air Chief Marshall (retd) Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed (apologies for getting the name wrong) and  unbeknowst to me, it had already caused quite a media ruckus in India. Almost all papers in Pakistan have covered the story on their front or back pages today. Here's Dawn (which also had an earlier story on its website here), The News and The Nation.


Consider this merely a heads up. From what we are hearing, DawnNews is in the process of massive retrenchments. A number of production staff, including senior producers, have been asked to take substantial pay-cuts, which is just a milder way of saying 'sorry, mate, we don't need you any more.' The most high-profile of this shedding is apparently Wajahat S. Khan, the host of DawnNews' HardTalk-wannabe show TalkBack. The show had only just resumed for its second season. Khan, however, has been saying he has resigned over 'differences' with the channel.

It may be mentioned that Wajahat S. Khan was also the host of the ill-fated and slick-looking series We Are Soldiers, which was produced under the direct supervision of the military's Inter-Services Public Relations department. That promotional programme was suddenly taken off the air in the middle of its run last year after a never-discussed dispute with the show's 'real producers'. Among the rumours over exactly why the programme was taken off the air were alleged navy-army tension over a programme on the Marines and, more credibly, that a part of one programme had allegedly resulted in the cancellation of an arms sale to the Sri Lankan military. Apparently, that editorial compromise and the programme's abrupt, never-explained, end was not, however, enough to warrant resignations.

Whatever the case may be, the current bout of downsizing has also been accompanied by unconfirmed rumours of DawnNews shifting its head office to Islamabad and preparations for launching an Urdu channel (or bulletins) - the latter of which has been in the works for some time. Many at the channel are speaking in terms of it being 'gradually wound down', which I find hard to believe and which may simply be motivated by their own downsizing. I think these retrenchments have more to do with the economic pressures on the Dawn Media Group as a whole and, perhaps, a shift of focus.

If anyone has more (credible) information and details, do let us know and we will update the post.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

We Had Nothing To Do With This, We Swear!

You think we have a monopoly on exposing the underbellies of media organizations? Or think we have a personal agenda? Think again.

Here's Tazeen from A Reluctant Mind writing a candid personal account of her interview in an unnamed media organization.

This one's for all of you tearing into each other in the comments section of my (rather civil, I may add) post about the changes at Dawn. Enjoy! And no points for guessing who it's about.


Am(a)n Ki Asha, my ass. After seeing what happened with the Pakistani players in the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction today, rather than the Gulzar-penned, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan-sung "Sur Bulaatay Hain", here's what the theme song for Indo-Pak relations really should be:

But let's backtrack. It would do well to remember that the Pakistan T20 team is the reigning World Champions and the #1 ranked team on the planet. Forget about proper cricket, like Test and even one-day, as far as the T20 format is concerned, we have the players everyone wants to see. Game-changing short format players like Shahid Afridi,  Umar Gul, Kamran Akmal and Rana Naveed, to say nothing of explosive upcoming talents such as Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer that have drawn praise from every commentator in the world. So what happens when they are put up for auction at the IPL? No bids. Nada. Not for a single one out of 11 Pakistani players up for grabs.

Shahid Afridi: "The best T20 player" not good enough for IPL

A bit strange? You think? Remember these are the same "franchises" that were falling over themselves two years ago for prima donnas like Shoaib Akhtar (Kolkata Knight Riders) and even relying heavily on workhorses like Sohail Tanveer (Rajasthan Royals). Yes, the recession has hit even the IPL and only 11 of the 66 players on offer were signed up, but compare the players on offer from Pakistan with the players actually signed up:

- Kieron Pollard (WIS) to Mumbai Indians for 750,000 dollars
- Shane Bond (NZL) to Kolkata Knight Riders for 750,000 dollars
- Kemar Roach (WIS) to Deccan Chargers for 720,000 dollars
- Wayne Parnell (RSA) to Delhi Daredevils for 610,000 dollars
- Mohammad Kaif (IND) to Kings XI Punjab for 250,000 dollars.
- Eoin Morgan (ENG) to Bangalore Royal Challengers for 220,000 dollars
- Damien Martyn (AUS) to Rajasthan Royals for 100,000 dollars
- Justin Kemp (RSA) to Chennai Super Kings for 100,000 dollars
- Thissara Perera (SRI) to Chennai Super Kings for 50,000 dollars
- Adam Voges (AUS) to Rajasthan Royals for 50,000 dollars
- Yusuf Abdulla (RSA) to Kings XI Punjab for 50,000 dollars.

Aside from three or perhaps four, the others are either retired, semi-retired, or relative unknowns. To add insult to injury, this is how IPL Slimebag-in-Chief Lalit Modi explains the lack of a single bid for Pakistani players:

"There were so many players left out in the auction and each team had its own strategy. I have no reason to believe there could be any other reason," Modi said. "Availability of the players was a key issue with the franchisees without doubt," he said.

Oh come on! Strategy? Availability? No other reason? At least admit that you told the team owners that they would pick Pakistani players at their own risk because the Indian government might not give them clearance at the last minute. I'd rather have your bigotry than your doublespeak!

Lalit Modi: slimebag extraordinaire

But here's what I really think about this whole sordid business: it may be, unintentionally, the best thing to happen to Pakistan cricket. For one, it may get our stupid, stupid cricketers mind off the money-making T20 format and let them focus on getting their cricketing basics sorted out. Secondly, it may wake up the sleeping Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) into setting its own house in order and stop relying on tournaments like IPL for reflected glory. (Wishful thinking, I know, but what's the harm in hoping for miracles?) And finally, I think the under-performing and overpaid Pakistani cricketers really do not deserve a high after their crap performances Down Under.

As for Modi and his double-speaking compatriots, I hope they get the IPL they deserve. They've probably lost out on most Australians thanks to Bal Thackeray's threats. Most of the better English players have stayed away because of other cricketing commitments. By excluding Pakistani stars in this way - a decision that is sure to haunt them politically - the IPL may well end up with viewership like any other domestic tournament. I guess Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty will really have their work cut out for them.

The question remains, however, will Geo Super back out of broadcasting a tournament that has made Pakistanis so pissed off?


Actually, this should have been part of what I wrote earlier, since it was basically why I referenced Am(a)n Ki Asha in the beginning, and I have been reminded of the need to clarify this after a comment in the responses. (What can I say? It was late and I was pissed off AND sleepy...)

Basically, what has pissed me off the most about the Indian treatment of Pakistani cricketers is precisely the fact that it has probably strengthened the hands of the hyper-nationalist nutters on both sides and that an excellent opportunity to move things along on the path to normalization of relations between India and Pakistan has been squandered. The disdainful treatment meted out to Shahid Afridi et al will reinforce the opinion in Pakistan that the Indians are out to humiliate and isolate Pakistan any which way they can and that the Indian establishment is not really serious about even rebuilding cordial relations, leave alone dealing with outstanding issues like Kashmir, water etc. Liberal Indians may dispute this but that is how things will be perceived in Pakistan. And the only ones to benefit will be those out to sabotage relations in the first place. Particularly sad considering that Indians never tire of lecturing Pakistanis about the need for regional cooperation and good neighbourly behaviour.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Yousuf Spells It Out

Pakistan cricket team's tableeghi-in-chief skipper Mohammad Yousuf has finally come out and said it like it is.

Yousuf: Candid tongue

In The News today, he is quoted as saying:

"If you expect something of this side, then maybe that is the wrong expectation."

You have to admire the clarity of thought and the brevity of the statement. Of course, it's taken 14 dropped catches (so far), a number of missed run-outs, two ridiculous run-outs on a flat track at Hobart, two consecutive and shameful test match losses and the imminent prospect of a third, to get him to admit this. But as they say in Urdu, 'daer aaye, durust aaye' (better late than never)...

Oh yeah, and he called Salman Butt "a little lazy runner." You just feel he probably wanted to use some other word than "runner", but for Mohammad Yousuf - who has never been one of Pakistan's more sprightly sprinters between the wickets - to say this, you know it means something.

Friday, January 15, 2010

A New Dawn, Again

So, precisely as we told you last October and predicted, things have come to pass at the Dawn Media Group. The Editor of Dawn and DawnNews (the tv channel), Abbas Nasir has resigned. And his position will be taken up by Zaffar Abbas, currently the Resident Editor of Dawn in Islamabad.

The announcement was officially made internally at Dawn at an 'emergency meeting' called by Dawn Media Group owner, Ms. Amber Saigol, a couple of days ago. Nasir will continue in his post till June, when the changeover would take place.

As we reported earlier, Nasir's resignation had been in the works for a while now and was motivated mainly by personal reasons - he and his family would like to move back to London. However, there had also been murmurs of resentment within the group about the slide in Dawn's cache as the paper of choice for readers as well as, for some, in its quality. For what it's worth, I personally think it had really improved in certain aspects such as the front page and its reporting from the Frontier and tribal areas. Former editor Ahmed Ali Khan's era is often touted as the golden era of Dawn, yet in reality was also one of its most boring and staid periods, where you were more likely to find what was happening in Togo on the front page rather than in Karachi. Abbas Nasir had at least brought Dawn back to earth in Pakistan.

The problems at the paper had much more to do with increased competition from the electronic media (television and the web), falling revenues because of economic conditions (leading to ill-advised moves like the confused amalgamation of all the magazines as Images on Sunday), and the white elephant DawnNews that the newspaper was burdened with.

In fact, the fall in revenues has been so drastic that reports say Dawn is off by 50 per cent on its advertising targets. Obviously this is largely because of the recessionary trends in the country as a whole, which has seen marketing budgets slashed across the board in Pakistan. Couple this with dollar devaluations and rising costs - of newsprint, printing machinery and salaries (which Nasir raised all over Dawn to his credit) - and you can pretty much see where things are headed. The result has been retrenchments, the first bunch of which occurred at DawnNews a few months ago, and which have now been supplemented by further sackings within Dawn.

According to sources, many people in production sections have already been laid off recently while the next to go are likely to be those on contract (i.e. not permanent employees), which includes a number of people on the editorial staff as well as those seniors hired post-retirement. These fresh retrenchments have obviously also led to employee resentment within Dawn and may have hastened Nasir's departure.

Zaffar Abbas is a well-respected senior journalist. He began as a reporter for (the now deceased) Star and Herald and was long associated with BBC before coming on board as Dawn's Islamabad editor. Like Nasir, no one doubts his professional credentials. What remains to be seen, however, is how he will be able to recast Dawn in a time of pinching austerity drives, flagging morale and technological innovation that is making the print media a problematic enterprise the world over.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Instructions of the Day

This one was forwarded to us, so whoever took the pic, please accept this as acknowledgement.

For those who cannot read Urdu, here is the transliteration and translation of these precise instructions:

1. Latrine ka darwaza band kar ke baithain ['Close the latrine door before sitting down']

2. Apni shalwar pehen ker latrine se baahir aayein ['Put on your shalwar before coming out of the latrine'  (although it could also be interpreted as 'Put on your OWN shalwar before coming out of the latrine').]

3. Latrine aur ghusal khanay mein likhna aur baatein karna gunaah hai ['Writing and talking in the latrine and bath room is a sin'. (It's not just not allowed, it'll lead to damnation!...But talking??? You now understand why the alternative interpretation of the Second Commandment might be more appropriate?]

4.Latrine aur ghusal khanay free hain ['Latrines and bath rooms are free' (though obviously, you're not free to do whatever, if you get the above drift).]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hot Kisses (of Tea) Declared Unacceptable

I'm not even going to try to comment on this news report in today's Dawn other than to say that:

1) Such a masterpiece of double-entendre and unintentional hilarity comes along only once in a while outside of the 'regional correspondent' reports

2) There seems to be a running joke (confusion?) about the word 'bar' in the report, which is, imho, brilliant.


Tea banned in the library of a bar
By Nasir Iqbal
Wednesday, 13 Jan, 2010
ISLAMABAD, Jan 12: A circular issued by the newly-elected president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) Qazi Anwar banning tea in the bar’s library has been meekly accepted by the members but left bad taste in many mouths.
Though meekly, the members have accepted the ban. Many of them however wondered who and what prompted the ban.
“Granted the library is not exactly the place to have tea, but it would be childish to see a storm in the tea cups consumed there,” said one member. Non-drinkers felt “the loose talk” the tea drinkers indulged in brought the ban.
Soon after its issuance, the circular instantly become talk of the bar with divergent views, some appreciating while some being critical of the contents of the letter.
In fact chit chat over a cup of tea between senior lawyers namely Sharifuddin Pirzada, Akram Sheikh, Ahmed Raza Qasuri, Mohammad Ibrahim Satti and former Islamabad High Court judge Munir Paracha but perceived as a meeting gave an excuse to the SCBA president to clamp the ban.
That is why the circular issued by the SCBA president also find mention the names of the worthy lawyers who were caught discussing hot issues that revolved around the judiciary and the Supreme Court.
Axe also fell on the poor librarian when a show-cause was issued against her for allowing the senior lawyers to enjoy hot kisses of tea inside the library.
“Rules are rules and I will obey the fresh instructions,” Advocate Ahmed Raza Qasuri said though explaining he rarely sits inside the library.
Talking to Dawn he said he had always believed in discipline and rules of the bar or a club and would definitely follow the same. These are the mark of civilised nations, he emphasised.
Similarly Ibrahim Satti also agreed that tea should not be served inside the library but explained that since senior counsel like Sharifuddin Pirzada who seldom comes to the library had come so he was offered the tea as a courtesy.
Advocate Roy Mohammad Nawaz Kharral also appreciated the decision of the association’s president lamenting that for quite some time the bar library had become a hang out place where one came across all kind of views on different topics of the day. “Libraries are sacred places for reading books where law points should be discussed. Irrelevant debates like these are an insult to learning and knowledge,” he said complaining that some members were even using shelves and almirah inside the library for keeping tea, sugar or milk pots.
What to talk of reading case histories when it had become difficult to read even newspapers inside the library, he deplored accusing some senior members of treating the library as their personal office.
But some lawyers on condition of anonymity also expressed their reservation on the manner in which the circular was issued saying the letter is out of sync with the sentiments of the bar.
They suspect that the circular has been issued to please someone or on the behest of some bigwigs.

Bigwigs. Geddit?

A Tale of Two Quotes

Here is ALL you need to know about the mental state, the preparedness and the planning tactics of Pakistan and Australia on the eve of the third test match at Hobart:

Two juxtaposed quotes from Osman Samiuddin's preview on cricinfo:

"What we have to do down here is not let them get back into the game like we let them start in Sydney. There's still a lot of mystery around about them."
Ricky Ponting on the riddle that is Pakistan
"There is no doubt that Sarfraz will play."
Intikhab Alam, Pakistan's coach, puts an end to all speculation regarding Pakistan's wicketkeeper in Hobart

Monday, January 11, 2010

Player Power Rears Its Ugly Head Again?

Oh no! That was my first reaction to hearing the news on tv last night that Umar Akmal, basically the only Pakistani batsman currently worth watching out for, had pulled a back muscle in practice, and was a doubtful starter for the upcoming Test in Hobart. If there was any further reason NOT to invest time in watching the match against Australia, this had to be it.

Umar Akmal: boy wonder leaves us wondering

Then, this morning comes this explosive piece in The News from it's regular, and very credible, correspondent Khalid Hussain. Here's the crux of it:

"HOBART: Umar Akmal on Sunday complained of a stiff back, making himself a doubtful starter for Pakistan’s third and final Test against Australia starting here from Thursday.

However, ‘The News’ has learnt through reliable sources that the 19-year-old batsman could be faking the problem in a bid to pressurize the team management to retain Kamran Akmal — his elder brother — for the Hobart Test."

I had sort of wondered how Umar would take the scorn being heaped upon brother Kamran and the calls for his replacement by young keeper Sarfaraz Ahmed. But if this report is true, it would mean Kamran is now using his 19-year-old brother to blackmail the management into persisting with him. This is now getting too much!

Kamran Akmal: one of his three butter fingered drops against Michael Hussey (Source: Getty / Herald Sun)

"Player power" is the euphemism given to the constant intrigues within the Pakistan dressing room, which have been at the root of the Pakistan cricket team's dismal history with undeserving selections and appointments. It has to be remembered that Younis Khan's withdrawal as captain before the New Zealand - Australia tour was strongly rumoured to be motivated by similar intrigues. And if the stories are to be believed, Kamran Akmal - along with Mohammad Yousuf and Misbah-ul-Haq - were among the foremost initiators of the unsaid revolt against Younis. The saddest part of this whole episode (once again, one should add the qualification, "if true") is that someone as young and promising as Umar Akmal has been sucked into this mess.

Adding fuel to the speculation is the following:

"Kamran, it seems, is confident that he will play in Hobart. “Inshallah, definitely, for this upcoming Test match ... I will perform very well. I will play the third Test match and more matches for my country.”

Kamran said that he is aware of the strong criticism back home but was quick to add that he remains focussed on the next Test.

“I know the people are very disappointed for this performance in the Sydney Test...(But) I’m concentrating on calming down and performing well in the next Test match.”

Kamran’s upbeat mood indicates that he is getting much-needed support from the Pakistan dressing room."

Could Kamran really be such an intriguer? Suffice it to say, if the PCB gives in to this kind of blackmail once again, we can all kiss any hopes for Pakistan cricket goodbye.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Verbal Dasti

You can always rely on PPP MNA Jamshed Dasti, who is also unfortunately the Chairman of the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Sports, to come up with a quotable turn of phrase.

Remember, this is the man who accused - without a shred of evidence one might add - the Pakistan cricket team of match-fixing the moment they lost in the ICC Champions' Trophy, which led to Younis Khan resigning as captain in a huff.

This is Mr. Dasti talking about Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Ijaz Butt whose sacking he has belatedly called for  after the Sydney test match:

“He (Butt) has gone too old,” Dasti said. “Mr Butt is physically unfit, he can’t even walk properly, he can’t even see properly.”

And this from a bizarre report about the Pakistan hockey team being fined for posing for photographs with their female Liaison Officer at the Champions Challenge tournament in Argentina:

“It is not our culture to hug a lady,” said Jamshed Dasti, chairman of Pakistan’s lower house standing committee on sports.

Aah, the joys of living in Pakistan. Someone should start compiling the Dasti Book of Quotable Quotes.

Dunya TV Now In A Proper Court

I had been wondering recently whatever happened to that Maheen Usmani case against Yousuf Baig Mirza (YBM) over at Dunya TV. Things had been awfully quiet for a long time. And lo and behold, here comes some tangential news.

It seems that former Director News Absar Alam has filed a case in court against Dunya TV Chairman Mian Aamir Mahmood (who just happens to be the city nazim of Lahore as well) and Dunya TV Managing Director YBM to recover allegedly unpaid "salary and other dues" of some Rs. 77 lakhs. At a court hearing today, local civil judge Khizar Hayat Minhas has ordered the respondents to file written statements at the next hearing on February 3. It'll be in the papers in the morning I suppose.

Absar Alam (Photo: Tim Johnson / McClatchy Newspapers)

Now, Absar Alam (who used to work for Geo previously) was the Director News, after whose resignation, the whole Maheen Usmani case - in which she accused YBM of sexual harassment - came to light. In fact, Ms. Usmani alleged that the first instance of such harassment occurred while Mr. Alam was still the Director News and that after she reported the matter to him, he had helped assuage her concerns and shielded her from YBM. It was Alam's departure that had led to, she claimed, YBM exacting revenge on her and making life unbearable for her at Dunya TV. Part of the sleazy undertones of that case were that YBM and his minions had been accused of spreading innuendo about the professional relationship between Alam and Usmani. Could Absar Alam's grievances against Dunya TV stem from the fallout of the same case?

Obviously, we still don't know the truth of the matter since no independent inquiry was ever conducted (an internal inquiry did absolve YBM of any wrong-doing, though its results were never accepted by Usmani) and subsequently Usmani moved abroad with her husband, apparently to get away from it all. In any case, the case by Absar Alam is likely to re-ignite interest in the dormant case.

On a side-note, just how does one have pending dues of 77 lakhs? Was Absar Alam not paid his salary for a really long time? Or did his contract specify the payment of X months of salary in case he resigned? I mean, that's like more than 12 months of salary if his salary was 600,000 or more than six months of salary if his salary was 12 lakhs a month. I really should do that story about salaries in the electronic media one of these days.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Do You Say 'Corruption' in French, Arabic and Russian?

This report in The News about an audit of the army-administered National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad should serve to shut up those people who believe that if it weren't for the watchful eye of the military, 'corrupt politicians' would eat up this country.

Keep in mind as you read through the report, that the Board of Governors is headed by the Chief of Army Staff and the Rector (Vice Chancellor) is a retired brigadier.

NUML rector, directors caught by own auditors
University management rejects all charges
Wednesday, January 06, 2010
By Umar Cheema
ISLAMABAD: An audit report of the Army-run National University of Modern Languages (NUML) has found that its Rector, a retired Army brigadier, was also receiving the salary of a night watchman (security supervisor), getting tax rebates as a researcher and had sent his daughter and son-in-law abroad using the university scholarships.
While the NUML management has given some lame justifications for these acts, the auditors have found them unsatisfactory. The report finds that out of three scholarship grants, two were granted to the Rector’s family members. A grant of Rs 15.4 million allocated for setting up linkages and exchange of visits with the Utrecht University of the Netherlands was used for summer vacation in the UK, the USA, France and Turkey.
A hefty amount collected under the head of fine from students was kept aside for discretionary use of the management as “daily expenditures,” the audit report disclosed. Besides, dozens of appointments were made during a period of hiring ban. One such beneficiary, Maj Gen (retd) Owais Mushtaq Qureshi, has now been appointed as Federal Public Service Commission member.
The report finds that Brig. (retd) Aziz Ahmad Khan, the Rector, is not the only official involved in irregularities, he has many partners posted on senior positions like director administration, director finance, director libraries, registrar and director academics.
As for drawing money under the garb of a supervisor of security guards, other beneficiaries include his director administration Muhammad Yasin, director finance Muhammad Ashraf, director libraries Muhammad Abbas, registrar Kamran Jahangir and director academics Saeed Akhtar Malik. The Rector, together with his partners, impersonated as security supervisor to collect Rs 620,549 in extra money.
Defending itself, the NUML administration told the auditors that high-level security was organised for the protection of a sizeable number of foreign military students in the university. “This was the time when the security situation in Islamabad was beyond anyone’s control. It was, therefore, decided that high-level security be organised. This included security provided by the agencies and overseen by senior officers of the university. It would be appreciated that the whole night duty would definitely require compensation. Hence, the amount under observation was paid. However, as soon as these sensitive students had completed stay at the campus, the payment was stopped forthwith,” the NUML said.
The audit report, however, turned down the plea, saying: “Security didn’t fall under the responsibility of the officers mentioned” and directed the beneficiaries to return the money. The Rector’s daughter, Ayesha, and her husband, Waqas Hassan, are named as the two, out of three beneficiaries, who were granted M Phil leading to PhD scholarships for study in Sussex University, UK. The criteria for granting such awards were not adhered to, the audit report objected, noting that there was no provision of awarding scholarship for higher education in the NUML Ordinance 2000.
The university administration responding to this objection said the criteria for selection was transparent, the candidates had fulfilled all the conditions for winning the scholarship and that the Rector was not part of the selection committee.
The Rector’s administrative post notwithstanding, he received 75 per cent tax rebate posing as researcher as the facility is available to those involved in research work. Director planning & coordination and registrar also abused this facility, the audit objected.
The NUML’s reply to this charge was that PhD degree holders from foreign university, who also work as teacher and researcher, qualify for the rebate. This justification was also rejected by the auditors who observed that the facility was available only to full-time teachers.
As regards the use of Rs 15.4 million allocated for setting up linkages and exchange of visits with the Utrecht University, the project was intended to promote research and development at the postgraduate level. A department called “Government and Organisational Science” was to be established with similar system in currency at the Utrecht University. The staff was to be trained by the Utrecht University with its staff biannual visit to Pakistan be arranged. It was not done; instead the NUML management started using it for foreign visits.
“The activities of the project mainly depicts the picture that the programme was made to have foreign visits to UK, USA, France, Netherlands, Turkey during vacations of the university,” noted the audit report.
The NUML administration replying to this objection said that the PC-1 provides that joint faculty visits will be undertaken by the Pakistani side in May and June every year because in June and early part of July, Utrecht’s faculty and administrators are free from their routine assignments and can spare more time for research. However, the management didn’t reply as to how the visits to other countries were undertaken using these funds.

Watchmen salaries for the vice chancellor, scholarships for daughter and son-in-law, joyrides to foreign destinations, inappropriate tax rebates... how low can you go?

Why No Sports Team Wants to Visit Pakistan, Really

First of all, can I just vent my total and utter disbelief and agony at the depths that the Pakistani cricket team has sunk to? I mean, here we were, on the brink of winning our first test in Australia in 15 years (!) and we end up losing??! One always had an uneasy feeling about Pakistan's ability to chase anything over 150 - despite there being a full two days of play left - but even so, I calmed myself by thinking 'Pakistan just cannot be as predictable as to collapse once again.' Obviously, their unpredictability lay only in proving me wrong about their predictability. Aaaaaaargh!!! Bloody bunch of wankers!

Top three wankers-in-chief:

1. Kamran Akmal: Dropping not one, not two, not three but four fucking catches and missing one run out. And this is the man with the gloves! Oh yeah, and scoring a grand total of 25 runs in two innings and getting out to ego shots when your side needed you to stay.

2. Misbah-ul-Haq: A grand total of 11 runs in the entire match. If he's the "sheet anchor" in the middle, no wonder the ship is adrift. Shite anchor, more like. Remind me why he's in the side again?

3. Mohammad Yousuf: For his bizarre captaincy that allowed Pakistan to snap defeat from the jaws of victory and for his general persona that makes it seem he'd much rather be preaching. Five Rupees had a post on this recently, commenting on how he spends more time trying to convert other cricketers to Islam than on actual strategizing. Perhaps, today he was too busy thinking about how to get Ricky Ponting to attend one of his tableegh sessions. Idiot.

Which of course segues nicely into the reason that no sports teams, other than Bangladesh, want to visit Pakistan. This is from Dawn:

9 African boxers embrace Islam
Wednesday, 06 Jan, 2010
KARACHI, Jan 5: Nine African boxers embraced Islam on the sidelines of an international boxing tournament on Tuesday, saying they were impressed by the humanity and righteous ways of the religion.
The boxers flew into Karachi to compete in the contest named after assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and drawing participants from 20 countries around the world.
It was a landmark tournament for Pakistan, coming 10 months after an attack on Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore killed eight people, all but destroying the country’s hopes of hosting top-level international sport.
Six boxers from Central African Republic (CAR) --- Yagor Gbodo, Selebange Welcome, Niamogui Songnekani, NGoko Bongui, Ndarash and Bongola --- all chose to convert on the sidelines of the contest, which runs until Friday.
They were joined by Mendoua Blase, Ketchemi Joseph Justin and Tchwem Justin from Cameroon who also converted from Christianity to Islam. CAR coach Mohammad Kalambaye said the boxers were impressed by the teachings of Islam and Pakistan’s hospitality.—AFP

Within and without, it seems we're more intent on proselytizing than playing sports. And you wonder why our "conversion rates" are touching the sky.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Open Season On Abuse

Well, if you thought Mustafa Kamal using phrases like "ulloo ke pathay" and "laanat bhejta hoon" on live television was over-the-top (it should be pointed out that he did apologize for his outburst later), what would you say to Lt. General (r) Rashid Qureshi referring to Khwaja Asif of the PML(N) as a "chutiya aadmi" on live tv?!!

Yes, believe it or not, this altercation happened on Javed Chaudhry's Express TV show titled Kal Tak last night. I think it's Qureshi who ends up with the final epithet, though in the sound confusion, it could well have been Asif too, since both are equally fast and loose with their tongues. You can see the conflagaration in all its sordid glory in this clip (courtesy zemtv):

The gaalam galoch begins after Chaudhry takes both Qureshi and Asif on air at around 19:30 onwards, with the culmination occurring around 23:30.

There is a much clearer sounding clip available here on but that one seems to have been censored after-the-fact, with stronger words bleeped out. (For the record the verbal fight happens between 15:30 and 19:30 on this censored clip.) The original with Qureshi calling those accusing General Musharraf of murdering Akbar Bugti "jhootay" (liars) and Asif responding by calling him a "do numberi" general (fake general), a "chamcha" (sucker-upper) and Qureshi ending up by calling him a "chutiya aadmi" ('asshole' is the closest I can think of translating this as), is what television viewers actually heard.

Given the levels of the people being asked to come on air and the absolute incompetence of anchors like Javed Chaudhry (remember when Kashmala was called a prostitute on his show a few months ago?) to control their guests, shouldn't a time-delay be installed by television channels on their live programmes?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Mustafa Kamal Lets Rip

Whatever the truth of what exactly happened and why after the blast at the Karachi Ashura procession, you are unlikely to see a more honest reaction of frustration from a politician on the media... Watch the clip till the end! (Apologies for the sound quality.)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sensationalism of the Day

Just came across this comparison of the Lahore and Karachi editions of Express from 30th December, 2009, and thought it was worth sharing. (I am not the one who's done the actual compositing and circling.)

So two days after the attack on the Ashura procession in Karachi and the subsequent arson campaign that followed, two editions of the same newspaper have wildly different figures. While Karachi mentions the dead as 43, Lahore rounds up the figure to 45. That would not be such a big deal (casualty figures often vary depending on sources, at least initially) if only it wasn't the SAME newspaper. But where Lahore really takes the cake is in DOUBLING the number of shops allegedly torched, from Karachi's 3,000 to 6,000!

Of course, we now know that the number of shops burnt was actually a whole magnitude less - between 700 to 800... Not a small figure by any means, but certainly not 6,000 or even 3,000. ... And that's why, ladies and gentlemen, one should take initial media reporting (at least in the Punjab) with a pinch of salt.

The Media Earthquake of the Decade - Update 2

It just had to come, didn't it? Of course it did. The backlash against the Jang Group - Times of India Group collaboration, that is.

First there were the comments on our blog post, which started off as a fair enough critique of the language and sins of omission of the joint editorial, until they descended into the usual "Hindi title, Indian poet" crapola. (Surprisingly, no one's actually yet commented on how the Urdu word 'Amn' has been transliterated into it's Punjabi equivalent 'Aman'.)

But how could Madame Mazari be far behind. Here's The Nation's editorial in today's paper, directly attacking the project (getting back at The News running Arif Nizami's columns perhaps?). I thought I might as well reproduce it in full below, for your reading convenience of course..

A farcical peace
Published: January 2, 2010

ONCE more a new propaganda offensive has been launched by segments of Indian civil society, including its media, in the shape of a "hope for peace". That it is propaganda is evident from the fact that it has come at a time when the Indian military is sending threatening messages to Pakistan with its new war strategies. Bolstering this renewed hostility, the Indian Home Minister Chidambaram has launched a vitriolic tirade against Pakistan and its so-called "terror structure". Ironically, this vitriol has come when the whole Kasab case is unravelling. Even worse, this "peace" offensive is designed once again to sidestep the real conflicts of Kashmir, water and arms build-ups by the Indians along the Pakistan border. By recalling the Sufi and other poets of the subcontinent, the effort is to divert people from these very real political issues without which there can actually be no real peace and stability in this region. It is interesting to note also that while all the major poets of the subcontinent have been recalled in the "peace" context, Iqbal, who is linked closely with the idea of a Muslim homeland that came to be Pakistan, has been ignored. Surely such an omission could hardly be accidental?

That some in Pakistan have joined this new propaganda offensive is not surprising given the genuine desire for peace within Pakistan. Unfortunately, these Pakistanis need to take their blinkers off and see the reality of the Indian position. There is no myth about India's continuing hostility towards Pakistan - at least amongst its leadership. Unless the mindset of the ruling elite in India alters there can be no lasting peace because the present leadership is carrying on in the tradition of earlier Indian rulers who have sought to evade conflict resolution and focus on conflict management. Perhaps it would serve a more useful purpose if the Indian civil society and media that seek peace were to first seek to alter their ruling elite's mindset so that occupation of Kashmir can end and India can learn to abide by the Indus Waters Treaty. There is also India's backtracking on the Siachin draft agreement of 1989. Perhaps the Indian "peace" activists can influence their state to stopping its aid and arms flows to militants in Pakistan.

Ooh, looks like things are just heating up. Zaid Hamid can't be far behind.