The Real Story

Mar 21st, 2010 | By | Category: The News

A regular theme on Pakistan Media Watch is that too many of our so-called journalists do not report or comment on actual issues that are affecting the lives of real Pakistanis. In some way, this is not a surprise. Too many of the elite media personalities are wealthy and privileged and removed from real life. There are no ordinary Pakistanis invited to their drawing room discussions.

Today’s editorial in The News is a great reminder that we need less of this elitist, out-of-touch chatter from the privileged few, and more news reporting and commentary that matters to real Pakistanis.

We have more discussion on news and current events than ever before. On TV channels, in newspapers and, as a consequence of this flow of information, in teashops and roadside corners, we have almost ceaseless talk on the doings of politicians and the rather bleak scenario we face as a nation. The almost-daily acts of terrorism we see, the corruption allegations that pour forth and, lately, the ill-chosen comments of the Punjab CM on the Taliban, all form a part of this discourse. But do we have any spokesmen who can raise their voice on behalf of ordinary people? Is there anyone to comment on the concerns nearest to their hearts and thoughts? These issues include unemployment – which has been rising steadily for years – and the frustration it generates, most notably among the young. There is the question too of lawlessness and consequent social chaos, of poverty and the inability of people to live with a modicum dignity. In all our major cities, we see ‘qabza’ groups who often prey on the most vulnerable. The dwellers of katchi abadis have in many cases, most notably in Karachi, been forced out of their shanties by such mafias. Others have never had a home of any kind in the first place. The thousands of pavement-dwellers are a testimony to this. Drug addiction is rampant, human-smuggling rackets widespread and social despair at an all time high.

These then are the real things of life for most people. In some ways at least they matter more than political developments – though of course all this is inter-connected. The question is whether our parliament has the will and foresight to take up these matters. Or does, for that matter, our media? We need some quarter to forcefully raise these issues, convert them into a national priority and, by doing so, pull people into the mainstream of political happenings. Our leaders need to realize that unless they succeed in doing this, democracy may survive but it will never thrive. Too many of our public representatives have lost contact with their constituents. They need to re-establish it and visit the areas from where they were elected. They must, at the very least, hear the voices of their people and take them to the National Assembly. The media too must play its part in all this. A country, after all, is more than a stretch of territory. Its people make up its heart and soul. For this reason, these people need to be put on centre stage rather than relegated to the sidelines of national life.

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  1. Shame on PPP Government.

    Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani conferred the Nazria-i-Pakistan (posthumous) award on the late Lt-Gen Mujibur Rahman, one of Zia-era tormentors of the PPP. Gen Mujib was information secretary in the Zia regime and was accused of using his expertise in psychological warfare against the PPP after Zia had toppled the democratically elected government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He was also accused of being instrumental in victimising, including torturing and flogging anti-regime journalists. Mr Gilani listened to the adulatory citation about Gen Mujib whose award was received by his daughter. The citation said Gen Mujib stood first in the psychological warfare training in the United States and was responsible for making the ‘Sada-i-Kashmir radio’ an effective tool against India during the 1965 war. PM Gilani honours PPP tormentorDawn Reporter Saturday, 27 Mar, 2010

    Federal information secretary Lt. Gen. Mujibur Rehman (the firstarmy officer to be appointed to this post in the history of Pakistan) under General Zia In his book “Press in Chains”, senior journalist Zamir Niazi said «.,that between 1948 and 1985, a total of 183 newspapers and periodicalswere the victims of punitive action taken in the form of totalclosure, demand for security deposit, issuance of show cause notices, curtailment or total withdrawal of government advertisementand newsprint quota or officially sponsored mob attack on their offices. Zamir Niazi in his book Press in Chains (1986) wrote: “May 13th was the blackest day in the history of journalism in the subcontinent, when four newsmen were ordered to be flogged by summary military courts. Those ordered to be whipped were, Masudullah Khan (Pakistan Times, Rawalpindi), Iqbal Ahmed Jafri (Sun), Khawar Naeem Hashmi (Musawat, Lahore), and Nisar Zaidi (Nawa-I-Waqt). Their offence included: ‘organizing meetings at open public places, raising slogans, displaying banners and starting hunger strike.’”

    Gen. Zia’s anti-press regime.

    Perhaps the worst the press suffered was during the Martial Law administration of General Zia-ul-Haq legitimised under a Supreme Court judgment in the name of the so-called ” Law of Necessity.” But while this period may be remembered for its oppressive measures including long spell of censorship banning of independent and dissenting newspapers, arrest of editors and journalists , sentencing them to rigorous imprisonment under Martial Law regulations and even whipping them, it was also marked by memorable resistance put by the journalists and press workers led by the PFUJ and APNEC. This great struggle unprecedented in the annals of the Fourth Estate the world over began towards the end of November 1977 in Karachi only about five months following the advent of Gen. Zia’s Martial Law. The PFUJ’s struggle was triggered by the government’s ban on publication of Daily ” Musawaat”, Karachi. After the failure of efforts to convince the Martial Law authorities to lift the ban , the PFUJ and APNEC launched a campaign of hunger strike in Karachi from first of December 1977 o And within eight days of the struggle in which journalists and press workers from all over the country participated the government surrender and lifted the ban.

    Egged on by its oppressive nature, the government again took recourse coercive methods against the dissenting press and banned the daily ” Musawat”, Lahore , and weeklies like ” Al-Fatah” and ” Meyar” and others, critical of the Martial Law regime. After the failure of protracted negotiations with the Government the national executives of PFUJ and APNEC decided to launch countrywide hunger strike movement from Lahore commencing from 30th April, 1978. The charter of demands included restoration of banned newspapers, release of “Musawat” editors, Messers Badaruddin and Zahir Kashmiri, and the paper’ s printer, Mir Jamilur Rahman, and reinstatement of dismissed journalists including office-bearers of PFUJ and APNEC employed in the government controlled NPT newspapers.

    The historic movement was spread over two stages: one beginning in Lahore from April 30 and ending on May 30 and, the second beginning in Karachi from July 18 and ending on October 10, 1978. The two had their own distinct and memorable features marked by common inspiring spirit and enthusiasm. In the first phase’ in Lahore, the journalist and press workers who joined the hunger strike were arrested and sentenced under Martial Law Regulations from six months to one year rigorous imprisonment including three who were ordered to be flogged (Nasir Zaidi, Khawar Naeem Hashimi and Iqbal Jaferi were in fact flogged. The fourth, Masoodullah Khan was spared on the intervention of the doctor in view of Mr. Masood’s disability. It was during this stage that after having failed to suppress the movement for press freedom the military regime picked up the four renegades from the PFUJ and APNEC to create parallel PFUJ and APNEC pocket organisations known as ” Rashid Siddiqui Group”.These renegades who were given full publicity on official media supported the government and condemned the PFUJ’s struggle for press freedom exposing their true colours. As a result of the movement the government was forced to lift the ban on ” Musawat ” Lahore and release the arrested Journalists and Press workers by May 3oth but refused to reinstate the dismissed newsman from NPT papers. In addition, the government again banned ” Musawat ” Karachi. The PFUJ then at its meeting on June 12 at Karachi decided to resume the struggle from July 18, 1978.

    The resumed struggle which started in Karachi with the arrest of PFUJ and APNEC President continued until 10th of October (almost two months and 25 days) had its own memorable features. For besides the journalists and press workers who came from all over the country to court arrest, scores of trade union workers, students and militant haris from interior of Sindh joined the movement and filled almost all the jails of Sindh. (During the Lahore struggle the arrested journalists and press workers were disbursed to almost all the jails of the province of Punjab). The Sindh phase of movement would also be remembered for the mass hunger strike unto death inside the jails. The hunger strike culminated in the acceptance of most of the APNEC-PFUJ demands by the Government. As a result “Musawaat” Karachi resumed its publication, arrested persons were released, and most of the 30 dismissed journalists of the NPT papers (Pakistan Times and Imroze) were reinstated (only four including the President of the PFUJ and APNEC were not taken back).

    It was also during Gen: Zia-ul-Haq’s regime that ten senior journalists and office-bearers of the PFUJ belonging to the NPT papers – the Pakistan Times, Imroze and Mashriq – were similarly dismissed from service because they signed an appeal for ” Peace in Sindh ” when the government repressed and persecuted the people indiscriminately during the 1983 MRD Movement. The signatories to the appeal also included some 50 writers and poets on whom the doors of Radio and Television were closed as punishment. The journalists who were punished included Masood Ashar , Shafqat Tanvir Mirza , Azhar Javed , Mrs. Rakhshinda Hasan , Badarul Islam Butt, Aziz Mazhar , Aurangzeb, Mumtaz Ahmad , I.H. Rashid and Riaz Malik(late).This clearly proved that the Zia Government was callous and insensitive to the basic human rights of the people notwithstanding with its claim for Islamic justice . It was during this period that a most abominable version of the press censorship was imposed on newspapers wherein even Quranic verses and Prophet’s hadiths used to be censored if they reflected in any way on the person of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq regime or his policies. REFERENCE: MOVEMENT CALLED PFUJ BY MINHAJ BARNA

  2. Recently, I wrote an opinion piece on why our history books should include Ranjeet Singh. The name Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was symbolic and used as an example to point out the need to look at our history objectively.

    For the critics who just could not shed their keyhole vision of looking at history through a religious lens, I would ask them a question. When Pakistan plays a cricket match with India, why do we support Danesh Kaneria, a Pakistani Hindu cricketer, over Irfan Pathan, an Indian Muslim cricketer? We support Kaneria for the simple reason that we associate his spirit of nationalism with the geographic confines that he represents, not the religion he follows. Going by the same logic, shouldn’t our hero be Raja Jaipal instead of Mahmood Ghaznavi? And if Ghaznavi being a fellow Muslim is enough for us to overlook his devastation in India, then we should also gleefully accept Taliban suicide bombings in Pakistan.

    One has no problems with Muslim rulers being covered in history books. I do have a problem, however, when certain rulers are glorified at the expense of others on the basis of religion, regardless of who the aggressor was. I do have a problem when the names of non-Muslim rulers are conveniently skipped as if they never existed. I have a bigger problem when the mission of spreading Islam is attributed to the invasions of Muslim rulers. Because when the true motive behind their attacks is revealed, it’s Islam that gets maligned not them.

    Even if I were to believe that these rulers attacked out of a genuine wish to spread Islam, who authorised them to do so by the use of the sword? Even the battles fought by the Holy Prophet (pbuh) were actually a punishment of Allah for the disbelievers because the disbelievers persisted in denying Allah’s message. It was only when Allah ordered: “Fight them so that Allah may punish them at your hands” (9:14); that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) waged war. I would like to know who gave these rulers the authority to decide which disbelievers deserved to be punished and which people had reached the level of purity to be left alone? If spreading Islam was their intent, they could have just preached it. If anything, they should be discredited for contributing to Islam’s wrong image as a violent religion.

    I wonder why we are so quick to assume the role of a Muslim apologist. May I remind all such people how Mahmood Ghaznavi killed the locals of Lahore ruthlessly when he attacked and burnt the entire city? May I remind them of Nadir Shah who in matter of a day killed thousands of Muslims when he marched on to Delhi to snatch the throne from Mohammed Shah, one of the last Mughal kings of India and yet another Muslim? Or Ahmed Shah Durrani, who ravaged the Muslim population of Gujrat while fighting the Sikhs? What about the Delhi Sultanate which, over a period of 300 years from 1206 to 1526, saw five Muslim dynasties namely Slave, Khilji, Tughlaq, Syed and Lodhi dynasties, indulge in intrigues and murders of each other to capture the throne. Did any of these rulers care about Muslims that we are so religiously guarding them? Do we all know that Maharaja Ranjeet Singh was requested by prominent Muslims of Lahore to come and capture the city?

    All the rulers of the subcontinent, Muslims or non-Muslims, locals or invaders, were interested in ruling this land purely for political and economic reasons. Why bring in the religious angle or deprive ourselves of our multicultural history? Not only does this fuel religious bigotry and intolerance, it also plants a false sense of invincibility in our minds that allows us to deflect the blame of our failures on others.

    And those who think distorting history is a strategic tool need to wake up to the detrimental effects of this policy. Not only has it fanned intolerance by making us believe we are victims of some nefarious and well-coordinated chicanery, it has also instilled a misguided and one-sided sense of Muslim brotherhood in us. I was appalled to hear a member of the National Assembly a few days ago declaring that we should come to the aid of our Afghan brothers. How did a country that has for 800 years attacked the subcontinent suddenly become our brother is devoid of any logic. Let alone the fact that the only country to oppose Pakistan’s entry into the United Nations was Afghanistan. What about Egypt, which provided supplies to India during the 1965 war? How about Iran, which refused to sign the gas pipeline project to protect India’s concerns? So why embark upon this one-way road?

    In the end, I’ll mention an incident, found in one of Manto’s stories, which is the perfect manifestation of the prejudice we have come to espouse. The incident is about the religious riots in Lahore during Partition when a group of Muslims is attacking the statue of Sir Ganga Ram, an honourable son of Lahore, which once adorned Mall Road. During the attack a man gets carried away, climbs atop the statue, falls down and injures himself seriously. The fellow rioters immediately pick him up while one of them screams “Hurry; let’s take him to Sir Ganga Ram hospital”

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