Friday, April 30, 2010

Really Lost in Translation

As newspaper blunders go, this one is a real doozy!

But when I read Javed Chaudhry's translated Urdu column in the Express Tribune this morning, not having read the original in (the Urdu daily) Express on the 27th, I simply could make neither head nor tail of it. It seemed to me to be a column written about two years ago and for the life of me I could not make out why it had been published today. And why did I think that? Because the headline of the oped was:

"A conversation with Abdul Hameed Dogar"

And of course because the rest of the column referred in glowing terms to "Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar's" long working hours, the amount of cases being expeditiously handled by him while sitting in the Supreme Court, Dogar's open admiration for Justice Rana Bhagwandas - the Supreme Court's senior-most judge who refused to accept General Musharraf's diktat against the judiciary which Dogar had gladly accepted ("It is we who are Muslims but it is Rana sahib who has stronger belief [in democracy]") , his praise for the independent media (the same media, it may be recalled, that had hounded Dogar for his daughter's nepotistic admission to a college over the heads of more qualified candidates), his belief that the PPP government should continue rather than be dismissed by him as 'many are predicting' (much to Chaudhry's 'astonishment' and my confusion since I never knew that Dogar was ever considered anything less than beholden to Asif Zardari for his support), etc etc etc... I thought I was in some episode of The Twilight Zone.

Lost in translation: Javed Chaudhry

Well, as it turns out, it was not me but the Express Tribune staff that's in some sort of twilight. Or at least tubelight. As you can verify from the original Urdu piece posted here, Javed Chaudhry's piece was actually about Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry! And his name is mentioned no less than three times in just the first para. In spite of the fact that his chief protocol officer is referred to as "Hameed sahib", for the life of me I cannot understand how the current chief justice's name was substituted for that of the disgraced former judge who, under the Supreme Court's own ruling, is no longer to be considered as ever having been the lawful chief justice.

 Note to ET: NOT Abdul Hameed Dogar

ET staffers are apparently putting the entire blame on the translator but it must be said that the level of oversight involved here is just mind-boggling. Surely a bunch of other sub-editors and editors would have - or should have - seen the piece before and once it was 'pasted' on to the page. Are we to assume that nobody saw anything bizarre in the article? Or that nobody at ET can read Urdu?

Unfortunately, ET has changed the story as it appears on their website now, to reflect a corrected version. And they still do not have an epaper version for you to see this hilarious blunder in all its gloriousness. But I will update the post tomorrow with a scan of the print edition to keep all of you entertained.

But what of the story itself? Considering that it was an exclusive given to Javed Chaudhry by Justice Chaudhry - a mere day or two before the damning judgements reversing the government's controversial multi-billion dollar LNG deal and the elevation of over 50 bureaucrats to secretary-level grade - probably to assuage the government's paranoia about the judiciary out to get it (the title of the Urdu column was "There is no threat to the system"), you can imagine how frustrated both Chaudhries must be. After all, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry had gone out of his way to praise Benazir Bhutto as well, only to see it all being credited (at least in English) to his former nemesis Dogar.

Or is this what is known as poetic justice for PR exercises?

Expect a big-ass apology from ET in tomorrow morning's paper.

*** UPDATE on 30 April 2010 ***

As promised, here is the scan of the article as printed yesterday:

Meanwhile, the apology has come in the form of a "deeply regretted" correction notice on the op-ed pages that blames the translation as expected. "The mistake crept in because the name of the chief protocol officer happens to be Mr. Hameed" says the notice. Inconsiderate man that chief protocol officer.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Silencing the Airwaves

Those of you wondering whatever happened to the hourly BBC news bulletins on local FM channels and the local relay of the evening 8 o' clock Sairbeen since March 27, might be interested to read the report on BBC Urdu's website today.

Basically, it says that BBC Urdu has been effectively banned from 24 out of the 34 local FM channels after Information Minister Qamaruzzaman Kaira refused to issue written permissions for them to relay BBC's news content. The 10 FM channels still able to relay the content (I'm not sure which ones these are, certainly none in Karachi) are the ones that had received written permission last year after the PPP government came into power.

According to the report:

"These [earlier] permissions had been granted in line with the PPP government's policy of guaranteeing the complete freedom of the media. In addition, the BBC had been assured that all new partner FM channels would also be given written permissions, but that given the government's policy, this was merely a formality and that all partner FM channels were free to air BBC news content until the completion of the paperwork. Based on this government policy, BBC's Urdu Service began to supply a further 24 partner channels with five-minute news bulletins, which were widely praised by FM listeners.

On the instructions of the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), all BBC partner channels had submitted the necessary paperwork at PEMRA offices last October. But whenever BBC representatives asked about the progress on these cases, they were told 'Your news is being aired, what difference does written permission make?'

Last month, on March 27, however, BBC's partner channels were suddenly instructed to stop airing BBC news immediately. When PEMRA was asked about the matter, BBC was told that from now on no channel could run BBC news without written permission. However, it was also added that as soon as the information minister found time, a decision would be taken on the issue.

For many days, the excuse that the information minister was busy was used to postpone any action on the matter. Finally, last Friday the BBC representative was called to Islamabad and informed on Tuesday afternoon that no further FM channels would be given permission to air BBC news. No reasons were given."

Very credible sources indicate that the sudden pulling of the plug on the BBC bulletins actually occurred at the behest of the military. Apparently, the BBC Urdu Service had relayed a controversial news report culled from Indian media that had claimed that Pakistan's intelligence agencies were involved directly with David Headley - the American of Pakistani origin accused of scouting locations in Bombay for the Lashkar-e-Taiba and currently in American custody.What apparently incensed the Pakistani military was that the BBC - in disregard of its own rules of journalistic fairness - failed to ask it for its point of view on the report.

The military establishment may be correct in pointing out the lapse on the part of the BBC. But is petulant vengefulness really the way to achieve sympathetic coverage? Do Pakistanis not have a right to choose their sources of information? In an age of easy access to all sorts of media on the net, one also wonders which world Pakistan's media managers are living in.

And the pressure exerted by the 'deep state' still does not explain the foot-dragging since October over the granting of permissions by the civilian government. Unfortunately the bureaucratic red-tape used to delay straight-forward matters and keep matters in limbo (usually to preserve power) has become an abiding characteristic of Pakistani governments. Their motives may vary from the corrupt to a lack of focus to misplaced sense of control to simple unwillingness to take decisions. But in the end they often find out that their hesitation and inefficiency becomes a noose around their own necks. After all, they too will need a free media at some point.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lessons from a Sacking

The unique position of the media - as a watchdog of public interest, it has the power to question public representatives and to demolish their carefully constructed facades - has always been open to abuse. Simply put, it is often up to the ingrained ethics of individual journalists or the monitoring power of the media organizations that employ them, to prevent this extraordinary power from being misused and from journalists using their access for personal profit. We have often written about such abuse of power among reporters / analysts on the political beat. Of course, it is not just political reporters who can sometimes be guilty of inappropriate behaviour.

A recent incident involving a Voice of America (VoA) reporter and the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) is a good reminder of how important it is for the media to monitor itself and to double-check facts.

Before relating the incident, however, a couple of caveats and disclaimers:

1. We are not commenting on the merits of the allegations from either side, simply because these are contested and we are not in a position to judge their authenticity.

2. This incident has no bearing on (at least) my position regarding the PHF or the person of PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa, currently under attack from scores of former Olympians after Pakistan's abysmal showing in the World Cup in Delhi. As far as I am concerned, Bajwa should have resigned after the World Cup debacle, probably simply on moral grounds.

Sardar Khan (left) addressing a press conference against the PHF

In any case, the whole issue began when VoA contributor Sardar Khan filed an audio report on VoA Urdu (no longer available on the website), claiming that PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa had admitted that Pakistan lost to lowly-ranked Poland in a qualifier on purpose so as to have an easier opponent in the final of the qualifier tournament in Lille, France. In the words of the English report circulated by Sardar Khan himself on April 14:

"As if Pakistan’s worst ever 12th position in the recently concluded hockey world cup in New Delhi was not enough that led the former Olympians to call for Asif Bajwa’s head, the sacked manager of Pakistan team and reigning secretary of Pakistan hockey federation (PHF) 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.

It may be remembered that PHF President Qasim Zia had sacked the team management comprising of manager Asif Bajwa and chief coach Shahid Ali Khan as well as the whole selection committee after Pakistan’s humiliating display in 2010 world cup.

When asked that how come star studded Pakistan team lost its league match to minnows like Poland on 7th, Nov 2009 in WCQ tournament in France, Bajwa made this shocking revelation that “ I don’t want to justify that defeat but I want to tell you that it was part of the strategy. Had Pakistan beaten Poland, Pakistan could face host France in the final that Pakistan wanted to avoid as in that case, France could win and would have qualified for the final rounds of the world cup”.

“It was part of our planning, we fielded our second string in the match in order to ensure that we faced Japan in the WCQ tournament final instead of France, Bajwa said”.

When asked that deliberately losing a match is not only against the spirit of fair play but it also comes under the parameters of Match fixing, Bajwa said, “ I don’t call it match fixing but a strategy and planning. We rested our key players in order to be better equipped in the final against Japan”.

When VOA pressed that even despite resting senior players Pakistan was not a team to be beaten by Poland, Bajwa replied, “ I am not justifying the defeat and I admit that Pakistan should not have lost but what I am saying is that our planning worked well and we qualified for 2010 world cup”.

It is worth pointing out that after finishing 12th in 2010 world cup, allegations were echoed by many including former Olympian and coach Shahnaz Shaikh suggesting that he smelled rat of match fixing or under performance that led to disasters humiliation. Now this bombshell from sitting PHF secretary Asif Bajwa suggests that a high level investigation should be carried out to find out the hidden reasons of debacle.

Muhammad Shafiq, one of the sacked selector in the aftermath of world cup, told VOA that it was not a team that could finish at 12th position so an inquiry be set up and responsible should be brought to book."

Now, obviously such a report is a bombshell and was immediately picked up by wire agencies and reproduced in most newspapers in Pakistan. Dawn, however, decided against running the report and, in fact, ran Bajwa's version the next day. Bajwa strenuously contested the report, claiming that his words were twisted and taken out of context:

“I never said we lost the match intentionally,” said Bajwa angrily. “I only mentioned that our loss against Poland may have been a blessing in disguise as it saved us from facing France in the final. But my words have been twisted by the VOA correspondent who has been distorting my other statements in the past as well.”

Bajwa went on to add: “I mean just think about it. Why would someone even bring up or make an issue about a match we lost some six months ago? It was this very correspondent who had misreported that I had compared our former players to ‘old model cars’ whereas I had merely mentioned that old playing methods to today’s techniques are akin to old cars and the newer ones. But my words were twisted to make it seem like I had aimed them at our seniors whom I respect very much.”

When asked what motive did this scribe have in maligning him in the press, Bajwa said: “This scribe was not recommended for the FIH media committee and the Asian Hockey media committee in 2008 despite his wishes. Since then he has found all kinds of ways to misquote and embarrass me in the media. Of late, he has come out as an active member of the campaign launched against me by the Olympians. But he needs to realise that whatever he blames me for was not my doing. It was former PHF President Zafarullah Jamali’s doing and he did it even before I arrived on the scene.”

  PHF Secretary Asif Bajwa: trading fire (Photo: Dawn / APP)

While we cannot confirm Bajwa's allegations of Sardar Khan's motives - which may in fact be defamatory as well - some other journalists seem to confirm his allegations of partiality on the part of the VoA reporter. According to one journalist covering the Olympians' front against Bajwa (as told directly to Cafe Pyala):

"I noticed that the VoA reporter Sardar Khan was doing more than just report. He was arranging venues for holding the meetings like inviting them over to the Karachi Press Club, etc. He would also sit with the former players on the stage during the rallies."

Nevertheless, Khan in a letter to Dawn, demanded a retraction of the story under threat of legal action. The resulting flap was so great that VoA heads were forced to step in. On April 23, the head of VoA's Urdu Section wrote the following letter to the PHF Secretary, which was eventually made public by the PHF:

"Dear Mr. Bajwa,

I wish to express our profound regret for airing the Sardar Khan report.

As soon as I read your objections to the report in the Pakistani media saying the reporter twisted your words, my most senior managers and I demanded the full unedited interview and compared it to the dispatch Sardar Khan submitted to us.

We concluded that Sardar Khan tampered with your comments to twist the meaning.  This is completely unethical and irresponsible and in violation of VOA News' own code of conduct.

We owe you more than an apology and are taking the following steps to address any blemish Sardar Khan's report may have had on the Pakistan Hockey Federation.

1) On Tuesday, April 21^st , I informed Sardar Khan (who is not an employee of VOA, but a freelance reporter who had contributed reports to our programs) that we had lost confidence in his work and he damaged his own and VOA's credibility. We immediately severed our relationship.  He is banned from submitting work to VOA News.

2) We are issuing a formal apology and retraction of the report which is being posted on our Website and will be aired on VOA's radio shows.

3) We are writing a formal letter of apology to you personally and to the Pakistan Hockey Federation.

In meantime, please accept this email.

I completely understand your decision as Secretary-General of the PakistanHockey Federation, but hope our actions may restore your opinion of VOA Urdu. We value the time and access the Pakistan Hockey Federation gives reporters.

Yours truly,

Jennifer Janin
Chief, VOA Urdu Broadcasting to Pakistan"

Sardar Khan claims he was treated unfairly and is consulting his lawyers for further action. However, it must be said that the VoA chief's letter is pretty damning. It is not a small matter for a news organization to issue a blanket apology and no news organization likes to do that. There must have been serious problems with the way the quotes were used for VoA to issue such a mea culpa.

The lessons all media organizations and journalists must take away from this little episode are:

1. Particularly in cases of such sensitive allegations, ensure that the facts are correct.
2. While quoting other media, ensure that you have done your own check of facts - the original source could be wrong.
3. Call out journalists who may be overstepping the ethics line, even if they are colleagues, and support the weeding out of bad eggs. (Of course, back up journalists in the face of defamation and unfair pressure as well!)
4. Set in place some sort of feedback and monitoring system that ensures that journalists do not feel that no one is monitoring their "angling" of a story or their actions.
5. Do not subscribe to the notion of "by any means necessary" - using wrong tactics to go after someone who you think deserves to be gone after, is equally problematic and unethical and does journalism no service.
6. And for God's sake, know that activism is not the essential component of a reporter's job. Half the problems that arise between even well-meaning journalists and others are because of a misplaced sense of what exactly a journalist's job entails. It is not a reporter's job to be holding press conferences for or against people / organizations he is supposed to cover. Remind yourself daily of the need to at least be perceived as impartial.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Shoania Moania - III

How's this for the most unconsciously hilarious and ironic assertion in a news report?

In a report today in The News about Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza now looking to cash in on their media coverage ala Hollywood celebrities, reporter Adnan Rashid writes:

"It appears the marriage is more like a business contract, as both have barred the media from coverage of their wedding functions. Some believe all this is being done to capture the attention of the advertisement agencies of India and Pakistan, and to exploit the situation for minting money."

How very uncharitable of them! Completely unlike the media, of course, who have been giving them all this coverage without caring a whit for viewership ratings or advertising revenue from special programmes focused entirely on them... I mean, how cold and callous and businesslike can you get? After all, it was only the public's right to know that led to breaking news about them being issued boarding cards, their bag being lost (and found) or the following piece of investigative journalism in the face of mortal danger as detailed in the same report:

"Security officials snatched the camera of a Geo Television cameraperson when he was trying to shoot the gym where Sania and Shoaib were present."

After all, we need to know how much sweat is produced by the two. Or whether the country's bahu exercises in shorts or a tracksuit.

But you know,  this report does make me wonder about what's about to come next. Either Jang Group head honcho Mir Shakilur Rahman will take out his cheque book and pony up the three to five crores reportedly being demanded by the newly wedded for exclusive coverage of their valima etc, in which case we are in for more nauseating spot coverage that milks 'Shoania' for all it's (not) worth. Alternatively, Mirza and Malik better duck for cover, because as Asif Zardari can well tell them, there's nothing like the wrath of a Geo spurned. An inkling of this is contained in the report itself:

"As Sania had lost her international ranking and Shoaib banned and fined Rs2 million by the Pakistan Cricket Board, they are looking for opportunities to make money one way or the other, some critics commented."

And what a fall that would be: from media darlings to media villains, all before the honeymoon even commences.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Photo of the Day

Here's the sajjada nasheen (custodian) of the Shah Rukn-e-Alam sufi shrine in Multan - whose yearly urs or commemmoration of the death anniversary of the saint concluded yesterday - bestowing his good vibes to one of his followers...

You may, of course, recall the pir sharing good vibes in a slightly different manner and setting earlier...

What's that saying, 'In Rome, Do As...'?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Real News

What do YOU think was the No. 1 story in Pakistan yesterday? The power crisis - which is already leading to 12-16 hour blackouts in most of the country? The government's announcements to shut down markets by 8pm and government offices for two days in a week to conserve electricity? The implications of the 18th Amendment that involves a radical transfer of power to the provinces and away from the presidency? The controversy over the largely inconclusive UN Commission report on Benazir's assassination? The continuing war against militancy in FATA and its attendant collateral damage? The impending breakdown in talks between Pakistan and the IMF over VAT implementation? The brewing and building tussle between the executive and the judiciary, which is still leading to all sorts of rumour-mongering over the fate of President Zardari?

Or if you're more inclined to take a wider view of current events, perhaps you might think global stories such as the travel chaos caused by the explosion of  the volcano on that unpronounceable Icelandic glacier might merit the No. 1 slot. Perhaps the niqab ban in France which has riled Muslim opinion once again? The grenade attacks in Bangkok during anti-government protests that killed three and wounded scores? The never-ending intransigence of Apartheid state leader Benjamin Netanyahu in pushing ahead with settlements on Palestinian land?

Well, if you thought any of these things, you would be miserably wrong. Everyone KNOWS that the No. 1 story at the moment is the arrival in Pakistan of cricketer Shoaib Malik with his newly wedded wife and tennis player Sania Mirza. Forget that. Not only was this story the No. 1 headline on Geo's 9 o' clock bulletin, it was the ONLY story on the bulletin for the first 30 (!!!) minutes at least. I am not making this up, check it out for yourself:

So we have now seen them arrive in Karachi, seen them on the flight to Islamabad, repeatedly seen Sania's henna-ed feet, heard Shoaib being interviewed on the flight, been informed about what and how much they ate of PIA's menu, heard about the shenanigans of the over-eager passengers on the flight and the captain's admonitions to them, seen the couple disembarking from the flight, learnt about the VVIP protocol given to them en route to their hotel, had a preview of their room in Serena Hotel as well as the hall where the valima will take place, caught glimpses of the brightly lit Malik residence in Sialkot at a time of dire calls for energy conservation, and learnt of Sania possibly having fever as well as the disappointment of hundreds of people with nothing better to do than hang around at the airport to take a gander at the couple. There is only one logical conclusion to this, as you may well surmise.

Next: Live coverage of Shoaib and Sania getting it on.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I know one should not gloat over the misfortunes of others but in two developing stories the irony is so incredibly intense that one cannot but help feeling some level of poetic justice has been served. Kind of.

The first story, of course, relates to Slimebag Lalit Modi, the Chairman and Commissioner of the cricketing Indian Premier League (IPL) who, at least until now, seemed to have a smug expression pasted permanently to his face and went round boasting nothing could touch him. And well he might have, given that his personal fortunes have risen as exponentially as the fortunes of the IPL. In three years of the IPL, Modi last year became one of the highest tax payers - if not the highest - in India. According to a report in The News yesterday:

"Modi’s fortunes are intrinsically linked with the IPL. In 2007, he made an an advance tax payment of Rs 19 lakh. In 2008, when the first edition of the IPL was launched, the advance tax shot up to Rs 2.5 crore. In 2009, when the IPL was shifted to South Africa, Modi paid Rs 32 lakh as advance tax and in 2010, the advance tax component has gone up to Rs 11 crore."

Of course, Modi's good fortunes are not what one begrudges him - and he has obviously worked hard to pull off the IPL as a world-class entertainment tournament no matter what one thinks of its cricketing worth. I don't even care that much about his previous criminal convictions for cocaine abuse, assault with a deadly weapon and kidnapping. No, it's just his persona that really rubs me (and dare I say, a lot of other people) up the wrong way. And by that I mean his mealy-mouthed platitudes and his obvious nouveau bravado. And what a fall from grace! From uncrowned king of India, he is now accused of corruption, allegedly having retained "silent stakes" in three of the IPL teams, allegedly being involved in match-fixing and betting as well as having made questionable business deals involving his relatives. He is likely to be removed as IPL Commissioner in the coming week because everyone seems to have turned against him.

Lalit Modi: smug no more (source: Getty Images)

As Indian columnist Aakar Patel writes in the Express Tribune, (referencing Modi's Twitter expose of Junior Foreign Minister Shashi Tharoor's alleged under-the-table stakes, which began the whole saga):

"The board dislikes Modi because he is flamboyant. He set up his office in the Four Seasons, Bombay’s most expensive hotel. He is driven around in a BMW, and is often seen signing autographs. He has made the official channel (Sony) cower, and they make reference to him in every match. Such hubris rarely escapes punishment, and it looks like it will come to Modi. This is a shame because, despite his stupidity and nepotism, he remains an organiser of world class ability. No Indian has been able to put together a tournament of this quality, much less in such a short time. He could have continued his success for years, but Modi needlessly exposed himself in his war with Tharoor. Why did he want Tharoor out? Because he wanted no politicians to share in the IPL’s cash."

But more than Modi's personal woes, what is perhaps more satisfying is to see  the IPL venture itself come under some long-needed scrutiny. The Indian politicians who have dubbed it a "Corruption Premier League" may have their own axes to grind. But had such a venture taken place in Sharjah, Dubai or anywhere in Pakistan, you can be sure that the cries of it being a hub of illegal betting syndicates and match-fixing touts would have gained ground long ago. After all, the T20 format itself seems tailor-made for such involvement. Pakistan's cricketers should be thanking their lucky stars they were forced out of the IPL this time round.

The second story that has had me smacking my head at its unbelievable irony has to do with the abduction in Waziristan by militants and holding for ransom of the infamous Brigadier (retd) Amir Sultan Tarrar aka 'Colonel Imam' and Squadron Leader (retd) Khalid Khwaja. Both of these gentlemen, it may be recalled, are (officially former) ISI officers, who have long been unequivocal in their support of the Taliban.

'Colonel Imam': shepherding the righteous Taliban (source: Dawn)

'Colonel Imam' is considered one of the chief military advisers to the Afghan Taliban during Pakistan's days of direct support to the militia. He recently surfaced once again on the electronic media, espousing his support for the "God-fearing" Taliban. Khwaja's actual brief is far murkier - some journalists claim he is a loon - though he recently came to the limelight with his championing in courts of the alleged jihadists 'disappeared' ostensibly by the state's intel agencies post 9/11. He has also been in the forefront of fighting the Aafia Siddiqui case in Pakistan's courts.

Khalid Khwaja: human rights activist or loony double agent?

According to reports, the two were accompanying a British-Pakistani filmmaker Asad Qureshi out to make a documentary on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, who is also missing. Militants calling themselves Asian Tigers (truly non-Taliban nomenclature if ever there was one) have released videos of the captured former officers and Qureshi, and have threatened to kill the three (beginning with Qureshi) unless certain big-name Taliban commanders recently arrested were not released and a US$10 million ransom not paid by the UK government.

Of course, this is not a situation anyone could ever be happy about, no matter what the irony of seeing Imam and Khwaja in militant custody. And there are also some big questions unanswered: such as, who are the Asian Tigers? (In fact, Khwaja's wife has claimed that it is the CIA that has picked up her husband and the others, a claim rubbished by the US).

I have to admit, however, that knowing the shady backgrounds of both Colonel Imam and Khwaja, I am not entirely convinced of this story. Or if you will, there seems to be too much irony in it for it to ring true. I hope my gut instinct is not completely off the mark.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Random Technical Question for Our Readers

It seems blogger is constantly attaching the wrong time to our posts, specifically, an hour above the current time. So what we post at 8pm e.g. shows up as having been posted at 9pm.

I have checked the settings and the everything seems to be in order. The time is set to Pakistan Standard Time (GMT +5) and Karachi time. However, the automatic time shown is wrong in the settings, even though the computer's own clock is fine. Is there some setting we have to tinker with?

Would appreciate some feedback.

Photo Caption of the Day

Here is the APP Photo published on page 4 of today's Dawn (since I couldn't grab the image off Dawn's epaper site, I looked it up on APP's website, where it exists with a digital watermark)...

(Source: Associated Press of Pakistan)

Now, APP of course supplies its own captions as guidelines, which as you can see above, are often prone to mistakes and generally no great shakes. But the APP caption pales in comparison to what Dawn decided to attach to the picture:

"Hyderabad: Some wanton boys pass time in this government girls primary school abandoned by the authorities for reasons known to them."

Wanton boys??? As in immoral? Lewd and unchaste? Gratuitously cruel or malicious? Unrestrainedly excessive? Luxuriant or abundant? Undisciplined, spoiled? Note to editor: Please have a dictionary available for sub-editors. And make sure they don't pick the most obsolete meanings (rebellious, frolicsome) to use in the paper. (On the other hand, I guess we should thank the heavens for small mercies, at least they didn't call the boys "urchins".)

But what about "abandoned by the authorities for reasons known to them"? Take another look at the "school." Is it really all that hard to figure out why the place is 'abandoned'? I know what the sub-editor's probably thinking: 'Okay, so it has no roof, no windows, no doors, no floor and has huge piles of concrete debris lying around, but it does have a blackboard!' And you can't argue with such formidable intellect.

And Now What?

Just finished watching the media presentation by the UN Commission investigating Benazir Bhutto's assassination. While we will have to wait to hear the details of the full report and assess them, my overwhelming feeling about the summary presented by the head of the commission was:

This is what we paid US$20 million for???

Basically, what the Chilean ambassador who headed the commission said was that the commission was "disturbed" by things all of us already knew and were disturbed by - the ineffective security provided to Benazir in the face of credible threats to her life, and the farcical investigation into the causes and the masterminds behind her death.

It basically details all those things people have been talking about for the last two years - why was there no proper security plan, why was a crowd allowed to gather around her vehicle as she exited Liaquat Bagh, why was she allowed to stand up out of her bulletproof car, why was her backup vehicle not where it should have been to rush her to hospital, why was no autopsy performed on her, why was the crime site hosed down within two hours resulting in a loss of forensic evidence etc - without giving any conclusions about them. The only thing that seems new is that the report, apparently, dismisses the rumours that Benazir died from gunshot wounds or that Zardari was somehow involved.

Meanwhile, Geo took it upon itself to ascribe blame, which the report apparently has not, and continued to run with a Breaking News Alert that the report had held the Musharraf government responsible for Benazir's death. "Benazir Bhutto Ki Maut Ki Zimmedaar Musharraf Hakoomat Hai - UN Report" (Musharraf Government Responsible for Benazir Bhutto's Death - UN Report). This it began doing even before the presentation, basing its claims on a misunderstanding of what its own correspondent at the UN was reading out in English - within a minute of receiving a copy of the report - from the rather substantial report.

From what I was able to gather from the presentation, the report actually blames the Musharraf government (as well as the PPP - which in this case means Rehman Malik who was in charge of Benazir's security from the PPP side) for not ensuring the security of Benazir and for not conducting a proper investigation afterwards. It leaves all inferences about these things up to the readers.

That is vastly different from Geo's claims that the Musharraf government directly caused her death, which is what most people reading the alert will understand from it. Grossly irresponsible.

More later.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Following the Line - Corrected

I had begun writing a post about the strange suppression in the Pakistani media - print and television - of the news about the killing of, apparently, over 70 civilians in Tirah Valley by military bombardment. But I have just noticed that Five Rupees has already done a good post on this very topic. So you should go and read it.

However, a couple of things need to be corrected in the Five Rupees post. The original news, of the killing of villagers in the Kukikhel-dominated tribal area was actually carried by most Pakistani papers. The air force bombardment happened on Saturday, 10 April. The reports appeared in the papers on Sunday, 11 April. Here's Dawn's report, and here is The News' report. The reports also questioned the initial army claims that all those killed were militants. What since happened, however, is that the story disappeared, certainly off the front or back pages of both Dawn and The News and certainly on the electronic media. This was all the more surprising since the big news from yesterday was the announcement by the government of compensation to those killed and wounded, an almost-admission that non-combatants had been killed in the air strikes. (Officially, the government maintained that the compensation had been set aside to be paid, in case investigation of the case revealed innocent civilians had been killed).

Incidentally, The News' website also has a report today of the announcement of the compensation, a story that was not carried in the print edition of at least the Karachi paper (it may have appeared in the Pindi edition). The Nation too carried an AFP report but buried it deep inside. The only paper I came across to have followed up the developing story prominently today was the Express Tribune which had the story on its back page. Given the magnitude of the story, this is indeed shocking and inexplicable by journalistic standards and can only lead to a conclusion that the media has either buckled under external pressure or self-censored itself. As Five Rupees points out, BBC Urdu for its part had given the required prominence to the story and, in fact, led with it on Tuesday's evening Sairbeen bulletin.

What was clear from the BBC Urdu radio bulletin was also that a concerted effort was being made to keep the media from reporting on the story. As it is journalists' access to the remote Tirah Valley (or any conflict zone) is almost non-existent. But BBC's Dilawar Khan Wazir was, in fact, stopped from speaking even to the wounded brought into Peshawar's Hayatabad hospital and even the relatives interviewed seemed too hesitant to talk openly.

But all that seems to have changed this evening. Suddenly, Kamran Khan on Geo's flagship current affairs programme reversed Geo's seeming policy of ignoring the story, pointed out that a very apologetic Governor Owais Ghani had admitted that a tragic mistake had been made, and was even provided access to film and speak to the wounded.

Why this change of heart? For that, you may want to listen to Rahimullah Yusufzai's summation at the end of the clip above and read the Five Rupees post's last para again:

"...there's good ways to fight an insurgency and bad ways to fight an insurgency, and killing 70 innocent civilians who were on your side actually fighting the other side is definitely in the latter category."

Obviously the army / government has come to the conclusion that ham-handed attempts to cover up an obviously major mistake is not going to be fruitful and may, in fact, alienate the very people it needs on its side. It may be recalled that while Tirah has indeed become a haven for militants such as those of Mangal Bagh's Lashkar-e-Islam and Ansar-ul-Islam (a kidnapped Sikh was beheaded in the region in February), the area bombed on Saturday was home to the Kukikhel tribe, which has been supportive of the army against the militants and many of whose men serve in the army or paramilitary forces.

The tragic incident still has the potential to blow up in the government's / military's face. I have never been a fan of media sensationalism such as we saw initially in Swat or in the Lal Masjid episode. But it would be in the Pakistani media's interests not to be seen as standing too close to power.

: : : CORRECTION : : :

A commenter has rightly pointed out that I did not take into consideration Dawn's hard-hitting editorial on the strikes, which is absolutely correct. The editorial appeared on Tuesday, 13 April and I obviously missed it. It may still not explain why the subsequent news about the announcement of compensation was left out of Wednesday's paper but, obviously, Dawn did NOT ignore the story as I had earlier stated, and in fact, wrote pretty much what I and Five Rupees wrote later in our posts about the implications of such a strike. My sincerest apologies to Dawn.

Today's Express Tribune also carries a strong editorial on the issue. However, since Dawn's editorial actually appeared two days earlier, am reproducing it below:

Khyber air strikes
Dawn Editorial, Tuesday 13 April 2010

"SATURDAY’S bombings in Khyber Agency have shocked the nation and an official apology is in order, not just from the civilian administration but also the armed forces. It is clear from eyewitness accounts that the 60 or so people killed in aerial bombardments in Sra Vela were innocent tribesmen with no links to the militancy wracking the tribal belt. Even as the military establishment denied that civilians had been killed, it was reported that the victims would receive significant monetary compensation in addition to food supplies. In effect, it has been acknowledged that a huge blunder was made, one that has scarred the lives of dozens of families. The incident reflects poorly on the security apparatus’s intelligence-gathering capacity and has the potential to erode the support the government currently enjoys in its battle against Taliban-inspired militancy. A bomb dropped on the house of a serving army soldier was followed by another even more devastating attack when area residents rushed to the scene. Such actions defy description and an explanation is in order from those who ordered the assault.

It was realised quite some time ago that avoiding ‘collateral damage’ is a key factor when it comes to winning hearts and minds. This cannot be achieved when people who are most directly affected by the savagery of the Taliban also come under unintentional attack from the state. True, US drone strikes have become more precise in recent months, leading to fewer civilian casualties. Also, the military’s decision to confront the militants head-on by putting more boots on the ground has to some extent reduced the collateral damage caused by long-distance artillery assaults. But Saturday’s incident in Khyber Agency shows that dangerous intelligence gaps persist and that these need to be rectified forthwith. Damage control alone cannot suffice.

As we said at the outset, any repeat of the Sra Vela tragedy can undermine the fight against militancy. The heartbreak caused by such attacks strengthens the hands of the Taliban who want public opinion to turn against the state. Considerable gains have been made in recent months with the military going on the offensive and tribesmen raising their own antiTaliban fighting units. A reversal of fortunes is simply unaffordable. Then there are several ‘conservative’ and outright extremist players in the political arena who have much in common with the Taliban and want to see an end to the military operation. Civilian casualties in the battle arena give them more vitriol with which to embellish claims that this is America’s war, not Pakistan’s. They must be denied the chance to add fuel to the fire."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Will The Real Comic Please Stand Up?

I like Shazia Mirza. I do. First she travels all the way to Pakistan to entertain us with live shows at LUMS and T2F. Then she travels all the way home to Ye Olde England to entertain us with her take on them. A take which, for those who happened to be present at either, doesn’t present her as a wit as much as it does a half wit. Then again, what is comedy these days if not a playing coshing of the truth while it whimpers gently and wraps its arms protectively around its head?

Shazia Mirza: striking a pose for Ye Olde England

Ms. Mirza begins by recounting the strange case of what allegedly happened to her at a Pakistani airport. Someone asked her for a bribe. This is not going to be a shock to anybody who has ever traveled to a third world country in something other than a coffin. What is shocking is that she forks over $100, thereby drastically increasing the going rate and setting an unholy precedent for any number of corrupt immigration officials in sketchy airports across the globe.

If that isn’t enough to make the rest of us angry, consider this…

"My first performance took place at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums). The audience was made up mainly of lecturers and students, and as I arrived I was told: "Don't worry about performing – we've stepped up security because people knew you were coming.""

First of all, I’d like to humbly request the lecturers and students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences to stop fucking with their guests.

"The fact that there needed to be security at all to tell jokes indicated danger. Pakistan is a sexually repressed country and that is the root of many of its problems."
Second, I’d like to suggest to Ms. Mirza that security is not also always equal to danger. In Pakistan security is often equal to privilege. As in, a sign of privilege. As in, to demonstrate that whatever is being ‘secured’ has a lot of money to throw around. Some people would have security guards in the crapper with them at all times if they could, maybe even swirling down the drain with the turd if necessary, so that when they lose a hand at that night’s poker game they can say ‘Oh yeah? Well I don’t care because I have so much money my shit has its own security detail’. My final word to Ms. Mirza on the issue of security in Pakistan is that these days most violent crime is actually committed by security guards.

Then we move on to her claim that Pakistan is a sexually repressed country, and therein lies the root of many of its problems. This is an interesting hypothesis, and doubtless the foundation of many a thesis project on gender studies by earnest young Pakistani women who aren’t getting any at home.

Unfortunately, if it were true, countries that aren’t sexually repressed wouldn’t have problems, and leaders of nations that are fine with a bit of skirt for breakfast or the dance of the two-headed beast in public wouldn’t need to export their legions of horny young men to far climes to get off on acts of gratuitous violence.

In fact, if I might just run with this, the most evolved country in the world right now is probably Finland, which has a record number of female parliamentarians, a gay prime minister, and has just banned strip clubs. So the answer to our problems my brothers and sisters – and you may indeed quote me in your thesis papers – might not be more sex but more lesbian sex.

"The last time I performed in Lahore I was told: "You can talk about anything you like – religion, politics, drugs, you can swear and curse, just don't mention 'The Sex'." Any sexual words or connotations were banned – because in Pakistan there is no mention of sex on television, radio, or in public."
Now this is where things get really dodgy for me. Which Pakistan is it that Ms. Mirza visited exactly? The Pakistan where you put your head into a bucket of stereotypes and bob for the most worm-ridden apples? Or the Pakistan where mucho copulation has led to mucho population, where wall chalkings offer phone numbers, texts direct you to ‘a good time’, film songs find new and disturbing ways to push the boundaries of vulgarity and there is a record number of accidents on a bridge in Lahore when a billboard of Neha licking a Magnum is, um, erected?

Neha at home

Ms. Mirza then went on...
“to perform two hours away in Karachi. The audience consisted of young people, old people, women in burqas and groups of men – all sitting on the floor together. The doors were locked as soon as all the audience were in, and once again armed security guards stood outside.”
Interesting. Yes the doors were locked (so as the performance would not be disturbed by people trying to come in when there was no more space), and I saw two women in burqas – in an audience of 300 people – but I completely missed the security guards. Could it be that my jaded Pakistani eyes are so used to the sight of overgrown eagle scouts that I don’t notice them anymore? Or could it be that Ms. Mirza is unable to tell the difference between a guard and a valet? (Note to Ms. Mirza: the first has a rifle/the second a gun/the first is for shooting/the other for fun.)

"On arrival I was told by the organizer: "The Pakistani Taliban are infiltrating down to the outskirts of Karachi now, so be careful with what you say. It's best not to talk about religion, or sex, and don't mention the word "gay"." Why? "Because gay doesn't exist in Pakistan," she explained. Pakistan believes it has freedom of speech, but the only freedom you have is to comply with the speech they want to hear. She continued: "There is a law against making any jokes about President Zardari. You cannot make any jokes about him in public and you are not allowed to text any jokes to your friends about him, otherwise you will be put in prison.""
I would now like to humbly request the staff and owners of T2F to stop fucking with their guests.

"When you tell a comedian not to do something, well. I made a joke about President Zardari. The audience loved it. They laughed like they had never laughed before."
Actually, I think we laughed a lot harder when he first tried to get us to stop making jokes about him.

"All the things the audience laughed at are the things they are most repressed about. Jokes about sex, religion and politics got the most laughter."
They did. But then again Ms. Mirza didn’t really make jokes about anything else. And there were some real zingers in there too. Such as:
'Extremists are told that when they get to heaven they’ll get 72 virgins. Have they ever thought about what a woman who remains a virgin her entire life probably looks like? Do you really want to go to heaven and have sex with 72 hairy bitches?'
'Why do fundamentalists have to say ‘you will burn in hell? Is ‘burn’ really necessary? What else are you going to do in hell but burn?'
She also did a great riff on anal sex. Which I personally do not think is funny.

"After the show I was invited to a party. I walked in, to be offered a joint of marijuana, followed by a joint of opium, followed by vodka and then a discussion on porn. I was asked: "What's your favorite porn film?" I have never watched porn. I tried to lie but I couldn't think of a porn movie, so I told the truth: I've never watched porn. This was met with "You've never watched porn? Let us show you some!" A collection of 600 films was pulled out from behind the bookcase. I was then offered a male Russian hooker for the night."
At this point, the people of Pakistan are probably asking themselves two questions. 1) Why the hell wasn’t I invited to that party? 2) If a male Russian hooker goes down on you in a forest do you make a sound?

Ms. Mirza ended her opinion piece by stapling once again onto our foreheads a label reading ‘the hypocrisy of a sexually repressed, censored society’, a label that no sane Pakistani would seriously argue with. How she came to that conclusion after two evenings in the company of people who are probably anything but, I don’t know, but as a writer I can completely empathize with her need to translate experience into material. For those who are offended by it, try to remember that she also sacrificed her mother.
‘My mother is a real namazi. She doesn’t pray five times a day. She prays twenty times a day. My problem with that is, the other day she said her prayers and then ripped the rickshaw driver off.’

As I said in the beginning, I like Shazia Mirza. I do. She can come back and poke fun at us anytime she likes as far as I’m concerned. And this time we’ll make sure those uniformed men are posted inside the bedroom instead of outside, and she won’t have to worry about the extremist she’ll have to have sex with when she gets to heaven.

Whose Fans Are Stupider?

I'm sorry about today's glut of sillyness but it's just been that kind of day. In any case, this really made me laugh out loud and so I wanted to share it with you all.

First, I came across this random story on CNN, about a new application that pits two Twitter feeds against each other and, based on a statistical analysis, tells you whose 'fans' are stupider. According to the application's developer, Tom Scott:

"It estimates based on several stupid indicators. Are they using twenty exclamation marks in a row? Do they endlessly use the abbreviation 'OMG'? Do they seem incapable of working out where their Shift key is? These indicators have a strong correlation with the message, and its sender, being stupid."

Imran Khan twittering to Jemima Khan in days gone by

So, of course, I had to try it and, of course, the first Twits Twitterers I pit against each other were Jemima Khan (JemKhan) and Imran Khan (ImranKhanPTI). All I can say is, this shit really works!

Here's the result. Go to town with it.

Inaugurating the Bizarre Newspaper Headline Contest

Welcome to the Bizarre Newspaper Headline Contest. We hope to keep this as a periodic regular feature in coming times, so do keep sending us your nominations (via email please, they get lost sometimes in the comments section).

Today's three categories:

1. Worst Pun in Headline Award

Winner: Express Tribune, reporting in its 'Karachi' pages on the launch of former Indian Foreign Minister and BJP General Secretary Jaswant Singh's book on Jinnah at Mohatta Palace in Karachi:

"Singh 'Jas want's us to look into the past for future peace"

2. Surreal Headline Award

Winner: Express Tribune, lead story about wiretapping in Pakistan

"1984?: Finding Orwell in Pakistan"

3. WTF Headline Award

Winner: Express Tribune, reporting about planned commemorations on the third death anniversary of former Sindh Chief Minister Abdullah Shah (there's no link on the website but it's on page 15 of the print edition):

"Ex-CM Abdullah Shah died 3 years ago"

And ladies and gentlemen, it's a clean sweep today for the new kid on the block. The rest of you, you need to pull your socks up and get competing.

Photo of the Day

From Mirza9 via Tweetphoto:

A Bit Of Gillyness

I might be being really thick but I just don't understand this. The following is DawnNews' announcement of its mascot for the T20 Cricket World Cup...

Now, although it's sweet to bring attention to the endangered Blind Dolphins of the Indus, and personally I have no problems with choosing them as the mascot, I want to know the following to set my mind to rest:

1. When you explain your choice in the following words:

"Even though it is blind and many may consider this a handicap, the Indus River Dolphin capitalizes on its other senses such as sonar and echolocation to the best of its ability to survive" [Emphasis added]

...Wouldn't this be kind of implying that our cricketers would be really lucky to just survive the World Cup? Or that they would need to capitalize on something other than their cricketing ability, since we all know that can be a handicap?

2. Given that the blind dolphins are imperilled by a destruction of habitat and a lack of conservation, are we also not kind of implying that our cricket is in similar dire straits? I mean, of course it is, but is that what we really want to convey as a morale booster?

3. Why is the mascot called Gilly? I mean, really, why is he called Gilly??? Isn't that the well-known nickname of Australian wicket-keeper / batsman Adam Gilchrist (retired from international cricket) who now captains the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premiere League? Who are we rooting for here? Or is it meant to refer to Umar Gul, the leading wicket-taker in T20s so far, who may not play in this World Cup? Or is it a reference to gilly danda, the game T20 cricket really is closest to?

I want answers and I want them now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

ET: First Day, First Show

What's a poor blogger to do? You write about them, they get upset. You don't write about them, they get even more upset. Apparently, as a bunch of Express Tribune staffers have informed all and sundry, Cafe Pyala NOT urgently firing off a post about the the new paper's first day in print has been a topic of much speculative debate at the office.

And then, of course, we have you, our loyal readers who mostly don't seem to care about anything else either and insist on bringing up the topic in random discussions. Shoaib and Sania? Yeah, but how much is the Express Tribune going to cost? Wasim Akram may have buckled under legal pressure to retract his wild allegations against Lahore doctors while dating Sushmita Sen but did you know Ayesha Siddiqa is now writing for ET? Seven people died in Hazara protesting the name Pakhtunkhwa but will ET have the full International Herald Tribune? (Answers: Rs. 20 25, yes, yes.)

If the comments on this blog are anything to go by (and I have no reason to believe they are), ET has certainly captured its market's imagination.

Now, here is the real reason why we haven't blogged about ET on its first day: it's much too early to make a considered evaluation. I mean, it's the first day, for crying out loud. What I can offer, however, is first impressions (sorry Ahsan, was forced to fish outside off stump):

1. The paper looks very good. And by that I mean its design, its paper quality, its clean font (though the older lot may find it too small to read) and its liberal use of big pictures and highlights.

2. It will almost surely appeal to the young, upper middle-class, English-speaking market who like the USA Today type of soundbite news (the numbers, the random quotes, the cool graphics), who follow European football (main story in 'Sport' is about the Barca - Real Madrid match) and would like to read international news directly from the IHT . And it is obviously consciously targeting that demographic - hell, its main story in the city pages is about the Gulf Shopping Centre in Clifton, it highlights the number of books in the Sind Club library and it has a story about Karachi Grammar School admissions.

3. Its news content is fairly standard, its headings often pedestrian (the main heading "Gilani calls for paradigm shift in government policies" begs the question who the prime minister is calling on to do this!) and it had almost no hard-hitting exclusives. In fact, most of the stories were either Pakistani wire-agency-ish ('Fake liquor business flourishing in Islamabad') or featurish ('A window into what was Peshawar'). This was sort of expected given the lack of a strong reporting squad. But after the novelty of the new paper and its design wears off, this may become a serious issue: what exactly is the paper offering in terms of local content that is not available in other (cheaper) papers, on television or the net?

4. The front page and back page are a bit of a disaster: a total of three (count them, THREE) stories on the front page (none of which really grab your attention) and only one (ONE!) tired feature-ish story about blood transfusions on the back page. Incidentally, the back page is titled 'Rear Mirror'. One of the newspaper's staffers, recently tweeted "I'm embarrassed working for a paper that calls its back page 'Rear Mirror'". He should probably be more embarrassed by the content. The point is, if you're going to slash the number of stories on the two most important pages of a newspaper, at least make sure the stories you do carry are something to talk about.

5. There is a distinct lack of news analysis. The one piece dubbed 'Analysis' ("The politics of language and ethnicity" by a Zia M. Khan) on the 'National' pages  is a singularly uninformed piece of speculative waffle. It even manages to mis-label the Hazarawals "an ethnic community different from Pakhtuns."

6. The most engaging pages seem to be the 'Life & Style' pages, which at least have a couple of exclusive pieces on the fashion sense of the Bhuttos (admittedly more of a blog post) and the policy regarding Indian films in Pakistani cinemas.

7. The editorial pages again look good and they have managed to rope in ace-cartoonist Zahoor, though the editorials themselves seem lost in the clutter of the opeds. The opeds themselves today are nothing much to write home about though Ayesha Siddiqa's piece and Indian writer Farzana Versey's were quite readable and interesting.

In general, we need to see more to make a proper judgement. We still have to have a dekko at their magazines and what advertising does to their layout and design over time also remains to be seen (obviously the first day's paper has only minimal advertising). ET should make inroads into a niche elite market (and pretty much wipe out the miniscule readership of The Daily Times) but without some must-read news stories, it is going to find that very few regular readers of Dawn and The News (or even The Nation, when the paper eventually launches in Lahore) are going to jump ship. And it is worth remembering that fewer and fewer people are subscribing to more than one paper because of the rising costs of newspapers (to which ET has added).

Of course, that may all be irrelevant, since as we all know, English newspapers (or newspapers in general) are not published for their wide readership in Pakistan. Political and media leverage is, more than ever, the name of the game. Even Arif Nizami has been heard confirming that he too is planning to bring out yet another English paper.

Post-Script 1:

Here's the paper's editorial which will be printed tomorrow. I know nobody buys a paper for the editorials but now why would you put it on the net the day before?

A new name for a province
Editorial -- Express Tribune -- April 13

"The deaths of at least five people in Abbotabad on Monday after protests against the NWFP’s name-change turned violent are most tragic and serve to remind us just how emotional this whole issue is. The lives were lost after police tried to break up protests which had been continuing in the city since the passage of the 18th amendment in the National Assembly late last week. The protesters are part of a movement that seeks to create a new province from NWFP’s Hazara district on linguistic grounds and bases its argument along the same lines as the one that enabled the province to get a new name Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. That said, it is worth pointing out that living in a democracy often means having to accept the views of the majority and this is precisely what has happened in the case of the people of Hazara vis-a-vis the ANP’s successful challenge to the province’s existing – colonial – name. It also means that one can express divergent views but within the boundaries of the constitution and preferably through one’s elected representatives. In that context, one may ask that why wasn’t this disagreement or dissension channelled through Hazara’s MNAs and MPAs when discussions were going on to draw up the draft of the 18th amendment?

We would like to counsel caution and restraint on all sides for now given that the political and administrative centre of the province happens to be in a Pashto speaking area. The police action – which the ANP will inevitably say was unavoidable – is only going to inflame passions further and for that very reason the onus lies on the provincial government to direct the law-enforcement agencies and the local administration in Abbotabad to proactively take steps to defuse the tension. As for the protesters, they need to understand that it would be best if they were to make their point through parliament not in the street."

Post Script 2:

'The newspaper's already turning up the heat in media circles across the nation... If this was war, the Express Tribune team are ready for their turn." Enjoy!