Raza Rumi: Media Exploiting Flood Tragedy

Aug 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Express Tribune

Raza RumiRaza Rumi, consulting editor at the Friday Times, points out troubling examples of media exploiting the floods to promote a political agenda in a column for today’s Express Tribune.

Flood relief is being used by some as an opportunity to orchestrate political upheaval. Sections of the media are drumming up the partisan politics of a dangerous kind by involving the thorny issue of civil-military relations and the trite-but- failed recipe that the country should revert to authoritarianism whenever a crisis erupts.

Some TV anchors have been overtly suggesting that the military is saving the country at this juncture when the “venal” politicians are staging VVIP visits and not giving any relief. In one TV show, an estranged senator of the ruling party called for martial law. There is now a clear effort to create a duality — that of the military versus the civilian government…

While there is certainly a place for differing opinions, it is disappointing that some elements in the media are using a tragedy as a means to promote a particular political agenda rather than informing the people.

If political rivals can understand the need for cooperation and honest information, certainly the media can do the same.

Please click here to read the entire article.

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  1. MQM must push for a change within the system; Altaf Bhai should leave coalition first; force mid-term polls, not invite a dictator Tuesday, August 24, 2010 By Ansar Abbasi http://www.thenews.com.pk/24-08-2010/Top-Story/126.htm

    ISLAMABAD: No Mr Altaf Hussain, you are wrong. Your recipe to cleanse the Augean stables is flawed, unconstitutional and simply shocking. Your outburst negates the established principles of rule of law that is mandatory for justice and fair play in any society and for which we have been struggling since March 9, 2007. You have not only unmistakably invited ML but proposed dictatorial rule of one man that would be disastrous for my Pakistan.

    One’s despondency and disappointment from the Zardari-Gilani government to which Altaf Bhai’s MQM is an integral part is perhaps far more grave than what the MQM chief apparently claims. Undoubtedly the present regime is thoroughly corrupt and the worst example of bad governance. Time has also proved that Prime Minister Gilani is also helpless, hopeless, incompetent and lacks courage and is a mere burden on the system for his inaction and incapability to steer the country away from the challenges facing the nation. This is known to all that democracy is being used by the present rulers to give cover to their corruption, misrule and bad governance.

    Everyone knows that Zardari and the bunch of corrupt coterie surrounding him are on a suicide mission and have emerged as the greatest threat to democracy. The question that arises here is if, because of corruption, bad-governance and misrule of the rulers and regime, we should condemn democracy and let another dictator come, it would ruin everything. Targeting democracy would mean bowing down to whims and wishes of one man, moving against our own rights, abrogating Constitution and weakening institutions including independent judiciary and free media.

    It sounds strange that no-confidence against the system is coming from Altaf Hussain whose party is vital part of the corrupt federal as well as Sindh government. Being part of it, the MQM is bound to share the burden of all the wrongs being done by the Zardari-Gilani duo.
    Instead of targeting democracy, why don’t Altaf Bhai and his party hit the corrupt government and the corrupt rulers? The MQM, which has served as B-Team of General Musharraf during his nine-year dictatorial rule, should now serve democracy and as a first step get out of the coalition. The party can also exert pressure on the regime to behave by setting the conditions of good governance, across the board accountability and corruption free government if the PPP wants the MQM to stay in the coalition.

    Following democratic norms, the MQM has the option of leaving the federal government. It would mean the immediate collapse of the Gilani regime. The PPP, which has just 126 members in the National Assembly and has made the government with the support of MQM, ANP, JUI(F), independents and others, can’t survive if it loses the support of 25 MQM MNAs. The collapse of the government could pave the way for re-adjustments of political divide within the National Assembly. It would mean forming a new government. Otherwise, we have mid-term elections. These are all democratic means to handle the kind of situation we are confronting today.

    Hatred against Zardari should not be allowed to turn into hatred against democracy. Just to recall Altaf Bhai, the present lot ruling the country had made its way into the corridors of power because of the NRO, which was promulgated and negotiated by the Generals. Therefore, Altaf Bhai, please let the cleansing be done by the system instead of the Generals, who have failed every time they ruled the country. Let’s start differentiating between democracy and government. We have the kind of rulers who have given us the sham democracy. Instead of reverting to the military rule we all should struggle for genuine democracy, genuine people who should serve people instead of serving the rulers.

  2. MQM sticks to Altaf’s demand Tuesday, August 24, 2010 Shaheen Sehbai http://www.thenews.com.pk/24-08-2010/Top-Story/105.htm

    WASHINGTON: The top MQM leadership in London is not at all concerned about the reaction in Pakistan to Altaf Hussain’s call to the Pakistan Army to save the country and a senior adviser says we will continue to make our efforts while staying within the system.

    As a storm was unleashed by Altaf Bhai’s speech on Sunday, with every political party heaping scorn on him for trying to derail the system, the MQM leadership believes the debate on changing the system has begun and this will lead to some positive result.

    Asked specifically why the MQM was not trying to change the corrupt political leadership through the constitutional process available, an MQM leader, who is considered to be the thinking wing of MQM London, wondered why we could not follow the example of French leader Charles de Gaulle. He asked me to study what the French general had done for his country.

    De Gaulle was the French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during the World War II and later founded France’s Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first president from 1959 to 1969. from 1959 to 1969. According to Wikipedia, an online encyclopaedia, he was a veteran of World War I in the 1920s and 1930s and escaped to Britain and gave a famous radio address, broadcast by the BBC on 18 June 1940, exhorting the French people to resist Nazi Germany and organised the Free French Forces with exiled French officers in Britain.

    He gradually obtained control of all French colonies – most of which had at first been controlled by the pro-German Vichy regime – and by the time of the liberation of France in 1944 he was heading a government in exile, insisting that France be treated as an independent great power by the other Allies. De Gaulle became prime minister in the French Provisional Government, resigning in 1946 due to political conflicts.

    After the war he founded his own political party, the RPF. Although he retired from politics in the early 1950s after the RPF’s failure to win power, he was voted back to power as prime minister by the French Assembly during the May 1958 crisis. De Gaulle led the writing of a new constitution founding the Fifth Republic, and was elected president of France, an office which now held much greater power than in the Third and Fourth Republics.

    As president, Charles de Gaulle ended the political chaos that preceded his return to power. De Gaulle oversaw the development of French atomic weapons and promoted a foreign policy of national sovereignty from U.S. and British influence. He withdrew France from NATO military command -although remaining a member of the western alliance – and twice vetoed Britain’s entry into the European Community.

    Despite having been re-elected as president, this time by direct popular ballot, in 1965, in May 1968 he appeared likely to lose power amidst widespread protests by students and workers, but survived the crisis with an increased majority in the Assembly. However, de Gaulle resigned after losing a referendum in 1969. He is considered by many to be the most influential leader in modern French history.

    The MQM leader’s reference to De Gaulle indicates many new lines of thinking going on in London as many similarities can be seen in De Gaulle’s political career and the life and struggle of Altaf Hussain while in exile in Britain.

    To the criticism as to why the MQM was still part of the corrupt system it was criticising, the top MQM adviser said: “We are working while staying within the system. If we had been out of the system, we would have been facing operations like in the past. But this system is corrupt and we will continue to improve it.”

    Another MQM source in London, while explaining the extent of corruption in the top political leadership, pointed out that it should be investigated who has just purchased the Penthouse at No 1 Hyde Park in London at 140 million pounds ($222 million).

    The source said the six-bedroom apartment at Knightsbridge stretches across two floors and boasts bullet-proof windows, a panic room and views across the Serpentine. The new owners – who have already exchanged contracts – will also have access to 24-hour room service from the neighbouring Mandarin Oriental hotel, and protection from SAS-trained security guards. The price tag makes the penthouse the most expensive property in Britain, passing the £115 million paid for a flat at the exclusive 8 St James’s Square development in Westminster.

  3. ANALYSIS: Homeless, hapless and helpless —Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur Sunday, August 22, 2010 http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=20108\22\story_22-8-2010_pg3_4

    Sindhi politicians have failed the people of Sindh and the present situation is an indictment of their record. Plans are afoot to make them even more defenceless by more unnecessary urbanisation

    A relative who resides in Karachi recently advised obtaining national identity cards from Karachi. His logic? “Passports may soon be needed for travel to Karachi.” I regarded this as an ominous warning though others brushed it off as a joke. Urban development at the cost of rural Sindh and the consequential strain are a result of the malevolently engineered economic divide. The state also proceeded to create a vicious political divide and now Karachi is ruled by whoever has more guns. It augurs disaster and devastation.

    Governance since 1947 has been heavily tilted in favour of certain ethnic, linguistic, institutional and religious sections and groups. Its outcome is the prevailing economic, political, social and religious divide that is now undoing the dream that they intended to strengthen.

    In my piece, ‘Conned again’ (Daily Times, April 18, 2010), I wrote, “This increasing deprivation will certainly exacerbate the prevailing alienation and resentment among the Sindhi speaking people and could lead to a pre-independence Cyprus-like situation in the not too distant future but it seems the rulers are blind to such realities.”

    Wasey Jalil, an MQM leader, demanded that the IDPs should be registered. He said, “It is our principled stand that people migrating to Karachi or any other region for whatever reason should be registered with the relevant authorities.”

    The MQM’s principled stand demands that Sindhis should register themselves in Karachi, which is in Sindh since 1795 thanks to the Talpurs. Next, the Sindhis will be asked to register in Hyderabad and Shikarpur, etc. How would people react if the Sindhis took a ‘principled stand’ and demanded that all Karachites register if a natural disaster like a tsunami, earthquake or a cyclone struck Karachi? That would be termed as inhumane and ‘anti-Pakistan’, but apparently Sindhi IDP registration is kosher.

    Some IDPs who came to Marwat Park were fired upon, supposedly by the land mafia but the video footage showed they were compelled to leave by the SHO Mahmoodabad. A Sindhi daily comprehensively summed up the situation, terming them as ‘homeless in their own homeland’.

    I am not exaggerating the threat of a Cyprus-like situation; the recent frenzied revenge killings in Karachi and Hyderabad after MPA Haider Raza’s murder point to this grim reality. The state has allowed the MQM to accumulate power and guns because it has its own concept of nationality and nationalism, and in that frame the Sindhis count for naught.

    Influential people in all provinces have been instrumental in selective breaching of embankments primarily to save their holdings. Khursheed Shah allegedly did not allow the breach of Ali Wahan embankment because he and his relatives had agricultural land there. The already deprived and devastated people have also been victims of theft and looting from their own Sindhi brethren. Morality and decency seems to have departed from the land of the Sufis as well.

    You can see an endless stream of small trucks on highways loaded to the brim, taking people and their cattle to safer places. They need to have a place until the floodwater subsides and that is not happening any time soon as a second flood follows in the first’s wake. These floods have helped to highlight the extremely vulnerable and tenuous position that the Sindhis have within the state of Pakistan. Sindhi politicians have failed the people of Sindh and the present situation is an indictment of their record.

    Plans are afoot to make them even more defenceless by more unnecessary urbanisation. Karachi, though prosperous, depends on the rest of Sindh for its needs, making it vulnerable to pressure. I am not an alarmist but the envisaged Zulfiqarabad is part of the grand urbanisation scheme aimed at depriving the Sindhi people of an outlet to the sea and leaving them completely at the mercy of the urban population.

    A recent ordinance on Zulfiqarabad is brazenly unambiguous. It says, “The city (Zulfiqarabad), being developed as a port city, is supposed to help the government check migration of the rural population of the province to urban areas, mainly Karachi.” The Sindhi rural population’s migration to Karachi is seen as a problem but others are apparently welcome. Zulfiqarabad too will become the reason for massive dispossession of the Sindhi population in the same way as residents of the old Goths (villages) were dispossessed and displaced in and around Karachi.

    Moreover it says, “Zulfiqarabad Development Authority (ZDA) will extend to such areas of Thatta district as specified by the government from time to time through notifications.” This means unbridled expansion until the aim of complete dispossession of the Sindhi people there and their relegation to second-class citizenship status is achieved.

    This project is expected to utilise thousands of acres of barren land for useful purposes. By useful purpose they mean creating already in vogue DHAs. Salam Dharejo, writing in Newsline in September 2007, said, “The recent allotment of 12,093 acres to the DHA on the Super Highway adjacent to the Karachi toll plaza is the biggest-ever housing project of the DHA on agricultural land. The land in question is, indeed, ‘private’ in many respects. More than 10,000 people inhabit 15 different villages. And they are not squatters. These villages have been in existence for 600 years. Displacing people for the windfall profits is absolute injustice.”

    In Zulfiqarabad, it is the DHAs and moneyed classes that will benefit and not the displaced Sindhis whose entire belongings fit in a small truck. In September 2008, the Senate was told that 881 acres of sea-front land was given to DHA on a 99-year lease at a premium of Rs 2.5 per square metre and an annual rent of 18 paisa per square metre, i.e. Rs 8.913 million as premium and Rs 641,758 as ground rent. Imagine if ever land will be given to the poor Sindhis on these terms. The Sindhis are being increasingly marginalised and are becoming homeless in their homeland. The ‘terra nullius doctrine’ is being surreptitiously implemented with the connivance of power hungry Sindhis. There is a real danger of them being relegated to Native American and Aborigine status. The Baloch would have long ago been relegated to that dishonourable status had it not been for the valour of those who gave their birthright more importance than their lives. The unchecked ascendancy of particular ethnic communities with the connivance of the state and power hungry politicians is eventually going to evoke a violent backlash from the Sindhis. Sometimes, natural calamities accentuate the sense of alienation and lead to a struggle for rights. Hopefully, the misery created by these floods will do the same.

    Mir Mohammad Ali Talpur has an association with the Baloch rights movement going back to the early 1970s. He can be contacted at mmatalpur@gmail.com

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