Fauzia Yazdani: Nikki nikki dholki

Mar 27th, 2011 | By | Category: Uncategorized

I received a lovely joke this morning, which is that a Mirasi’s father was dying and the whole family was sitting around him in his final moments, which got prolonged. Made desperate by this somber wait-n-see, one of them said: “Jad tak aba nahin marda niki niki dholki na waja leye?” (‘While we await father’s death shouldn’t we play some music?’)

It struck me as an apt explanation for everything that’s going on around us. For example, see it against the media and political circus being carried out by the drama queens a.k.a. anchors and politicians, be it on the issue of Raymond Davis, Moonis Ellahi, Shah Mehmood’s conscience, the PPP in Punjab or the “revolution” in the Middle East. I like most telly tubbies hear and read about all this and more every hour of every day, and think to myself: aren’t they all playing niki niki dholki?

A large brigade of anchors and their guests are playing with people’s emotions, making ooohs and aaahs about issues of a national, regional and sometimes even global importance that require careful, thoughtful analysis and not this panting at all. Yet national “ghairat” rules the roost and no informed debate, especially in the Urdu press, is being generated for the larger public to understand these issues objectively. If one gets into the reasons for the same it will range from the Zionist to the Indian to the American agenda, and conspiracy theories to take over our nuclear assets and strip us of our religion, as if both these items are on sale on a roadside cart.

So why do they do it?

The answer, I think, is quite simple. The show must go on (literally, in the case of TV shows angling for ratings and advertisement revenue), and so each night, with limited knowledge of the topics at hand, all of us resort to niki niki dholki. No political party in its right mind can even think of taking over the government in the midst of external and internal crises; the country cannot bear, socially, economically or politically, a mid-term election; yet every night a 180 degree political turn is sought and predicted. Salvaging the situation, finding indigenous and sustainable solutions – forget it! That’s not on the menu for any self-respecting (ghairatmand?) TV channel.

This is also how they portray world events. Pakistan, according to our massively right-wing media, is a citadel of Islam with the most reverend and sensitive Muslims as its inhabitants. Therefore (and that’s all you need to say ‘therefore’) it’s more than likely that a youth revolution akin to that in the Middle East will touch our frontiers one of these days and to baptize. (Forget the fact that the Arabs are fighting societal and political stagnation of the kind we have never been unfortunate enough to experience.)

Fortunately, our economy cannot sustain a “revolution” and socio-politically we remain too divided to give it a due impetus.

We need a just, unbiased and pluralistic public opinion facilitator, and not a 24/7 high-voltage oven that keeps thrusting half-baked cookies at its viewers. The media has to generate debate and accept that politics is about processes and not deadlines. It has to accept that accountability is not only for politicians and the bureaucracy but for the army and judiciary as well. It has to say that the right to be a Pakistani is irrespective of caste, creed, religion and other prejudicial categories. It has to go through self-assessment and introspection in order to achieve these things. Until then, all it will do is continue to play nikki nikki dholki.

This piece was originally published in The Friday Times of 25 March. Fauzia Yazdani is an independent policy researcher and analyst

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