Monday, May 31, 2010

Of Judicial Independence and Punjab Politics

There's a bunch of stuff that's we've been meaning to blog about which has been held back because of the outrage in Lahore - it just seemed inappropriate to focus on anything else for the time being. And we will get round to it soon. In the meantime, just wanted to share a couple of things with all of you.

The first is this review today in the Express Tribune by veteran journalist Khaled Ahmed, formerly of The Daily Times and now associated with the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA), wherein he subtly takes the mickey out of current Chief Justice Lahore High Court Khwaja Sharif's published book about his travels to the Philippines and the UK in 1995 (when he was merely a lawyer). I'm not exactly sure when this book was actually printed but I had heard about this book only a few days ago from someone who claimed that in it, the venerable judge had spoken about his great admiration and love for the Sharif family. I found the alleged quotes - as related by my source - a bit unbelievable so had asked him to procure me a copy. Am still waiting for it.

Justice Khwaja Sharif (left) with one of the men he apparently admires

Meanwhile, this is what Khaled Ahmed writes about Justice Sharif's travelogue writing style and his moral preoccupations

"The London journey is a linear description of calling on expat Pakistanis at their homes who regaled Khwaja Sahib with food. In fact, the cataloguing of food is so persistent that each page has him eating twice or thrice, which seems abnormal. On page 79, Afzal Butt, of Sheranwala Gate, gave him cold lassi followed by chicken-tikka, daal and chicken curry, taken with extra-large tandoori roti. On page 84, he feels sleepy, and by page 93 he has a tooth ache. By page 152, he is positively ill after eating qima wali roti and has to take pills. On page 191, he is laid low by Khalid Butt’s samosas.
"There are parallels to Ibn Battuta’s “rihla” (travelogue) in which Battuta judges alien societies on the basis of the conduct of their women. In 1826, Egypt’s ruler Muhammad Ali sent a brilliant scholar Tahtawi to Paris to study government there. Tahtawi wrote up his long “rihla” praising most of what he saw in France but judging its morality on the basis of its women. At least on three different pages, Khwaja Sharif observes and regrets the way the women of England do bos-o-kinar (petting) with men in public."

Far more interesting is the bits he quotes about Justice Sharif's political leanings:

"The climax is Khwaja Sahib’s meetings with Mian Shehbaz Sharif living in exile in London. Khwaja Sahib, who had been president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association, had written to him to return and lead the campaign of struggle (Tehreek-e-Nijat) against the PPP government (p.226). On page 121, Shehbaz Sharif got him over to his apartment and, you have guessed it, regaled him to a lavish meal, giving him chun-chun kar botian (selected pieces of meat) with his own hands. Later they had ras-malai and ras-gulla too, with a box of sweets to accompany Khwaja Sahib as he left. Shehbaz Sahib also offered him money, which he declined, but once out of the apartment he realised he had eaten too much (p.122)."

Now, I have no truck with the PPP-walas trying to use all sorts of smoke screens to prevent corruption allegations against their leaders being probed. But doesn't the much-touted 'independence of the judiciary' ring a bit hollow with such judicial self-admissions?

The other bit of information I found fascinating was from a news analysis by Tariq Butt in The News on May 28, about the appointment by the Supreme Court (SC) of former head of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Tariq Khosa as a special investigator into the Bank of Punjab scam currently being probed by the SC...

"[A]n official said that Khosa would work as an “expert” to assist the NAB chief in the probe into the BoP scandal. Khosa enjoys good reputation. He is brother of Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who was elevated to the Supreme Court along with Justice Saqib Nisar a few months back, and Punjab Chief Secretary Nasir Mahmood Khosa. They are first cousins of Latif Khosa, the adviser to the prime minister on information technology."

Now, taking nothing away from the apparently sterling reputation - from all accounts - of Tariq Khosa, I couldn't help thinking if this family tree did not just encapsulate what Punjab politics is all about.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Original Sin

A policeman carries a wounded victim in Garhi Shahu Lahore (source: AFP)

I have to admit that all I really wanted to say or post today was vile swearing. At the pea-brained 'jihadis' with their pubic hair beards, at their bastard 'teachers' and Wahabbi funders, at the ass-wipe Pakistani establishment nee military that nurtured both of them, at the narrow-minded fat-assed bigoted mullahs who protect them and the moronic and blind politicians and bureaucrats that continue to mollycoddle them. There are really no civilized words to react to what has happened today in Lahore. 80+ innocent people, children included, gunned down while praying in their 'places of worship', places we are not even allowed to call mosques! And for what? Because 'they' don't fit in with 'our' puritannical idea of 'our' religion.

I keep coming back to the 'original sin' that did not begin this whole process of demonizing other sects and religions, but certainly sanctified it: the 1974 act of a democratic parliament, led by the secular and socialist Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, that declared Ahmadis as non-Muslims. Of course there had been anti-Ahmadi rabble rousing from much earlier - remember that the anti-Ahmadi Khatm-e-Nabuwat movement began in the early 1950s - but never before had the state officially sided with the mob. This act laid the basis, in my opinion, for the officially sanctified bigotry, persecution and oppression that followed under Mardood-e-Momin Ziaul Haq and continued under others, including the pointless declaration we must all append our names to, to get ID cards or passports. This original sin was not by the mullahs who had been braying for such a declaration for long and rioting in support of it, but by  Pakistan's democrats, secularists, intelligentsia, leftists, liberals and other minorities such as the Shia who acquiesced to it. Truly, if ever there was short-sightedness among Pakistan's establishment (and there are plenty of examples of it) this was it. Hereafter, a seed had been sown in the collective psyche, that not only was it okay to declare as heretics others who did not adhere to one's version of religion, but that violence and mob rule could be used to achieve your goals. The nurturing of extremist thought during Ziaul Haq's (mis)rule and its repercussions in the shape of today's barbaric attacks (and earlier targeting of Shias, Hindus and Christians) are a logical continuation of the original sin.

I know what the critical reaction to my statement is going to be. From the right, it will almost surely consist of theological arguments against the Ahmadis. From the left, some may argue about whether the original sin may, in fact, be the 1949 Objectives Resolution - which brought Islam into the constitution contrary to everything Jinnah stood for and would have thought proper - or even the concept of a state founded in the name of religion. I really have no desire to enter into a pointless theological debate with the right, other than to question whether they consider themselves bigger arbiters than Allah Himself. As far as I am concerned, heresy is between the Creator and the subject, who am I to make judgements about others' religious convictions? The argument on the left as far as the Objectives Resolution is concerned may have merit. (I don't subscribe to the negation of the idea of Pakistan as a whole simply because even states not founded on the basis of religion, such as India e.g. have seen horrific episodes of violence based on religion.) However, in my humble opinion, whereas the misguided Objectives Resolution did not actively profess prejudice and discrimination (in fact, believed it was standing against it), the anti-Ahmadi act of 1974 actively enshrined prejudice and discrimination.

Oh, but look at what some of our moronic opinion-makers say in response to today's carnage. There's Brigadier Imtiaz Billa on Business Plus suggesting an American conspiracy to force the Pakistan army to conduct an operation in North Waziristan and Southern Punjab and to malign Islam and Pakistan. Here's Lahore Commissioner Khusro Pervaiz immediately pointing to Indian involvement because "the operation was conducted on the anniversary of Pakistan's nuclear tests." There's some other maulvi on Geo's Pachas Minute claiming that Ahmadis have never been targeted "like this" before in Pakistan and that this shows that this is "not sectarian violence but just terrorism." And of course there is the usual chorus, of "these are not Muslims since Muslims could never do something so heinous." Will Pakistanis ever learn to look inward? Or understand cause and effect?

Thankfully, here's the moronic Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah (half-heartedly) admitting the linkage between the attackers and some madrassahs and even the Tableeghi Jamaat at Raiwind. And here's a shaken Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif finally realizing that these extremists are not potential voters that deserve covert support, but barbarians who need to be eliminated. Ah, but isn't he saying the same thing as his arch-nemesis Musharraf now? And does he have the balls to do what really needs to be done: a repeal of all discriminatory laws and practices that promote the mentality he finds so abhorrent now?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How To Make The Most of Blog Comments Sections

Okay so I was browsing around, and quite by accident came across this weirdly named Pakistani blog titled Alaiwah! which seems to specialize in nothing in particular but seems to have a tendency of using random sleazy photographs to illustrate its posts. One of the most popular posts on it was titled "Karachi Has More Than 100,000 Prostitutes" that has a photo from a porn site attached for apparently illustrative purposes (but of course it would be popular).

Contrary to all expectations, however, the post was a fairly sober piece about the prevalence and spread of HIV among the working girls of the port city, complete with a discussion of sexual health surveys and an interview with a Napier Road resident.

And then... I read the comments section.

I haven't stopped laughing since.

Nothing I could say would quite explain it. You have to check it out for yourself. Hint: And you thought Cafe Pyala's comments section sometimes veers off topic and goes into a free for all?

And Now, The Rest of the Media In Heat

You know, maybe there needs to be a whole new category of reporting. Yesterday morning I had posted something about the effects of heat on Samaa TV. And lo and behold, not soon after, in the morning's papers there was further evidence that the heat and humidity is getting to others in the media world as well.

For example, here is our perennial headline favourite, Express Tribune's main heading in it's Karachi city pages (obviously a contender for the WTF Headline Award in the Bizarre Newspaper Headline Contest):

"Sky alarmed as 'chicken licken' falls"

Oddly, this is a story about Siberian migratory birds fainting due to the heat and falling on residents' heads in Naushero Feroze. I kid you not.

Next up, is this gem of a poetic story on the back page of Dawn, from the desert of Thar. The topic - the death of a thirsty toddler who followed her mother while she went looking for water in the blazing sun - is indeed heart-breakingly tragic. However, it takes a special kind of reporting genius, or a little too much sun, to end up with a news report that actually does not tell you what happened either to the mother or the daughter beyond a oblique mention that

"Kamli did not find her mother but death."

You do, however, learn an entire Thari lullaby:

"[A social activist] cited a saying that Tharis make children sleep and calm them down by saying “Pani Nahe Gorha Pee, Monhnji Mithri Piyari Dhee. Meenh Ta Panhenji Mund Te Einda, Khooh Waya Sabh Khara Thinda”. (Oh my lovely sweet daughter, as there is no water, drink tears. It will rain on its time proper. Meanwhile, wells have gone sour.)"

I suspect the reporter, a Mr A.B. Arisar, had been waiting for a long time to find the appropriate occasion to slip this bit of poetry in somewhere. I tell you, the heat does strange things to us all.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Samaa In Heat

This has to be the funniest massacre of the English language by a Pakistani media organization. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite qualify for the Bizarre Newspaper Headline Contest (since it's not the headline that's in question here, nor is Samaa a newspaper), so thought I'd just share it on its own.

Here's a screen capture of the page on Samaa TV's website (just in case they go and delete or change it after this post):

And here is the text, covering the fairly innocuous reporting of record-breaking temperatures in parts of Sindh.

According to Samaa's website [my comments in square brackets]:

"The country is in the grip of high temperatures and Nawabshah broke off 86 year old record of high temperatures, SAMAA reported Tuesday."
           [The record was sort of like an unsuccessful engagement, eh?]

"According to chief metrologist of the country Mohammad Riaz, country remained in the grip of severe heat wave and Sibi and Nawabshah sizzled at 52 degree Celsius."
[Riaz is really into metro areas, what can we say?]

"In Nawabshah temperature was recorded at 51.5 degree Celsius and thus, 86 year record of heat broke off."
[It was just hanging there!]

"As a consequence of heat spell people rushed to rivers and water bodies to get temporary relief  from rising temperatures."
[Obviously Samaa had to differentiate between "rivers and water bodies" since rivers are mostly sewage these days, and obviously people can only get permanent relief if they decide to live in the water.]

"On the other hand in Larkana temperatures remain high and hot air was blowing all the way and temperatures reached to 51 degree Celsius."
["On the other hand"?? And do note that the hot air "was blowing ALL the way". As opposed to only till first base.]

"According to Metrological Department, the planes of the country will be under rising heat from Wednesday to Thursday and hot air will blow."
[Well, technically, they are right. Aeroplanes will be under the hot air at some point, the hot air may climb higher than the planes and in hot weather there is hot air.]

"Metrological experts have predicted that on the eve of Thursday and Friday air will blow and rain may descend."
[What can one say? That's why we need experts, to tell us stuff like this.]

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Giving Media Its Due

I have been meaning to do this post for a while now but have simply not got round to it thanks to all the other storms in a tea cup that plague Pakistani media. There is a valid criticism of the media that it focuses for the most part on the negative aspects of matters rather than on the positive side of things, but as any journalist will tell you, it's the man biting a dog that's newsworthy, not the dog biting the man. Usually the media will also present in its defence the role of the media as a watchdog, the lack of space (in a physical sense) to accomodate all stories and also the desire not to become a Dubai-type government promo media.

Nevertheless, since I accept that the criticism has its merits, I have to also admit that we at Cafe Pyala can also be accused of the same vis a vis our stories on the media. My defence in this regard would primarily be two-fold: that the mainstream media has enough space to toot its own horn (and it does), and that we certainly don't have the human resource to cover everything. The point of Cafe Pyala is, for the most part, to provide an alternative to what the mainstream media is already providing.

However, once in a while, one should, I believe, also acknowledge the good work some of the media does. In particular, I have been thinking about this because of the coverage of the Attaabad landslide-lake crisis in Hunza. The media in general, and Geo in particular, has done what can only be termed a stellar job of keeping this issue in the limelight. And despite the odd slip-ups and early sketchy knowledge, generally the stories presented have been both informative and full of human interest.

The Attaabad Lake caused by a landslide (source: Dawn)

The News has also published today a very informative (and sobering) piece by Pakistani geologists that puts things in a historical perspective and provides a much longed for factual explanation about what exactly is going on there and what might happen. I have to say also that, after all the negative stories about the situation at various academic institutes, it's a relief to know that a Department of Excellence in Geology at Peshawar University actually has faculty members who can frame issues and communicate in a lucid manner.

In case you're interestd, they conclude that in all probability, the artificial dam will break.

"Will the dam fail catastrophically and send a sediment-laden flood wave (as high as 60 meters) downstream inundating overbank habitats and seriously damaging infrastructure of roads, bridges and other communication means? Alternatively, the dam may breach slowly over a time span ranging from a few days to a few weeks. This will, obviously be the most favourable situation. It will not only reduce the intensity of the debris-laden flood, avoiding serious inundations of overbank populace and damage to the KKH and bridges.
One would expect that experts, including geotechnical engineers and geologists, would have ready answers to these questions. The reality is that under natural environments there are so many variables involved that technical experts cannot make guaranteed predictions about the dam stability or the nature of the breach. At the most, different situation scenarios are developed. In the present case, governmental agencies have modelled flood heights and arrival time at various points in downstream sections of the Hunza, Gilgit and Indus rivers, assuming different durations of breach. In the case of catastrophic failure, their models predict a flood level of 36m that reduces to 7m in case of a breach spread over 24 hours."

I have to say I also appreciate some of the regular contributors to the oped pages of the newspapers who attempt to bring in some level of rational debate to a country seemingly bereft of it. And, since this is something that has never had the occasion to be touched upon in other posts, I think the Express Tribuine's daily map of crime in its city pages is also an excellent invention.

Kamran Khan: taking a rational line

Last night, I thought in warm terms of Geo again - unlikely as it may sound - when I saw the segment on the Facebook ban on Aaj Kamran Khan Ke Saath. After a long while, it seemed Geo was not pandering to the vociferous right-wing of this country and actually questioning their logic in a reasoned manner. Because of the Youtube blockage, I'm not going to put the clip up here but you can view it here (it's the second story which begins after the commercial break, round 7:10).

Unfortunately, it seems to have enraged the cretins and they are vociferously protesting outside the Geo offices about this very segment even as I write this. You can view the segment and decide for yourself why exactly the cretins are protesting it.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Cretinous Republic of Pakistan

How cretinous can we be?

The Lahore High Court has ordered the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to block Facebook in Pakistan because of some lame-ass campaign originating out of Seattle to make caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). According to the wire new agency Xinhua:

"Judge Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry instructed the Ministry of Telecommunication to enforce the ban on the use of Facebook in Pakistan and submit a written reply by May 31.
Officials told the court that the government has already blocked parts of the Facebook relating to the caricatures competition but the petitioner argued that no part of any website can be banned unless the whole website is blocked.
Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali, lawyer for the Islamic Lawyers Forum, said that the competition of blasphemous caricatures created concerns among the Muslims across the world."

Widespread evidence, including personal, indicates that this ban has already come to pass.

Now, I should point out that I am no fan of this allegedly 'free speech' campaign, which is Western liberal cretinism taken to its extremes. Why? Because I personally think it is entirely hypocritical. There are laws in many parts of Europe for example (even in Denmark which flew into a rage over the Islamic world's reaction to the earlier blasphemous cartoons issue) which make any questioning of the scale of the massacre of Jewish people during the Nazi era, a jailable crime. You simply cannot even say anything that goes against officially sanctioned history and a number of people have been jailed for writing books that have been deemed to be a denial of the Jewish Holocaust. There are also laws (in Europe) that make blasphemy a cognizable offence, with the caveat that blasphemy is considered to be only against Christian beliefs. The US 1st (free speech) Amendment does legally protect all forms of speech but even in the US, it is socially and politically suicidal to say anything in the mainstream media that questions certain sacred cows, such as the right of Israel to exist, having sex with those 'under age', or to make fun of Jesus. I am not weighing in on the merits of these prohibitions, only pointing out that the freedom always exists within certain limits prescribed by society. The clash in this case is that the limits in the West are different from those other cultures or societies have set for themselves. And that what happens in one part of the world is immediately transmittable to another part through the power of the internet.

Secondly, my problem with this campaign is that it is not a little bit patronizing - as if the only issue left to ensure freedom of expression in the West is that these 'uncivilized and illiberal' Muslims need to be taught a lesson. In a world wracked by the perception (right or wrong) of a clash between Islam and the West, it is grossly irresponsible to further fan flames of bigotry and racism.

Having said all that, however, one can only rue our own immensely cretinous response to this silly campaign. Why do I think that? Consider:

1. Why, oh why, does everything in Pakistan boil down to banning this or that? Will we ever realize that 'banning' things does not really make them go away? Remember, Indian films were banned in Pakistan in the early 1960s and alcohol was prohibited for the country's Muslims in 1979...

2. Does Judge Ejaz Ahmed Chaudhry even know what he is passing judgement about? Does the moron Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali? I have serious doubts they even understand what social networking sites - indeed the web - are all about. Did the court even take advice from any technical expert? Or did it base its judgement on what a moronic Islamic Lawyers Forum lawyer said to it? What does that say about the competence of our legal profession and higher judiciary?

3. Are we masters of cutting off our nose to spite our face or what? Will Pakistanis not being able to access Facebook in Pakistan stop this campaign? Will it prevent those Pakistanis who want to access the cartoons from accessing it in a number of other ways? Will we ban email subsequently?

4. What the hell does Facebook even have to do with this? From what I can gather, someone merely created a page in support of this campaign - like the millions of other pages hosted by the site - while the main campaign is hosted here, which is accessible still. It is akin to banning Facebook if Geo runs something the government does not like, just because Geo has a fan page on Facebook, while letting Geo continue its television transmission. But before some other bureaucratic moron decides to block that link, however, let me just quickly point out that there are a number of other places on the web where the same material is hosted. The only way you can block it all is by banning the internet altogether.

Given our history of legal and bureaucratic cretinism, I wouldn't be surprised if that's the next thing Chaudhry Zulfikar Ali demands. And gets.

Weirdo Diplomacy

Five Rupees recently had a post about how Diplomacy Is Weird, basically because diplomatic double-speak is the engine international relations thrives on.

You want really weird diplomacy? How about this from Peter Galbraith, who used to be No. 2 in the UN mission in Kabul and was fired after accusing Afghan President Hamid Karzai of widespread fraud during the last presidential elections:

“I don’t know how to put it diplomatically, so I guess I won’t — Karzai is a weirdo,” Galbraith said.

I may be wrong but I'm fairly sure this is the first time the word 'weirdo' has been used publicly in international strategic analysis.

Hamid Karzai: High Official? (Source: AP)

Galbraith, has earlier accused Karzai of smoking hash, which he feels is why the Afghan president tends to fly off the handle and make erratic statements. To be fair to him (Peter, that is), who wouldn't think that if the man most regard as the West's puppet in Afghanistan, able to survive only because of round-the-clock security provided by American commandos, were to suddenly threaten to join the Taliban?

Great. So now we have to contend with a hostile and high, weirdo puppet! But it does explain why Pakistan always referred to him as the "'tokin' Pakhtun" in the Northern Alliance government.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Video Of The Day

I don't usually post stuff about internal US politics - seriously, I don't care either way - but this had me laughing so hard, I really thought it was worth sharing. That, and because it demonstrates how Jamshed Dastis exist in all countries.

This is a video that a blog called TMPMuckraker dug up after Indiana Republican congressman Mark Souder announced he would resign his seat because he had had an affair with a part-time staffer in his office called Tracy Jackson. Okay, so no big deal there, happens all the time, even if it seems to happen more frequently to conservative, "family values" kind of self-righteous politicians. But the video that TMP has dug up is actually a promotional one of Rep. Souder talking about 'Abstinence Education', apparently one of his core political issues. Funny? Not half as funny as the fact that his interviewer is his staffer and lover Tracy Jackson.

God, that's gotta hurt!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Smoking Gun - Updated

This story was posted earlier but some inexplicable issues with how the blog was viewable in Internet Explorer and Google Chrome has forced us to repost. Apologies to those who had commented earlier.

As explosive stories go, there could be few to match this.

The Let Us Build Pakistan (LUBP) blog, which advertises itself as "a project of Critical Supporters of Pakistan People's Party" has posted an alleged phone conversation between Geo TV's Hamid Mir and an unnamed person, said to be a member of the 'Punjabi Taliban' a.k.a. the Sipahe Sahaba lot. The conversation seems to have taken place a few days before Khalid Khwaja, the former ISI operative who had been abducted in March in the tribal area of Waziristan by a group calling itself 'Asian Tigers', was found killed, accused of being an American spy.

Hamid Mir: channeling his inner self?

In the apparently secretly recorded phone conversation, the voice identified as Mir's, coaxes the person he is talking to - variously identified by others as someone close to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakeemullah Mehsud - to get Khwaja's abductors to interrogate him about his connections with the Americans, with the CIA and with Qadianis, who according to him, "are worse than even kaafirs (infidels)." In addition, he provides the person at the other end of the line with his assessment of Khwaja's (and Khwaja's wife's) betrayal of the Lal Masjid militants (about Mullah Ghazi he prays "Khuda unn ko jannat naseeb karay" ['May God admit him into paradise'], and even implies Khwaja's indirect connection with Israel.

You can download a copy of the conversation here. It is in a .AMR (mobile phone) format playable on Quicktime or RealPlayer.

Update: Thanks to Anon1112, here are the easily playable audio clips (one phone conversation, but line gets disconnected in the middle):

Since a transcript of the conversation is not yet available, you really will have to listen to the audio to draw your own conclusions. (I will try and post some translations later.) Update: Thanks to Codename Hijazi, here is the fairly professionally done transcript and translation of the conversation. Obviously one cannot verify the authenticity of this recording, but knowing Mir and the way he talks, I am, personally, quite convinced this is actually his voice. He also mentions certain bits of his personal history (such as his being the editor of daily Ausaf at one point and being sacked from it) that reinforce the credibility of this recording.

The question of how this conversation was recorded is perhaps more intriguing. Some commentators on the LUBP blog have claimed it was the unknown militant who himself recorded the conversation and later on took it to Mehsud, who used Mir's claims and questions to 'sentence' Khwaja. There is, of course, no way of knowing if this is true, but even if it is, it does not explain how LUBP got a hold of the recording. In fact, it could well be one of our intelligence agencies that recorded the conversation and have now leaked it. My guess would be the latter. Update: As Codename Hijazi has pointed out, the recording first made its appearance on a Facebook fan page titled 'Inter-Services Intelligence.' Given the professional transcript also provided, it becomes fairly obvious what the source of the recording is.

The LUBP blog post draws readers' attention to the following:

1. Hamid Mir’s views on terrorists of Lal Masjid (Ghazi brothers);
2. Hamid Mir’s worldview of Islam, Jihad and CIA;
3. His views on Khalid Khwaja;
4. His views on Qadianis
5. His views on Pakistan’s intelligence agencies
6. His views on Javed Ibrahim Paracha, a notorious terrorist of Sipah-e-Sahaba in Kohat (also a leader of PML-N – does that ring a bell?)
7. What was Hamid Mir’s message to Khalid Khwaja’s kidnappers? Did that message lead to Khwaja’s murder?
8. What are Hamid Mir’s links with Hakimullah Mehsud and the Punjabi Taliban (Sipah-e-Sahaba)?
9. Why does Hamid Mir insist that Khalid Khwaja is not an ISI operative but a CIA operative?
10. Who are the real sponsors, protectors and promoters of Hamid Mir?
11. Is Hamid Mir a friend of Pakistan? or a friend of terrorists?

Now, the other question one may ask is whether it's possible that Mir was simply cultivating his contacts with sources. We all know that journalists have sometimes to ingratiate themselves with dubious people who can provide them information. But you may want to ask yourself, how much information is Mir's 'source' actually sharing and how much of the conversation is the 'reporter' informing his 'source.' Certainly the reference to Qadianis is completely unprovoked, as is the insistence by Mir of what Khwaja should be interrogated about.

Keep in mind also that Hamid Mir published the following lengthy piece in The News, titled "What Was the Last Mission of Khalid Khwaja?", on May 2, two days after Khwaja's bullet-riddled body was found. In it he says:

"The spokesman for the Punjabi Taliban said that both Mr and Mrs Khalid Khwaja played an active role in Lal Masjid tragedy in July 2007. They forced late Abdul Rashid Ghazi not to surrender but disappeared when the operation started. Some friends of Khalid Khwaja, however, tell a different story. They say that Khwaja was arrested just a few days before the operation in Lal Masjid but they also admit that Khwaja was not supporting the surrender.

It is also learnt that Khalid Khwaja was investigated by a three-member committee of the militants for more than four weeks. Initially, Khwaja claimed that he had moved a petition in the Lahore High Court against the drone attacks along with former PML-N MNA Javed Ibrahim Paracha and he came to North Waziristan for recording the statements of drone victims to be produced in the court on April 6.

The militants confronted him as to why on the one hand he was opposing the drone attacks but on the other hand he was trying to establish contacts between the USA and the Taliban. The militants claimed that he arranged a meeting between US Under Secretary of State Karen Hughes and a religious cleric Javed Ibrahim Paracha in 2005 in Serena Hotel, Islamabad. They also produced some articles downloaded from the Internet and asked about his links with former CIA officials, James Woolsey and William Casey."

Listen to the audio again. Almost all the points mentioned in the article are things Mir tells his source! It's nice to be able to quote yourself, isn't it?

At the very least, this is a very serious accusation against Mir that needs to be looked into by the authorities. If the recording is genuine, was Mir complicit in Khwaja's murder? Read LUBP's points / questions again. Hamid Mir and his employers (and there are obviously more than one) need to answer some very tough questions.

*** UPDATE ***

Hamid Mir and his acolytes have come out swinging against this damaging accusation, particularly after the Daily Times ran a front page story - that seems to have been based almost entirely on our post - with the transcript of the conversation included on the inside pages as well. He first posted his opinion on a journalists' mailing list and finally has given his side of the story publicly today in a piece in The News.

In his email response he writes:

"Dear All,
Thank you very much for your support. Today publisher of Daily Times and Governor Punjab Salman Taseer created a new record in the history of yellow journalism by publishing a one sided tape drama scandle against me.I would like to remind my journalist colleagues that Salman Taseer published many dirty articles against me in the past when i was banned by Musharraf regime on tv.Today he published the transcript of a concocted tape with some comments on the front page of his newspaper.Yes he tried to kill many birds with one bullet.
This is a conspiracy against me.Khalid Khawaja was assassinated in the month of April and this tape surfaced in the middle of May just few days before some important political and leagal events.I am consulting with my lawyers and i will go into court against Salman Taseer for publishing a one sided concocted story against me.My hands are clear and i have no fear except Allah who have provided me a new opportunity to unmask some more realities in the court of law.
This fabricated tape is part of a bigger drama against journalist community.Some elements want to silence the voice of media on certain national issues by blackmailing journalists like me.These people are very unhappy on those journalists who are raising voice for missing people,who are opposing government stand NRO and who criticized the fake degree holder members of the parliament.Many journalists are disliked by the government and some parts of the establishment.These journalists may become a target one by one.Some government ministers warned me on May 13th that some elements are trying to use the family of Khalid Khawaja against me and journalists like Ansar Abbasi,Kamran Khan and Shahid Masood will also face some new cases.I am sure we will face these kind of fabricated cases with unity.Thanks again for showing solidarity with me.
Hamid Mir"

Note that he does not answer any of the substantive issues regarding the recording, other than to off-handedly claim the recording as "fabricated." His claim that the recording is suspect because it has only surfaced two weeks after Khwaja was killed, is bizarre for a journalist to make.

In his response in The News he writes:

Grand Plot Against Media
Monday, May 17, 2010
By Hamid Mir
"ISLAMABAD: Some elements in the federal government have hatched a grand conspiracy to malign and blackmail the Pakistani media and top of the list is the Jang Group of Newspapers and Geo TV. This grand conspiracy was noticed last Friday when a federal minister made allegations in the National Assembly and said that they have not paid huge amounts of sales tax. Most of the figures presented in the National Assembly were not correct.
The same afternoon, a top government minister told this scribe that “enough is enough” and now they can teach a lesson to Jang Group any time. He claimed that it was only President Asif Ali Zardari who never allowed any “action” against you people otherwise the action would have started long ago. The minister was angry with Ansar Abbasi and Dr Shahid Masood. He claimed that the government had collected a lot of material against these two. Another minister told this scribe the same evening that President Zardari had given a green signal to launch a campaign against some journalists of the Jang Group, including Shaheen Sehbai, Ansar Abbasi, Dr Shahid Masood, Kamran Khan, Hamid Mir and some others. He said that Dr Shahid might be implicated in some forgery case.
Another minister revealed that some people within the establishment suggested to the government to use the family of late Khalid Khawaja against Hamid Mir on the basis of a tape. A top official of the interior ministry rejected this idea and said that these types of concocted tapes cannot be proven in a court of law but the same night some pro-PPP websites launched a campaign against me. The next day, a section of the media belonging to a close friend of President Zardari published a one-sided story with baseless allegations. A newspaper and a TV channel tried to involve me in the murder of Khalid Khwaja.
I will take legal action against all those who started this campaign but one thing must be clear. It is a conspiracy not only against me. The ultimate goal is to silence the voice of Pakistani media on certain issues. Was it a coincidence that PPP Secretary Information Fauzia Wahab addressed a press conference on Saturday against Ansar Abbasi and the next day a full-fledged campaign was launched against me in a section of the media belonging to Governor Punjab?
Many observers have noticed the timing of the campaign against the media men. Khalid Khwaja was assassinated at least two weeks ago but no tape about his murder surfaced anywhere. Fauzia Wahab had exchanged hot words with Ansar Abbasi many times in different talk shows but she issued him a notice only when some important political and legal events are going to take place in coming few weeks. The main objective is very clear. The PPP leadership wants to give a message to the whole media that if they do not behave, then this government will treat them like Pervez Musharraf did.
For some time, the government has been taking many actions to financially damage the Geo-Jang Group because this Group has refused to toe the official line. Similar tactics were used by the previous regime of dictator Musharraf. The democratic government was supposed to tolerate press freedom but this could not happen."

Of course, once again, it is termed a conspiracy to silence the media and in particular the Jang Group without going into the real accusations against himself. But some points from Hamid Mir's article need a comment.

1. It is interesting that Hamid Mir has laid this "conspiracy" at the door of the Pakistan Peoples Party, rather than where it seems to originate: the intelligence agencies. A few people have also pointed out the intelligence source as a reason to discount it. No doubt, one must take intel leaks with a pinch of salt. But whether PPP or the intelligence agencies are the source, the allegations need to be refuted, and if they are not in substantive terms, they would have to be accepted as fact. Indeed, the reasons for the intelligence operatives having turned against Mir - who has long been considered one of their men - may be complex but that does not affect the substance of the allegations against him as evidenced by this recording.

2. His claims that "these types of concocted tapes cannot be proven in a court of law" seem a bit premature and certainly not a little reminiscent of an earlier apoplectic commentator on this blog who said:

"...this stupid piece of evidence will not stand in any court of law anywhere in the world."
Let's leave that to the courts to decide, if it comes to that, but it does indicate a bit of panic. The ISI fanboy's claims, also on this blog, that "they" are in touch with Mrs. Khalid Khwaja is, however, probably the reason for the panic. I would expect her to soon move the court with a petition to implicate Mir in her husband's murder. For Mr Mir's benefit, however, it is fairly easy for experts to judge whether a recording is tampered with or not.

3. Hamid Mir is at pains to point out the "timing" of the accusation against him coinciding with the government's bringing up the tax issue against the Jang Group (among other media groups) and Fauzia Wahab's (albeit flimsy) legal notice of defamation to Ansar Abbasi. He (and his fellow journos) should know about media timing. And he may well be right to a certain extent. However, as pointed out before, this does not mean that the tax issues and the seriousness of the accusations against him are negated. He (and the Jang Group) still have to answer. By using the bogey of a 'conspiracy against the media', how are they different from Asif Zardari who claims the allegations of corruption against him are simply a 'conspiracy against democracy'? Sometimes the shoe is on the other foot, is it not Mr Mir? And of course, both are not necessarily mutually exclusive points of view: you can have a conspiracy to undermine democracy at the same time as the allegations of corruption being true. Similarly, you can have a government campaign to make the media more compliant at the same time as serious allegations against the media being true.

4. Hamid Mir claims that part of the reason for the government's ire is his bringing up the issue of the fake degrees of Jamshed Dasti et al. We've done a number of stories harshly criticising Dasti et al and the government, but I can tell you one thing: in terms of seriousness, fake degrees are piddling compared to instigation to murder.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Searching For (Yet Another) New Dawn

Had the real-life DawnNews saga been a prime-time soap opera on that troubled channel, its ratings would at least have registered some mild signs of life instead of languishing well below the radar screen. Dozens of redundancies and a half-baked makeover later, the country’s first, and soon to be former, English language channel continues to search desperately for an identity and lurch from crisis to crisis in search of its true self. The latest twist in the tortuous tale: a complete break from of its ‘burger’ Angrezi past and a rediscovery of its native roots. So help us God.

After recently switching to Urdu at certain times during the day to attract some kind of stable viewership, DawnNews has now decided to stop being the confusing hybrid it is and go all the way. Sources say that from May 15 the channel will switch entirely to Urdu language broadcasts and step into the overcrowded lion’s den where Geo, Express News, Dunya, Samaa, ARY and Aaj and dozens of others lie hungrily in wait.

The most recent casualty of all the upheavals at the channel is former BBC hand and head of current affairs Mazhar Zaidi, who staff last saw at work on Friday. Insiders say that, fed up with the lack of direction, Zaidi walked out and resigned on Saturday and is now mulling over returning to the BBC.

Wusatullah Khan, another BBC luminary brought in to plug a gaping hole in the sinking vessel, has also rediscovered the charms of his former employer and plans to jump ship and return to the mother ship BBC. Clearly, his laid-back prime time Urdu programme 'Bolna Zaroori Hai' had failed to stem DawnNews’ ratings rot, with viewers deciding that dekhna zaroori nahin hai.

Meanwhile, the desperate attempts to break with its ABCD past and establish some kind of desi street cred produced what must be the most ill-judged concept in programming history: 'Chaudhry Ki Baithak.' If the idea was to force the teeming masses to get addicted to the programme, let’s just say they didn’t - and for a very good reason. Who among the great unwashed, let alone anyone else with half a brain, would ditch their Star Pluses and Geos to watch a Chaudhry Shujaat impersonating refugee from Geo’s 'Hum Sab Umeed Se Hain' interact night after night with a hapless guest and a man with a high-pitched voice and an exaggerated Pakhtun accent (a sure sign of a comic running out of ideas)? And this, by the way, was meant to be a serious programme. No wonder the Mazhar Zaidis and Wusatullahs fled, deciding their time was up!

PS: Meanwhile, the long quest for a new editor of the Dawn group’s Herald magazine is finally over, if rumours are to be believed. Lahore-based Badar Alam, formerly of Dawn’s Lahore bureau and The News on Sunday, is the man chosen for the hot seat following the departure of (former TNS editor) Arifa Noor, who is soon to be anointed Dawn’s resident editor in Islamabad.
So another Lahori gets the Herald crown, following Aamer Ahmed Khan and Ms Noor, making one wonder whether Dawn head honcho Amber Saigol can only feel secure if her key staffers at the prestigious magazine are brought in from the city she has adopted as her own after her marriage to a Saigol.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Geo Anchor Tells Truth... Off Air

Why Facebook is better than Twitter... You just don't come across such stuff on Twitter, do you?

This is apparently from Geo's "off-screen" transmission on September 28, 2009, 8:10pm. Thanks to someone called Waheed Gul from Peshawar - who claimed on his facebook page to have hacked into the not-for-public feed - for uploading it. Enjoy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

And If You Thought Shoaib's Warts Were Disgusting...

I could not imagine waking up to more disgusting news on the front pages of the morning papers.

According to the scoop in Dawn today (citing a report leaked to DawnNews), we hear for the first time what various coaches and managers actually said to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) investigating committee about the team and its abysmal failure Down Under last season.

Not only does tour coach and former skipper Intikhab Alam refer to his charges as "mentally retarded people" who "don't know how to wear their clothes and talk in a civilised manner" nor "know that they are representing their country", but:

"And not content with his criticism of how they appeared in public, Alam cited the team’s Sri Lankan physiotherapist to report on the innovative ways adopted by Pakistani players in spaces where they should have been left alone. The leaks of the statements before the inquiry committee suffer on account of bad transcription but what the veteran Pakistani national trainer appeared to be upset that his wards were not ‘toilet-trained’."

Ewwwww. Imagination goes wild. The mind boggles. The stomach churns. The gag reflex kicks in.

One never realized what else Saeed Ajmal and others might have been 'dropping' when all those catches were going down at the T20 World Cup match against England two days ago. No wonder Shahid Afridi was so 'pissed off.' And it does add a whole new meaning to the Pakistan team 'shitting bricks' against Australia. Quite apt, then, that this report should have been 'leaked', wouldn't you say?

Friday, May 7, 2010

Porn To Be Wild

"It’s late at night and the room is dimly lit. The walls are decorated with paintings, posters of sportsmen and some birthday cards. There is silence. A boy and a girl are sitting hand in hand. In due time, the boy starts playing with the girl’s hair. She walks away from him and he follows her to the edge of the bed. The girl looks coyly up at him and says, “Please don’t.” "

“But it’s too late,” says Fawad Ali, writer of the moment at a new English language newspaper to his imaginary girlfriend, “by this time tomorrow this story I am doing on Pakistan’s porn industry will be on newsstands and the net. People all over the world will be saying who is this man? Look at the hardness of his prose, the rhythm of his sentences, and the tumescence of his intellect…”

“Oh Fawad,” she sighs.

Has there ever been such a well researched, factually correct, emotionally evocative piece of sensationalist drivel? Fawad writes the prequel to his acceptance of next year’s APNS award for Best Feature Story as he revels in her willing vapidity, her unnatural blondness, her loud smile.

“Oh Fawad,” she sighs.

The moment of intimacy is broken as someone shouts, “Repeat.” Fawad takes a minute to step outside his cubicle and reply “Nothing sir, I was just talking to myself again,” to his editor at the newspaper. The newspaper, which is considered one of the best in the country (at least around the office water cooler), combines the innovative with the traditional in its products. For example, retaining the character and formation of old school journalism by putting all the words into pretty columns, while simultaneously making sure the words are often complete batshit.

“Oh Fawad,” she sighs.

Bite your lip, Express Tribune (source: Express Tribune/ Creative Commons)

He takes a moment to run his hands through her hair again before writing the quotes that will be used in the story. He knows he cannot omit the one in which the owner of the studio that has made 90 porn films since 2002, Junaid, says he sees his work as a kind of health education for young people who have questions about intimate relationships. Or the one in which he says his business model is revolutionary because his films feature young people. These are important points to make, thinks the hard-nosed investigative journalist, because people often forget that porn filmmakers are in the business because of the goodness of their hearts, and the idea of using young women instead of old crones to turn people on is really a revolutionary one.

Fawad sketches the outlines of this movement for mass sexual literacy with rhetorical virility. Having established that the opening scene is in a room with a bed, he points out that it is being shot in a study. The filmmakers initially "hired commercial sex workers" for their films but then "they began to expand by hiring enthusiastic volunteers." Fawad considers, but then discards, the thought that readers might have questions about the existence of enthusiastic volunteers for roles in pornos in a country where girls caught on camera kissing in net cafes have killed themselves. If there are people out there who see the world in such a bleak, cynical light, he feels, they might actually find inspiration in this moving story about a passion for passion. Plus, the directors sidekick Tina, a former actor herself, explains it sweetly (and "somewhat menacingly") when she says “we have the ability to convince people.”

Nonetheless, the need for a balanced perspective having been drummed into him during the intensive training sessions conducted by the newspaper before it launched, Fawad decides to include a description of a less-than-ideal situation. One actor describes how she ran away with a boyfriend who then sold her to another man who raped her for a month before putting her up for sale again. Then he realizes the hint of exploitation takes the story in a needlessly negative direction. He compensates by including a bevy of beauties who do it because they like it. Because they are aroused by it. Because it has become an addiction.

Fawad ends his piece with a cursory nod to distribution and law enforcement, two factors that have, he feels, traditionally featured too heavily in any examination of the porn industry. In this he is aided by the courteous compliance of nameless shopkeepers who are only too happy to facilitate the sale of super hits like Take Me In Your Arms and Love On The Beach, and the bumbling incompetence of local policemen, who scoff at the very notion of there being a local porn industry. Spent, he reclines, exhausted, as the editor runs his/her eyes hungrily up and down the taut lines of his blunt word hammer.

“I’m wondering,” says the editor, “if I should listen to that little voice in my crack-smoking head that is saying 'Yeh article hamaray 'We’re not tabloid ji' credentials ki patloon utar day ga?'”

Fawad looks up coyly and says, “Please don’t.” 

Author’s Note: The above was, of course, inspired by Fawad Ali’s bodice ripping (not) take on Pakistan’s adult film industry, which was printed in the Express Tribune last Sunday and has since been doing the rounds via email and FB. Another article in their Sunday magazine, The Matriarchalso generated much excitement, primarily because it mentioned female undergarments and featured descriptions such as the following:

“Rolling around the floor in hysterical laughter, the women passed the item under inspection from hand to hand, checking the adjustable straps, the fasteners, the oyster satin and lace cups and cracking jokes about the underwires which gave it its shape until, with incredibly fast, startlingly deft movements the matriarch swung my caftan up and over my head, checked me over with her work-worn hands, covered me up, ripped open the fastening down the front of her kameez, held her matched pair of overripe watermelons out for inspection and said ‘See. Mine are much bigger than yours but I don’t wear one of those!’”

The room erupted as she then tried to stuff herself in to the too small bra, two of her granddaughters struggling to squeeze her appurtenances into its delicate cups as if they were kneading dough for chapattis…”

Fawad Ali is presumably a reporter, while Zahrah Nasir is a columnist. His function requires research and analysis; hers can be satisfied by whimsical musing. Another crucial difference between Fawad Ali’s rather sketchy sketch of local titillation options and Zahrah Nasir’s playful piece on lingerie and women’s relationships with their bodies is that Zahrah Nasir can write. The Matriarch works because its somewhat lurid descriptions of undressing and breasts are merely a stepping stone to observations about culture, tradition and communication. Fawad Ali’s piece, on the other hand, is merely a stone that he should be beaten on the head with, repeatedly. So I will stand by Ms. Nasir’s right to examine the geo-strategic significance of knickers. Unless she uses the word ‘appurtenances’ again. Then she’s on her own.