Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Why Jamshed Dasti Really Should Be Jailed

Ok, I know we've only made fun of MNA Jamshed Dasti's verbal diarrhoea so far. But really, enough is enough. It's one thing to be a buffoon who never realizes that everyone laughs at him. It's quite another to be a dangerous and slimy bastard. This time he has really crossed the line and it would be shameful if the Supreme Court does not immediately take suo moto notice of his shenanigans.

Dasti and Mukhtaran: Two types of role models

The Express Tribune has today published an explosive story in which gang-rape survivor and all round role-model Mukhtaran Mai has claimed that she has been at the receiving end of threats and pressure from Dasti to drop her case against the people she accuses of conniving in the violence against her.

"In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune, Mukhtar Mai, an iconic character who came to the limelight for her brave fight for justice after being gang-raped, has alleged that MNA Jamshed Dasti is threatening her family through his emissaries to withdraw the case or face dire consequences. ...“Mr Dasti threatened me last week through his messengers in Mir Wala (Muzaffargarh) to withdraw my case from the apex court and to compromise with the Mastoi Brathery, 14 members of whom are in prison,” Mukhtar Mai said in an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune. 
Mukhtar also alleged that Dasti, through the supporters of Federal Minister for Defence Production, Sardar Qayyum Jatoi, whose constituency she lives in, is putting pressure on her family in all sorts of ways.  She said that her 60-year-old father, who is a woodcutter by profession, had also been warned that he would have to face the music."

By the way, Sardar Abdul Qayyum Jatoi is the same idiot who said this. Birds of a feather and all that. Just in case you had any doubts about Mukhtaran's account:

"Meanwhile, when approached by The Express Tribune, an unabashed Jamshed Dasti, who is no stranger to controversy, confirmed that he had indeed requested Mukhtar to reach a compromise on the matter.
He claimed that the judgment delivered by the then Anti-Terrorism Court in the case was adversely affected by immense pressure from then president Pervez Musharraf and anti-Islamic lobbies. “I swear, the persons imprisoned in jail are innocent and the court has no justification giving the death sentence to the accused persons in a gang-rape case,” a furious Dasti said. The Supreme Court may take up the case and decide it within ninety days, he said, criticising Mukhtar as someone who distorted the image of Islam and played into the hands of non-Muslim NGOs."

Leave aside the issue of how Dasti has committed blatant contempt of court - which the courts should decide on. But to blame the sentence on pressure from Musharraf - who it may be recalled had himself famously questioned the motivations of rape victims who stood up for their rights in general and tried his best to downplay the Mukhtaran Mai saga  - just boggles the mind.

What is even more baffling, nay shameful, is how the PPP can still support a man whose opinions fly in the face of all that the liberal PPP is supposed to be about. This is not just mere stupidity. It is blackmail, criminal threats and siding with oppression.

It's about time Dasti is asked to pack his bags. Preferably for jail.

Aslam Raisani: The Standup

Chief Minister Balochistan Muhammad Aslam Raisani is a man of few words. And we should all be thankful for that. Because when he does open his mouth, all sorts of funny pronouncements come pouring out. And it takes time to savour their genius.

Aslam Raisani: a devilish sense of humour?

By now everyone must have heard of his latest declaration that "a degree is a degree, whether fake or real" - said in response to a question about the impact of the drive against parliamentarians who lied about their educational qualifications. Well said, Mr Raisani. And a law is a law, whether stupid or good. And by your logic, a room is a room, whether it's the bedroom in the house or a prison cell. So people who get hauled up for flouting the law, should not mind at all.

But that's not the end of Mr Raisani's cheeky sense of humour, since as we all know, it's difficult to stop once you're on a roll. So we also have the following:

"Chief Minister Nawab Aslam Raisani advised the unemployed youth protesting against the unemployment to join politics and become ministers in their bid to end unemployment."

What's that they say about many a true word being spoken in jest? Give it up for Aslam Raisani folks.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Headline of the Day

From today's The Nation, picture courtesy reader Saleem Shady...

Adds a whole new meaning to "chun chun kar botian" dena, wouldn't you say...? (Although it must be recalled that cricket coach Waqar Younis had also recently been quoted by AFP / Dawn as saying that he hoped "my bowlers come hard" on new Pakistani-origin Australian batsman Usman Khawaja. May be it's a Pakistani thing.)

Of Hyperbole and Bogus Intellectualism

When I saw this heading in today's The News this morning, I mentally filed it away for the Bizarre Newspaper Headline Contest. I mean, have you ever read a more hyperbolic analogy? This is how the headline appeared in the print edition:

Yes, that's a 'Fall of the Roman Empire' as the subheading above the main heading.

But not having read the piece itself, I had put it down to the usual hyperbole of the Jang Group in which comparing an empire that spanned some 6.5 million square kilometres of land - from Western Europe to parts of the Near East, Central Asia and North Africa - and lasted hundreds of years could be compared to Pakistan that has existed in its present truncated form only since 1971.

Just to put things into perspective (source: Wikipedia)

Imagine my surprise when I finally did read the piece, with it's heading and sub-headings inverted on the web (which may well be how the article appeared in the Rawalpindi and Lahore editions, Lahore being where this brilliant intellectual achievement originated). Here the heading was simply "Fall of the Roman Empire" and the story appeared as one of the paper's 'Top Stories.' The whole piece is one long exposition of various historians' theories about what actually led to the decline of the Roman empire. The Pakistani angle it seems was put in merely as an afterthought, to provide some tenuous 'peg' so to speak.

But there was something even more intriguing about this piece. It authoritatively cited at least 11 authors (and their books) including obscure academics such as Bryan Ward-Perkins, William McNeill, Joseph Tainter and Ludwig von Mises along with better known ones such as Arnold Toynbee and Edward Gibbon. Now, call me a cynic but I have yet to come across more than a handful of Pakistani journalists who actually read books, much less one who has read apparently every single well-known treatise ever written about the decline of a 2,000-year-old empire.

Hmmmm, I thought to myself, let me put my preconceived notions to the test. If I was a political beat reporter - as Mr Sabir Shah is - where would I go for references to pretend I was a historian without having actually read anything myself. Yup, bingo!: Wikipedia. My first guess yielded gold. Some examples:

Sabir Shah / The News:

"These historians, including the likes of Arnold Toynbee and James Burke, have argued that the economy of the Empire was actually a plunder economy based on looting existing resources rather than producing anything new, maintaining the greed of the ruling elite wasted whatever resources were available to nation in its time of glory.
Both Toynbee and Burke have opined that the Roman Empire relied on a pattern of tax collection that drove small-scale farmers into destitution or into dependency upon the feudal lords, who were ironically exempted from taxation. The duo strongly believes that with the cessation of tribute from conquered territories, the full cost of the Roman military machine had to be borne by its citizenry.
British historians Toynbee and Burke have also contended in their research that the Roman economy was based upon slave labour precluded a middle class with buying power, besides having just a few exportable goods to earn revenues."


"In contrast with the declining empire theories, historians such as Arnold J. Toynbee and James Burke argue that…the economy of the Empire was a Raubwirtschaft or plunder economy based on looting existing resources rather than producing anything new. The Empire relied on booty from conquered territories (this source of revenue ending, of course, with the end of Roman territorial expansion) or on a pattern of tax collection that drove small-scale farmers into destitution (and onto a dole that required even more exactions upon those who could not escape taxation), or into dependency upon a landed √©lite exempt from taxation. With the cessation of tribute from conquered territories, the full cost of their military machine had to be borne by the citizenry. An economy based upon slave labor precluded a middle class with buying power. The Roman Empire produced few exportable goods."

Sabir Shah / The News:

"While all historians agree that Rome was neither built nor destroyed in a day, US historian Arther Ferril has strongly asserted in his books “The Fall of the Roman Empire” and “Roman Imperial Grand Strategy” that the influx of German mercenaries into the ranks of the Romans also resulted in cultural dilution. However, Ferril holds the viewpoint that high taxation on the marginal land not only drove it out of cultivation but had also triggered acute food shortage in the Empire."


"The historian Vegetius theorized, and has recently been supported by the historian Arther Ferrill, that the Roman Empire – particularly the military – declined partially as a result of an influx of Germanic mercenaries into the ranks of the legions. This "Germanization" and the resultant cultural dilution or "barbarization", led to lethargy, complacency and loyalty to the Roman commanders, instead of the Roman government, among the legions and a surge in decadence amongst Roman citizenry. Ferril agrees with other Roman historians like A.H.M. Jones’ and says, “... the chief cause of the agricultural decline was high taxation on the marginal land, driving it out of cultivation.”"

Sabir Shah / The News:

"Historians like Edward Gibbon considered that the Roman Empire had rested on artificial support pivots, and as these holding pillars were removed by the vicissitudes of time, the stupendous fabric of the realm yielded to the pressure of its own weight."


"Edward Gibbon famously placed the blame on a loss of civic virtue among the Roman citizens…"The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight," he wrote."

Sabir Shah / The News:

"The Russia-born American historian Michael Rostovtzeff and Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, have both viewed that unsound economic policies played a key role in the impoverishment and decay of the Roman Empire. According to Rostovtzeff and Mises, the debasement of currency (the minting of coins with diminishing content of gold, silver, and bronze) after the 3rd Century, had led to inflation, besides indirectly resulting scarcity of food, decrease in trade and arbitrary taxation."


"Historian Michael Rostovtzeff and economist Ludwig von Mises both argued that unsound economic policies played a key role in the impoverishment and decay of the Roman Empire. According to them… debasement of the currency (i.e., the minting of coins with diminishing content of gold, silver, and bronze) led to inflation…According to Rostovtzeff and Mises, artificially low prices led to the scarcity of foodstuffs, particularly in cities, whose inhabitants depended on trade to obtain them…This, coupled with increasingly oppressive and arbitrary taxation, led to a severe net decrease in trade, technical innovation, and the overall wealth of the empire."

Sabir Shah / The News:

"A Canadian historian William McNeill has noted in his book “Plagues and Peoples” that the Roman Empire had suffered from epidemics such as small pox, measles and plague, which had ultimately killed about half of its population. British historian Peter Heather, in his book “The Fall of the Roman Empire,” maintains that the incentive for local officials to spend their time and money in the development of local infrastructure had disappeared as public buildings from the 4th Century onwards had tended to be much more modest and funded from central budgets, as the regional taxes had dried up. Heather further writes in his book that the land-owning provincial literati had shifted their attention to where the money was, away from provincial and local politics, to the imperial bureaucracies." 


"William H. McNeill (b.1917), a world historian, noted in chapter three of his book Plagues and Peoples (1976) that the Roman Empire suffered the severe and protracted Antonine Plague starting around 165 A.D. For about twenty years, waves of one or more diseases, possibly the first epidemics of smallpox and/or measles, swept through the Empire, ultimately killing about half the population.
"Peter Heather, in his The Fall of the Roman Empire (2005), maintains…the incentive for local officials to spend their time and money in the development of local infrastructure disappeared. Public buildings from the 4th century onward tended to be much more modest and funded from central budgets, as the regional taxes had dried up. Second, Heather says "the landowning provincial literati now shifted their attention to where the money was … away from provincial and local politics to the imperial bureaucracies." "

There are many other examples as well, but I think you get the picture. (And I'm not even going to go into the details of the internal inconsistencies of the article which posits sometimes glaringly contradictory positions as equally valid. To cite one instance, after claiming that the Roman Empire was based on a plunder economy that looted existing resources and never made anything new, the article ends with a paean to the "genius" of the Romans who were also "masters of adaptive innovations.")

Hey, Mr Shah and editors of The News, do you know what plagiarism means? Look it up in Wikipedia. It's all about looting existing resources and not making anything new.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Conceptual Terrorism

Un-fucking-believable! Further proof, if any were needed, that morons are on the loose everywhere (via Gawker). Should make Pakistanis feel a little better about their elected parliamentary cretins.

This is US Representative Louis Gohmert, Republican Congressman from Texas, detailing the most ingenious terrorist plot against the US ever devised...

So, in a nutshell, Al Qaeda would impregnate young women, get them visas for the US in order for them to give birth in Amreeka so that their babies are American citizens, then bring them back to indoctrinate them for 20 to 30 years, and send them back to the US to destroy it? Tell you what: if terrorists are this long-sighted, visionary and ingenious, they deserve some genius grants.

Rep. Gohmert (by the way, this is the same guy who called Obama 'Hitler'), on the other hand, deserves a nice padded cell on an urgent basis.

The Continuing Saga of Sardar Khan

Remember this controversy involving Voice of America (VoA) reporter Sardar Khan and the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) Secretary Asif Bajwa in April?

Well, it's not over yet. Not by a long mile strewn with billions of rupees. The following email has been sent round on a journalists' email group, modeled as a press release, along with links to the two recordings hosted on Youtube which we are including below.


Ayaz Gul, Razi Rizvi, Kokab Farshori, Jennifer Janin and Dawn group among defendants.

"Thursday, 26th June, 2010: Sardar Khan, a renowned sports journalist and reporter and formally an employee of the Voice of America, has filed a civil suit for Damages to the tune of Rs1380.3 Million. in the High Court of Sindh, Karachi against Asif Bajwa, Secretary General PHF, Pakistan Hockey Federation, Broadcasting Board of Governors (VOA), Ms.Jennifer Janine, Head of Urdu Service, Voice of America, Ayaz Gul, Director/Co-ordinator/Manager Urdu radio/TV Operations Pakistan, Voice of America Islamabad Bureau, Mr. Razi Rizvi and Kokab Farshori, both managing editors in Washington and Pakistan Herald Publications, alongwith its employees Rishad Mahmood and Shazia Hassan, for interalia, defaming him in a number of reports/articles published in the daily Dawn. Mr. Khan has claimed that the Secretary of the PHF Asif Bajwa had lied to a reporter of the daily Dawn, namely Ms. Shazia Hasan, about Mr. Khan twisting his interview. Mr. Khan reported an ( audio recorded) interview of Mr. Bajwa, aired on the VOA on the 14.4.2010, where in Asif Bajwa was quoted to have said that Pakistan Hockey Team's loss to Poland in the World Cup Qualifying Match in 2009 was a part of a plan and strategy, so that Pakistan could play Japan instead of France in the final. Mr. Bajwa, the very next day i.e. the 15.4.2010, while talking to reporter Shazia Hasan, said that Khan lied and twisted his interview. It was on the basis of this interview that Ayaz Gul reported the matter to Washington, and on who's report Jennifer Janine took action and terminated the Plaintiff's services from the VOA. Mr. Khan in the text of his Plaint has contended that he did not twist Asif Bajwa's interview and reported it as it was, without any additions or subtractions. Along with the Plaint he has annexed transcripts of Bajwa's interview and also a conversation(that is also audio recorded) that the two had before the interview, in which Asif Bajwa also made bribe offers to the reporter. Mr. Khan has also contended that his termination was arbitrary and capricious and that Ayaz Gul had conspired with M/s. Razi A. Rizvi and Kokab Farshori, the two managing editors in VOA Washington (also impleaded as defendants in the civil suit) to misquote his interview, to Jennifer Janine who does not know Urdu, even though she is the head of the Urdu Service at the Voice of America. Mr. Khan also contended that the report of Dawn dated 15.4.2010 was malicious on account of the fact that only Bajwa's interview was reported and Mr. Khan's point of view was not even sought on the baseless allegations made by Asif Bajwa to Dawn. After his termination from VOA, Jennifer Janine wrote a letter to Bajwa apologizing for the story aired by VOA on the 14.4.2010 and also informed him that Sardar Khan was no longer working for her organization due to his alleged distortion of the interview. Mr. Khan has contended that this apology was given without Bajwa or the Pakistan Hockey Federation ever asking for the same. This apology was forwarded by Bajwa to all media houses in the country and internationally, and printed by Dawn in its edition of 24.4.2010. This was done, as per the contents of the Plaint, despite the fact that Sardar Khan, besides providing the audio recording of Bajwa's interview, had brought to the notice of Rishad Mahmood and Shazia Hasan through his letter dated 15.4.2010, that Bajwa had lied in his interview to them. Mr. Sardar Khan has contended, with the support of a large amount of annexures, that his previous employers (VOA), Asif Bajwa and the Herald Publications have acted maliciously and unprofessionally and defamed him thus causing harm to his reputation. Dr. Mohammad Farogh Nasim has filed the suit on behalf of Sardar Khan."

Now, of course, we have no intention on commenting on the substance of the allegations and the lawsuit. But it might be instructive for readers to listen in on the two audio recordings linked with the email to make up their own minds on the matter. One of these is the apparent original phone conversation (I say apparent because we are not in a position to check the authenticity of the recording) between Bajwa and Sardar Khan at the centre of the controversy. (Recall that the controversy revolved around whether Bajwa had actually said that Pakistan deliberately threw a match against lowly ranked Poland - as Sardar Khan reported on VoA - or whether Bajwa's words had been misrepresented by the reporter - as claimed by Bajwa, Dawn and eventually VoA. The text of Sardar Khan's written report - the original report was a radio report that is no longer available on the VoA site - is in the original post, linked to a the top.)

Some of Bajwa's claims are certainly enough to raise an eyebrow. However, does he actually admit to having purposely lost the match? Without having heard the original radio report that Sardar Khan did for VoA, it is impossible to tell if he had indeed misrepresented Bajwa's words. If Sardar Khan's written report can be taken as representative of his audio report (and it is possible that it cannot), in it he had claimed:

"Asif Bajwa, in an exclusive interview to Voice of America (VOA) has made the shocking disclosure that Pakistan lost its league match to Poland purposely in world cup qualifying tournament (WQC) held in Lille as part of strategy to avoid hosts France in the final."

You can make up your own mind if this is a technically correct representation of what Bajwa had said.

Meanwhile, the second recording is one in which it is claimed that Bajwa attempted to bribe Khan before the interview:

With regards to this recording, all we can say is that perhaps Mr Khan and his lawyers have some other evidence of Bajwa attempting to bribe the reporter and how that may affect the substance of the allegations against him. Personally, however, I don't understand how this recording is what it claims to be, since there is never actually anything offered. All Bajwa does here is to try to win the reporter over to be more sympathetic to him.

In any case, watch this space for further developments. When over 1.3 billion rupees is involved (don't ask me how), you know it's not a matter to be decided in a flash.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Is Pakistan Run By A Moronocracy?

Please go over to this entry on the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) website and read about what the Government of Pakistan secretly has in store for netizens in the country. APC has managed to get its hands on a confidential document submitted by the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) to the Lahore High Court (LHC), detailing how it plans to monitor and censor the internet in the future. The document was submitted after the Facebook ban, and before the current bout of moronic behaviour banning seven websites including search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing from the Bahawalpur bench of the LHC (PTA said subsequently it would only "monitor" some of the sites including email provider Hotmail).

According to the document (the following has not been edited to correct any of the usual illiteracy of bureaucracy, all mistakes are in the original):

"On the recommendation of the [inter-ministerial] committee [whose existence is not public knowledge], Federal Government shall issue directive to PTA for blocking of website(s) either at IP level or URL [within 24 hours] which contain the following:

a. All information pertaining to any objectionable content
b.Undermine Islam or ridicule, disparage or attack any religion, ethnic group, region or any group's reverend practices.
c. Brings contempt to the country or its people so as to undermine integrity and solidarity of the state / country.
d. Violates any provision of the constitution of Pakistan or law of the land.
e. Promotes or supports sedition, terrorism, anarchy or violence in the country;
f. Brings contempt of the Defense Forces, Police, Air Force or any other institution of Government of Pakistan or to divulge any secret information relating to Defense and other services.
g.Contains propaganda in favor of any foreign state having bearing on any points of disputes or against any friendly foreign state;
h.Hurts national sentiments"

So basically, here's a draft for another one of those stupid laws / plans that can mean just about anything and probably will. Some other specific points about the above-mentioned clauses:

a - takes care of all search engines
b - interestingly, would it mean banning the websites of Jang and Nawai Waqt et al that have columnists spouting hatred against Ahmadis, Christians and Jews?
c - this would ban even the New York Times e.g.
d - banishes most bloggers or anyone questioning anything
e - as if such sites were allowed in the first place, ask the Baloch nationalists
f - I have no idea why the Air Force is singled out in this (are they not part of the Defence forces?) but basically anyone criticizing corruption even in the Seed Corportion of Pakistan also stands to be blocked. Geo would be blocked for running stories about the Pakistan Steel Mill. And that story on Express Tribune about policemen taking bribes - you're out too ET.
g - so you cannot say, e.g. that India may have a legitimate point when it protests Pakistanis like Ajmal Kasab coming over and killing 200 people in Bombay or that it was American CIA and Saudi money that fueled our jihadis
h - if anything was left, here's the catchall phrase that encompasses it.

You can try all you want but you ain't going to find a more absurdist bunch of nincompoops running a state on the face of this earth.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rock & Steamrollered

Uh oh. Nothing like a former bandmate's vote of confidence.

Salman Ahmed: sufi reverie broken (Photo: The Independent)

Here is Junoon lead guitarist and composer Salman Ahmed (no stranger to weird political positions and publicity seeking himself), writing a response to Ali Azmat's appearance on DawnNews (presented earlier).

Can we just say 'Meowwwww!!!'?

"Dear Junoonis,
after reading your deluge of e-mails and tweets of disgust concerning Ali Azmat‘s recent appearance on Dawn TV,I saw the programme myself and I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!
I’m stunned at the audacity of ignorance, the dishonesty and the complete hypocrisy uttered by Ali Azmat on the recent Dawn TV show. Pakistan does not need the “Danda” or a “Khilafat” any more than it needs corrupt politicans,suicide bomb blasts and drones that kill innocent civilians.
I wonder why Dawn TV doesnt choose to invite serious people who have contributed positively to Pakistan’s culture,education and society rather than trying to get cheap laughs out of confused and brainwashed celebrity addicts. Cynical ideologues who find Ali Azmat to be an eager robot for their conspiracies must also be wondering what kind of Bald “Pappu yaar” they have unleashed on the Pakistani population.
For the record: I would like to make clear that Ali Azmat had zero creative input on over 90% of the Junoon songs (Including Jazba Junoon, Azadi,Allama Iqbal, Bulleh Shah’s and Shah Hussain’s songs and Pappu Yaar). Ali was completely resistant and and hostile to the spiritual poetry of Bulleh Shah and Allama Iqbal and hated singing Sufi songs (and now he wants an Islamic Khilafat sponsored by the Army! Allah help Pakistan) .
While in Junoon the only thing Ali was most vociferous about was having his money for nothing and his chicks for free, and yes he also enjoyed running naked in the middle of the night in 5 star hotels screaming inquilaab! If this is a reaction to his earlier loose canon extremism, he should make a remake of the movie ALL OF ME.
After watching Ali’s “dumb and dumber” drivel, I feel i should retitle my book from Rock & Roll Jihad to “How Junoon survived despite a Psychotic, Paranoid & Schizophrenic Bald man!” "

I think it would be safe to say there's a little bit of unfinished business between the two former bandmates. I think it would also be safe to say this response was not very sufi of Salman Ahmed. More along the lines of 'don't screw up my corporate brand, you fuck!' How did that Junoon song go?... "Woh yaadein, woh mulaqaatein....!"

Cafe Pyala on Twitter, Kinda

So, we've been trying out this Twitter thingumyjig for a few weeks now and have not really warmed up to it. Perhaps it's because it's the cyber equivalent of the shallow television soundbyte. I mean, what can you really say in 140 characters besides irreverent quips or promos? Even Facebook status updates have more depth. Perhaps it's the overdose of immediate tweets from certain people who believe in putting everything they are doing, reading or thinking up for public consumption that makes us cringe. Perhaps it's seeing good bloggers get so caught up in the delusion that tweeting lines is as good as posting a nicely written bit of prose that makes us wary. Then again, maybe we just haven't got the hang of it yet.

In any case, after some careful consideration, for the record, we have decided to share the fact that we are also nominally on Twitter, with all of you guys and gals. You can follow us, not follow us, we don't really care. And if you do decide to follow us, know that we do not guarantee a great time. As I said, we haven't really warmed up to the technology or the philosophy. We may yet, if you can convince us. But don't come shouting at us if we don't.

For those still not put off, our Twitter ID is cpyala. Believe it or not 'cafepyala' was already taken by some Americans selling biryani and paneer tikka masala for $5 and $6. The lengths some people go to!

Odd Couple Television And Just As Funny

Sigh. I was alerted to this wonderful (I use the term in a tongue-in-cheek way of course) bit of television on DawnNews' Bolna Zaroori Hai a couple of days ago from kalakawa's blog (which in case you have never seen it, please do, it is usually bitingly witty.) It takes a special kind of talent to put together Marxist political economist and former LUMS academic Aasim Sajjad Akhtar with pop star turned conspiracy theorist and Zaid Hamid acolyte Ali Azmat. And I mean that quite sincerely: it does make for riveting television, even if it does not add much to one's bank of knowledge or insight. In fact, Azmat's performance here, is riveting in pretty much the same sense as watching a hurtling train you know is about to jump off the rails. Kalakawa has ranted enough about Azmat that I don't need to. But more than that...

I. Just. Don't. Have. The. Energy. To. Comment. On. This.

So, watch and weep (or laugh) all on your own.

Part 1: Where, probably for the only time, the study at the heart of the discussion is actually discussed in any detail, by host Wusatullah Khan...

Part 2: Where things get going, immediately on a tangent, thanks to Ali Azmat, who expounds his theory that the Pakistani media is demonizing Islam...

Part 3: Where Ali defends Zaid Hamid and disses democracy among other things...

Part 4: Where Ali really cuts loose... And by that I do mean LOOSE. He questions whether people would rather vote for the Indian military or the Pakistani military, talks about poor people who can barely run two airconditioners and voices support for a caliphate...

Part 5: Where Ali explains how the world is moving towards an Islamic caliphate system of governance and denounces the ending of the subsidiary on electrical power...

Part 6: Where Ali gives his view that what is labeled confusion among Pakistanis is simply them expressing a point of view different from the capitalist system and sings a song...

Oh, and yeah, in case you forgot, the programme was about whether Pakistanis are becoming more conservative.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

5 Idiots - Updated

Can we just stop with the uber-moronic behaviour, please?

Top 5 technologically and logically illiterate bozos of the day (in ascending order):

5. Muhammad Sidiq / Siddique, petitioner of writ no. 3246/2010 in the Lahore High Court
4. Latifur Rehman, advocate for Muhammad Sidiq / Siddique
3. Muhammad Hussain Azad, Deputy Attorney General Punjab
2. Aslam Dhakkar, President High Court Bar Association Bahawalpur
1. Justice Mazher Iqbal Sidhu, Judge Lahore High Court

As evidence I present the following news item from the front page of The News today:

LHC orders blocking of Google, Yahoo, 7 other sites
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
"BAHAWALPUR: The Lahore High Court has directed the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority to immediately block nine websites for publishing and promoting sacrilegious material, and ordered the PTA chairman to appear in the court on June 28, 2010 along with all relevant material.
Justice Mazher Iqbal Sidhu of the LHC Bahawalpur Bench, while hearing a write petition on Tuesday, ordered blocking of nine websites including Yahoo, MSN, Hotmail, YouTube, Google, Islam Exposed, In The Name Of Allah, Amazon and Bing.
A citizen, Muhammad Sidiq, filed a writ petition No. 3246/2010 in the LHC, seeking a ban on the websites for publishing blasphemous materials and twisting the facts and figure of Holy Quran. Deputy Attorney General Muhammad Hussain Azad also endorsed the viewpoint of the petitioner and demanded blocking of these websites.
Counsel for the petitioner, Latif-ur-Rehman Advocate presented CDs and other evidence in the court, showing that the said websites were publishing sacrilegious material. Later, President High Court Bar Aslam Dhakkar said the court has given a historic decision. He said the legal fraternity would observe a complete strike in Bahawalpur on Wednesday (today) against publication of such material by these websites. He said a meeting would also discuss the situation today."

That's right. It seems the Lahore High Court has nothing better to do these days than to entertain frivolous applications and to pass even more frivolous judgements on them. Is it the job of the judiciary to be constantly policing the worldwide internet (remember the Facebook fiasco!)??? Even more pertinently, is it the job of judges who obviously have not even the slightest knowledge of technological matters - after all five of the sites drawing the judge's umbrage are search engines while one is an email service provider and another an online store - to be pronouncing orders about them? Should the Chief Justice not take suo moto action against such in his own ranks who make Jamshed Dasti look like the most sagacious man around?

And what can one say about the cheerleading lawyers and officials whose idea of 'history' is how many cups of doodh pati they had in the bar room that afternoon. Morons the lot of them. And all fit cases for being put in the lunatic asylum where they enact as many "historic judgements" as they want.


As reader Huma Imtiaz has pointed out in the comments, the Express Tribune has a different take on the story. According to their story, the bench has NOT called for the immediate blocking of the aforementioned sites and has only asked for the Ministry of Information officials to appear on June 28 to decide about the matter. If so, my remarks against the judge - based on The News' reporting - may have been premature and wrong and I withdraw them with apologies.

I still do think the petition itself is frivolous and should never have been entertained. And my opinion of the rest, based on their reported stances in The News, still stands.


So it would seem that The News' story was indeed correct. Dawn's story, appearing today, seems to corroborate the fact that the judge has indeed passed an order blocking the sites, though the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has not yet complied. The lawyers under the able leadership of Moron Dhakkan Dhakkar, boycotted courts on Wednesday to protest the websites and passed resolutions against the PTA. According to Dawn:

"The resolution criticised the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) for not taking prompt action, urging the authorities concerned to ‘realise their responsibilities in this connection’. The resolution further warned PTA that in future if it failed to take action on its own against such websites, the bar would move the high court against the authority."

I take back all my caveats about the judge. You know, I've always suspected that these compulsory black coats in the stifling heat of places like Bahawalpur are liable to screw up people's brains. But must we endure the repercussions of their battles with climatically challenged wardrobes?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Soft Head of TV Journalism

Can I just say how sick I am of silly television anchors' idea of "hard-nosed journalism"? Can no serious issue be covered without dragging it down to the level of bathos? Or without trying to make politically loaded connections that are tenuous at best and whose only purpose is to showcase the anchors' populist credentials?

Here we have a truly tragic incident in Lahore, where a 36-year-old rickshaw driver, Akbar Ali, not only committed suicide, but poisoned almost his entire family as well. Two of his young daughters died with him, while his wife and another daughter are struggling for life in a hospital. One young son escaped the poisoning. The fact that a working man should feel despondent enough about his and his family's future to commit such a terrible act should definitely serve as a wake-up call for society on a number of fronts. Not least of them, about the state of mental health and the social fabric in the country: it is instructive to note that Akbar Ali had a number of siblings, relatives and neighbours, as well as elderly parents, none of whom apparently had a clue about the storm raging inside Akbar. And of course it should lead to circumspection about how economic hardship and the lack of social safety nets are affecting the poor.

Newsbeat's Meher Bokhari: empathy theatre

Instead we have Ms Meher Bokhari of Samaa TV's flagship current affairs programme Newsbeat, turning up from Akbar Ali's home with the young son draped over her arm, doing a show taglined "Ijtimayi Khudkushi... Budget Ke Munh Pe Tamancha" ['Collective Suicide...A Slap on the Face for the Budget']. Huh?? Is this all she could relate it to, the budget?!? Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate the fact that Samaa and Ms Bokhari wanted to give this incident due attention (even if I found the drama of doing a show in the midst of wailing family members and the melodrama of having the exhausted and no doubt traumatized son sleeping in Ms. Bokhari's lap rather unsettling and in poor taste). And expressing empathy with the bereaved family members is also commendable. But what exactly was the content of the show beyond superficial berating of officialdom?

It's the easiest thing in the world to attack governments and their wasteful expenditures. And heaven knows they richly deserve it. But when anchors focus on the current president and prime minister in very personal attacks, making it seem as if all was hunky dory in days gone by, you begin to get a whiff of either a political agenda or utter and complete naivete. Meher Bokhari's intro to the programme attacks Asif Zardari for not knowing the number of rooms in the presidency, Yousuf Raza Gilani for being overly concerned about his sartorial trimmings, and ministers for having too much security protocol, all in the service of showing how disconnected this government is from the people. But can she seriously claim any different under General Musharraf, for example? Unfortunately she probably thinks she is being a hard-nosed and edgy commentator. Geo has a lot to answer for.

When Ms Bokhari took on PPP Information Secretary Fauzia Wahab with a rambling and incendiary non-question, I felt sympathy for Ms Wahab, probably for the first time. You really have to see this performance theatre to understand what got my blood really boiling. The Fauzia Wahab portion begins around 6:36 in this clip:

Ms Bokhari seems insistent in linking the suicide to the presentation of the federal and provincial budgets. It sounds almost absurd, as if Akbar Ali waited to listen to the budget speeches before deciding his course of action.What possible evidence does she have to imply cause and effect? None. But no facts dare stand in the way of our intrepid analyst.

During the entire programme, Ms Bokhari also touts a figure of 7,000 suicides in Pakistan over the last two years (once again, decontextualized from the situation before the PPP government came into office). First of all, even though she claims this is "on the record data", the sources for her figure seem highly dubious. As this report from the Daily Times quoting an academic study says:

"There are no official data on suicide from Pakistan. Data on suicide is not included in the national annual mortality statistics. As a result, national rates on suicide are neither known nor reported to the WHO."

This is not of course to say that suicide rates have not increased in the last few years (there is compelling anecdotal evidence to support this), just that there are no figures.

When Fauzia Wahab points out (though getting the mathematics horribly wrong) that Ms Bokhari's figure implies roughly 10 suicides a day (she thought it meant 1000 a day), Ms Bokhari immediately agrees to revise the figure down, falling back on the soft emotionalism of 'even 100 suicides is not okay.' This is journalism?

Even if we accept Ms Bokhari's figures of the number of suicides in Pakistan, how do we immediately connect all of them to economic despondency? Surely not every suicide in Pakistan is related to poverty. It would also be instructive to look at the global figures for suicide, which experts tell us has increased dramatically all over the world in last few decades. Incidentally, Japan and Korea, two of the most industrialized and prosperous countries in the world, have among the highest rates of suicide. What does that mean for Ms Bokhari's analysis?

Once again, I am in no way discounting the effect of increasing poverty (for which there are figures) and the increasing wealth gap (ditto) on the apparent rise in despondency in Pakistan. The point I am trying to make here is that serious issues, and particularly such tragic incidents, need to be dealt with in a more sober and thoughtful manner. By making easy and dubious political judgements, based on nothing but grandstanding, the media does no one any favours.

Oh, and someone should tell Ms Bokhari that shouting like Jasmin Manzoor - as she is increasingly wont to do on her show - does not make one a more credible journalist. Just irritatingly loud.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Video Of The Day

Apparently, so boring was the US Senate Armed Services Committee's hearing today, that US Centcom chief General David Petraeus fainted. The expression on the face of 'droning' former presidential contender John McCain's face is worth watching.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Point Blank

Of course, everyone who has seen today's International Herald Tribune (IHT) which comes as part of the Express Tribune is wondering about the big gaping blank space on the international paper's printed op-ed pages.

Partial scan of IHT op-ed pages: empty space can be seen to the right of editorials  

You need only to see the front page of the IHT to see what that big gaping hole is all about. On the front page is the following teaser to what should have been inside:

One myth, many Pakistans

"A lethal attack on two mosques that killed more than 80 members of the Ahmadi religious sect was the result of years of ignoring religious diversity, writes Ali Sethi. PAGE 6"

Ali Sethi is of course the first-time novelist of The Wish Maker and journalists Jugnu Mohsin and Najam Sethi's son. You can read the full article, as it was published elsewhere in the IHT editions, here.

Having read the piece, however, I am at a loss to understand why it was considered necessary to pull this piece out, and that too so apparently last minute that nothing could be substituted for it. Sethi is not the most gifted of writers but, really, there is little in the article that is so shocking or so provocative that it should make the ET administration quake in their boots about possible repercussions. Even more bizarrely, ET editorials themselves have taken stronger lines against religious quackery and discrimination, one evidence of which can be seen here.

The blank space also recalls that particular era of Pakistani journalism, just after General Ziaul Haq imposed martial law in 1977, when military censorship was forcing newspapers to drop reports and articles that went against the regime. Newspapers responded by printing blank spaces in their stead, and sometimes entire front pages were printed blank, until the military authorities cottoned on to the fact that journalists were effectively conveying the brutal censorship to the public at large. Thereafter the military authorities forced newspapers to substitute other articles and reports for the censored material and forbade blank spaces. But of course the difference here is that there was no one ostensibly forcing the management of ET to censor its own partner publication.

What might be even more interesting to see is how the IHT editors and management respond to this censorship. Censorship of the IHT is no small matter - especially given how prized Americans hold the concept of free speech - and this may indeed have consequences for ET's relationship with IHT.

Watch this (non-blank) space for developments.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Arif Nizami's Revenge

Some might be nonplussed that yet another English daily is gearing up to hit the market. Is there really such a big market for English language papers? I mean, we already have Dawn, The News, The Nation, Daily Times, the Express Tribune, Business Recorder, et al. Not to mention the scores of smaller regional English papers such as Balochistan Times, Frontier Post, Pakistan Observer, Sindh Tribune etc. What possible niche could a new paper be trying to fill?

The recent Express Tribune experiment certainly would not inspire confidence among marketing types. Sources indicate that despite its superior production values, ET's subscription base is still well under 1,000 copies, of which some 155 were previous subscribers to the International Herald Tribune anyway. (It should be pointed out that the official circulation figures of all newspapers, including English market leaders such as Dawn and The News are wildly exaggerated, often up to 3 or 4 times their reality - The News' subscription base in Karachi, e.g. is estimated to be under 5,000 copies though it has higher circulation in Islamabad; however, ET's figures are quite low by comparative standards and even taking into consideration the fact that ET is still a new paper.) In fact, there are indications of some panic within the Lakhani publishing house even before the launch of ET in Lahore and Islamabad, precisely because of the feedback from newspaper agents.

Nevertheless, the gears are churning for the former The Nation editor Arif Nizami to bring his promised baby into the market. Pakistan Today, as it will be called, has already placed advertisements in Dawn to recruit staffers and is in addition going a slightly unconventional route by also advertising positions on job hunt sites on the net. More on this in a bit.

What we do know so far about Pakistan Today is the following: it definitely has the financial backing of Pakistan's richest businessman, Mian Mohammad Mansha, who of course made his money in the textile sector and owns among other things, Muslim Commercial Bank. It is also said to have investment from London-based millionaire Izzat Majeed who made his fortunes in the petrochemicals sector in Saudi Arabia. The new media group which will publish the paper is to be called the Nawa Media Corporation and

"...intends to bring out a series of publications – in both English and vernacular languages – and also make a foray in electronic media in due course."

One can understand this project being crucial for Arif Nizami's ego and credibility (remember he promised to start his own paper when he was sacked by uncle Majeed Nizami from The Nation). But perhaps as we surmised with ET, there are reasons beyond simple business logic for other people to climb on to the media bandwagon.

We also know the following:

1. That Pakistan Today is set to be a three-city newspaper, like Dawn and The News and (eventually) ET to be published simultaneously from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad though the head office will naturally be in Lahore.
2. That ex-Karachi bureau chief of The Nation, Javed Mahmood, has been appointed the Resident Editor in Karachi, formally labeled Editor-in-Charge.
3. That former Lahore Press Club president Sarmad Bashir has also joined the team.
4. That, according to the website (I am not linking it here since the site apparently hosts some dangerous malware that may harm your computer), the office of the paper in Karachi will be in the infamous Kawish Crown building on Shahrah-e-Faisal (Some may recall that the building is reputed to be owned by a notorious Mumbai don and has been the target not only of litigation by civil society groups for its alleged contravention of building laws, but also a couple of bomb attacks by unknown people.)

Now, coming to the net-based recruitment drive, here is a job listing for Pakistan Today on one such website. According to the description of the paper on the site:

"Headed by one of the most credible names in Pakistan’s newspaper industry Mr Arif Nizami, Pakistan Today has among other personalities of high net worth, the financial support and backing of the best-known corporate entity in the country – Mian Mohammad Mansha. Post-modern and contemporary in its outlook, Pakistan Today will espouse core values of independence, authenticity and credibility. With its fresh and vibrant approach, it will definitely make a huge impact on our polity and create a broad-based readership that cuts across all segments of the society.

Pakistan Today is an equal opportunity employer that values merit and professionalism. At our website you can explore new career opportunities, meet our key people and learn about the culture and working environment at our organisation.We offer unique opportunities for recent college and university graduates, as well as for talented professionals who are looking for a more dynamic experience. There are numerous opportunities across the entire organisation where your skills and talent can make a difference - to you and to us."

This particular ad is to recruit News Editors for Islamabad and Karachi. Slightly unsettling is the requirement that the News Editors (the most senior position in a daily after the Editor) need only be educated up to Intermediate / A-Level. One understands that some of the most best news editors Pakistan has seen had no formal degree qualifications but a wealth of hands-on experience and that finding good staff is a challenge in the best of times. But what is bizarre is that while News Editors and Senior Sub-editors need only be educated up until Intermediate / A-Levels, Reporters and District Correspondents, whose copies they will be editing and vetting, must be at least graduates.

Obviously the June 2010 stated launch date for the paper is also not going to be met. So far, from the evidence of the recruitment drive, the paper still seems many months away from being launched. No information so far on what might be a realistic timeline.

The bigger question still remains: is there space for another English language paper? Or is this basically an attempt to wipe out The Nation and Majeed Nizami's right-wing Nazariya-e-Pakistan philosophy? Not that that would be such a bad thing in and of itself, mind you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Original Sin - II

Is this what is known as farce? The unbelievably twisted mindset of some people in Pakistan? Or is it simply the callous sprinkling of salt on wounds?

According to BBC Urdu, Pakistan's rightists have announced that the attack on Ahmadi mosques on May 28 in Lahore was actually a conspiracy (by who?) to repeal the discriminatory laws against Ahmadis. Here's how Dawn translates the BBC report:

‘Attack on Ahmedis conspiracy to repeal laws against them’
Wednesday, 09 Jun, 2010

"LAHORE: A gathering of the leaders of 13 religious and political parties in Lahore claimed that the attack on Ahmedis on May 28 was part of a conspiracy to repeal the laws against them, BBCUrdu reported.
The meeting was held in an office of the Majlis Ahrar Islam in Lahore's Muslim Town. The parties concluded that a conspiracy was in place to debate the laws against Ahmedis, the report said.
Maulana Zahidul Rashdi, who is a founding member of the Muttahida Tehrik-i-Khatm-i-Nabuwat and also the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Shariat Council, read the joint statement at the meeting’s conclusion: The attack on Ahmedis is being used as an excuse to generate suspicions regarding the concept of khatm-i-nabuwat. 
The gathering was attended by leaders of the Jamaat-i-Islami, Jamiat-i-ulema-i-Islam Fazlur Rahman group, Jamaatud Dawa and Markazi Jamaat-i-Ahl-i-Sunnat among others.
During the meeting, Maulana Ilyas Chinioti, a member of the PML-N and the Punjab provincial assembly, condemned Nawaz Sharif's statement in which he had sympathised with the Ahmedis and called them his brothers.
The meeting's participants demanded that Nawaz Sharif immediately withdraw his statement."  

So, if we understand these hyper-hyper-moron mullahs correctly, either the Ahmadis perpetrated a massacre in their own community to force people to question the laws against them (yeah, that really got Pakistani opinion in an uproar didn't it?), OR the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) mercenaries who have been identified as the terrorists are actually pro-Ahmadi, liberal activists.

Wow. How much bhang do you think these guys consumed at this meeting? I think we deserve to know.

Slurring Education or How To Get "Neat" School Supplies

Even though Five Rupees has already blogged this, how could one go without sharing it?

Geo News reports on what notebook covers in Lahore's Urdu Bazaar are being made of. Hil-ar-ious!

Don't miss the repeated naming by Geo anchors of the "Red Label" and "Black Label" brands (Johnny Walker couldn't have got such advertising even if they paid for it!) and Ghareeda Faruqi's forced pun on "what kind of label" this attaches to education. As Ahsan points out in his post, the concern also seems to be especially over the fact that it was advertising for "ghair mulki sharaab" (foreign liquor) . . . as opposed to the local brands? My particular favourite is when anchor Salman Hassan asks the provincial education minister:

"Kya kahein gay aap ke jo maasoom bachay hain unn ko issi umr se pata chal jaye ga ke market mein kaun kaun si sharaabein available hain...?" (What would you say to the fact that innocent children will get to know at this age what brands of liquor are available in the market?)

Indeed. They should wait at least until they are 18.

But I have a few other questions for Geo to find out the answers to:

1) Are Black Label notebooks more expensive than Red Label ones?
2) Is whiskey getting preferential treatment? What about vodka, tequila, rum, wine and beer?
3) Are there any Single Malt notebooks?
4) Which brand did children have a preference for?
5) What does happen to the hundreds of thousands of cartons of foreign liquor discarded in Pakistan?

Post-Script: Would add a whole new meaning to teachers telling students to keep their copies "neat", wouldn't you say?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Heavy Music

Oof! You think pop musicians are a 'community', 'one big happy family'? Well, you might want to watch this edition of Front Line with Kamran Shahid, which featured a no-holds barred, slash and burn squabble between some of pop music's leading lights. The programme was broadcast on Express TV on June 6.

Apparently this was Part 2 of a programme dealing ostensibly with corruption within non-governmental organizations (NGOs). On the panel were three pop stars - Abrarul Haq, Shehzad Roy and Jawwad Ahmed -  each of whom have set up their own NGOs to 'give back to the people of Pakistan' in the health and education sectors (why musicians were singled out for this programme, I do not know).

In any case, what started off as a rather interesting discussion about the efficacy of NGOs in the face of overwhelming social problems - Jawwad Ahmed's point that NGOs are no solution to structural problems that require overturning basic social relationships being a valid one - soon deteriorated when Abrar took Jawwad's general point as some sort of personal attack on his NGO's work. In fact, Abrar's umbrage at Jawwad's criticism of NGOs being held out as some substitute to state responsibility, quickly degenerated into invoking religion and patriotism. To be fair to him, his upset was perhaps also motivated by an irritation at Jawwad's sometimes self-righteous tone and his desire to leave aside rhetoric and do something practical. However, his refusal to even consider Jawwad's view as having any merit made him come across as petulant that his attempt to sell NGO jargon ("the four I's") was being sidetracked.

The tensions over philosophical points of view boiled over by the end of the programme into an ugly and very personal slanging match between the two, wherein both accused each other of corruption and embezzlement. If anyone came across well, it has to be said it was the youngest of the three panelists, Shehzad Roy, who displayed a remarkable maturity in keeping himself above the fray. In addition, he seemed to clearly understand both points of view and what the issue being debated was. Which is more than one can say for the host, Kamran Shahid - incidentally, the son of film actor Shahid, in case you did not know - whose bumbling interventions consisted entirely of trying to drag the discussion to the level of soundbites about corruption.

Here's the programme. The real ugly fireworks begin in the last part but if you have the time and interest in the philosophical issue, recommend watching the whole thing.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

On the one hand, I am sort of happy to see that (at least some of) Pakistan's pop musicians can actually think of things beyond multinational sponsorships and weirdo conspiracy theories and talk about real issues with some intelligence. On the other, I doubt I could watch their music videos any more without thinking of this exchange.

What You Get For Telling The Truth At The White House

Helen Thomas, the 89-year-old grande dame of the White House Press Corps, has resigned from her long-time job with the Hearst Newspapers after savage hounding by the US media. That followed her "controversial" comments on the occasion of the Jewish Heritage Day on May 27, made to a Rabbi David F. Nesenoff, in which she made the unpardonable sin of telling the fascist Israeli settlers to fuck off from Palestinian land.

Now, Thomas, it may be recalled is of Lebanese heritage and has covered all US presidents since John F. Kennedy. She was usually seated in the front rows of all White House press conferences as a mark of respect for her veteran status as a credible journalist. Of course none of that mattered when Nesenoff and his gang went to town with her comments. This is how the viral YouTube video presented it:

Keep in mind that it's Nesenoff who brings up Israel - as if Jewish Heritage Day could not be commemorated without attaching it to plaudits for Israel. And don't miss the spin put on them by as if what Thomas said was in any way untrue or naive, that the only option for Jews persecuted under the Nazis was to go and occupy Palestinian land as some sort of God-given right, that Jewish settlers streaming in from Europe and the US now still have the right to occupy Gaza and the West Bank, that it compromised Thomas' credentials as a White House reporter in some way. The only reason what Thomas said seems shocking is because you never hear it in the American mainstream media.

But here's another video of Helen Thomas at a White House press briefing from June 1, that might give more of a clue why the pro-Zionist lobby decided it had to make an example out of Helen Thomas. This is her question after the US refused to condemn Israel for its barbaric attack on the Turkish flotilla to Gaza:

The only thing Helen Thomas was perhaps guilty of was being incautious in her remarks to a rabidly pro-Israel media. I guess when you're almost 90 you don't care so much about diplomatic niceties. But so much for 'freedom of expression' in the US media.