Posts Tagged ‘Talat Hussain’

Humain pehlay he patta tha…

Monday, August 15th, 2011

By now you will certainly have seen the leaked clips of Amir Liaquat’s profanity laced ranting. If you are like us and you decided to turn off the computer and spend independence day with your family (good for you), Cafe Pyala still has the clip available, and we have embedded it below. But this post is not just about Aamir Liaquat, it’s about the state of journalism more generally.

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In his defence, Aamir Liaquat responded on Twitter claiming that “It was a fake video, created and dubbed professionally”.

We decided to comment only because Aamir Liaquat’s reaction to the video leak gave us a dizzying sense of deja vu. We could have sworn that we had already written about this same event. Then we realised that we had. It was the same excuse given when tapes of Hamid Mir terming Khalid Khawaja as CIA collaborator in a phone call with Taliban. Then the memories of two-faced media came flooding back. A few months after Hamid Mir’s scandal, it was revealed that TV anchors agreed to declare Dr Aafia as innocent, even though when the cameras were turned off, they pronounced her guilty.

This was around the same time that Talat Hussain scribbled his vicious attack against Angelina Jolie – in Urdu, of course, away from liberal English-medium eyes. And, of course, it was the same year that we saw Meher Bokhari drinking at private parties only to piously read fatwas against others when the cameras were turned on.

This year, the schizophrenic, hypocritical nature of media has become more exposed than ever when national media groups used the language divide to sell different interpretations of the death of Osama, the most bald faced and shameless coming from Express News.

According to Aamir Liaquat, the video of his obscene ranting is “disgusting conspiracy spread by those who do not want to promote Ishq-e-Rasool (saww)”. This is a perfect example of the incredible egos of our media elite. At least Hamid Mir had the basic decency to claim it was a conspiracy against media, not the Prophet. This scandal is about Aamir Liaquat’s own hypocrisy, trying to make it about religion in order to save his skin is just digging the hole even deeper.

When the video leaked, we heard no expressions of shock or surprise because there was no shock or surprise. Each person who saw it laughed a bit, then shrugged and said, “Mujhay pehlay he patta tha”. We need professional journalists and honest analysts who can explain to the people the days events so that we can make our own decisions about the issues that affect our nation. Ever so humble, Aamir Liaquat describes himself as “truly a legend of this modern age…whose name becomes synonymous with truthfulness and bravery in the field of journalism”. We don’t know who the media elite thinks they’re fooling, but if they think we’re buying their act, then truly they are only fooling themselves.

Yahood-o-Hanood Ki Saazish

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Talat Hussain owes a favour to Nawa-i-Waqt. Following his stunningly poor report that laid the blame for violence in Karachi at the convenient scapegoat of President Zardari, Nawa-i-Waqt followed by placing the blame at an even more remote bogey – the Hindu-Zionist conspiracy!

The Nation logoAccording to an editorial in The Nation, recent statements by Interior Minister Rehman Malik prove that a Hindu-Zionist conspiracy is responsible for Karachi’s violent gangs – a statement that was subsequently rubbished by Sindh Home Minister Manzoor Wassan.

Unfortunately, there are some foreign elements in Karachi, but they’re not Israeli. When an accidental explosion rocked Baldia last year, it wasn’t a pile of Hindu suicide vests and grenades that detonated. But these were not the foreigners The Nation was looking for.

According to The Nation, “it is well documented, that no less than 67 percent of the illegal business of arms smuggling is in the hands of the Israelis”. Despite an extensive search, we have been unable to discover any documentation that supports this claim. This is surprising since The Nation claims “it is well documented”. We were able to find a 1997 report from the United Nations that includes the following section on illegal arms in South Asia:

South Asia

70. The problem of excessive and destabilizing accumulations of small arms and light weapons in South Asia was significantly shaped by the war in Afghanistan from 1979 to 1988. During that conflict, both sides in the cold war exported large quantities of both major conventional weapons and small arms and light weapons into the region. Today, Afghanistan is a leading source of unaccounted weapons. The conflict continues and much of the current inflow of weapons is due to illicit deals involving a circuitous network of manufacturers, buyers, suppliers and distributors which are able to operate because of a lack of State authority. There is a lack of cooperation among several States in the region that also contributes to the problems of covert supply and poor controls over small arms and light weapons.

71. Insurgents and terrorist groups, as well as drug traffickers, in the region are also supplied with small arms and light weapons by illicit or covert networks. This region is particularly plagued by illicit trafficking in explosives, especially improvised explosive devices which have been frequently used in armed attacks. Most armed groups are based overseas and conduct fund-raising abroad for the illicit procurement of arms and for violent acts in the region.

72. In this region, the production of and trafficking in drugs are directly linked to the proliferation and acquisition of small arms and light weapons. This problem, and illicit trafficking in weapons in general, is exacerbated by a lack of either local or international controls of land and maritime borders in certain States of the region.

It is possible that the editors at Nawa-i-Waqt have simply woven a false statistic from thin air?

Let us explore further the reality of illegal weapons markets that deal in the violent deaths of innocent Pakistanis. Below is a video that looks at the source of much of the illegal weapons that rain death on Pakistan.

Certainly illegal arms are available from Israel, USA, Russia, China, Germany, Italy…Everywhere in the world that makes weapons those are available in Pakistan. Also, sadly, guns handmade by Pakistani children are available.

But while the English language article in The Nation is misleading, the Udru language piece in Daily Nawa-i-Waqt adds a little mirch masala for the awam.

nawa-i-waqt logoThe Urdu article says that the trio consisting of India, Israel and USA mutually and individually conspires against Pakistan and the agenda of this “shaitani ittehad salasa” is to damage Pakistan sovereignty and malign the reputation of Pakistan. The piece also mentions that after 9-11 this “American” war has given a great opportunity to our enemies to conspire against us, especially India, a country that hasn’t accepted the creation of Pakistan since 1947.

The Nawa-i-waqt piece also comes to this extremely “logical” conclusion that since our security agencies have found involvement of RAW in PNS Mehran attack, Indian terrorists surely must have sponsored these Israeli weapons found in Karachi. But Nawa-i-waqt ignores the fact that it was not RAW but Taliban who confessed to the attack on PNS Mehran. Of course, in the bizarre world of such conspiracy theories, Taliban is also part of the Hindu-Zionist conspiracy.

Then the piece says that this devilish trio is behind the current unstable conditions of Karachi are directly or indirectly responsible for target killings.

The most interestingly bizarre (read chatpatti) news that Nawa-i-Waqt breaks to its readers is that it claims that Indians themselves created the Mumbai attacks and they placed blame for them on Pakistan to malign Pakistan’s image in the world:

nawa-i-waqt clip

The piece further asks the audience why our leaders use restraint against India even after presence of proof that points in their direction and tells us that our country’s sovereignty and security depends on whether or not we choose to point fingers at India. Could it be because these ‘proofs’ are as elusive as Nawa-i-Waqt‘s statistical claims?

The repetition of misleading conspiracy theories by irresponsible media do nothing to inform the people or progress the nation towards a solution for serious issues like the bitter violence that cause the people to suffer daily. Though this latest conspiracy began by a statement of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt had the opportunity to provide an important correction to the Minister’s statement by giving readers the facts. Instead, The Nation decided that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ and rather than correct the politician they take his conspiracy theory and make it even more sensational with fabricated statistics and accusations against a Hindu-Zionist bogey.

The Nation is correct in its conclusion that “it is essential to probe the matter to the finish and try to find out the sources of the funding of this vicious project of widespread destabilisation”. But this cannot happen so long as media groups like Nawa-i-Waqt are exploiting tragedies to promote conspiracy theories instead of honestly investigating and exposing the truth.

How not to write analysis or Has Talat Hussain ever been to Karachi?

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

The recent violence that engulfed Karachi was a tragedy of immense proportions. If any good can come of such a tragedy, it will begin by taking a critical look at the root causes of violent outbreaks, and work towards a solution that respects the rights and the needs of all Karachiites. Unfortunately, this discussion is rare. What one finds more often are those who exploit such tragedies to score cheap political points. A perfect example of this can be found in the response of Talat Hussain to Karachi’s latest surge of violence.

Syed Talat HussainTalat Hussain’s response to the situation in Dawn notes that “the provincial capital, has slipped into hellish violence, its peace buried under the ever-increasing piles of dead bodies”. And where does the senior journalist lay blame for this hell on earth? Where else, but the convenient scapegoat of President Zardari and the PPP-led government.

There are several problems with this piece by Talat Hussain, but we will mention only two. First is that the author’s thesis rests on one initial premise that completely misses the point – namely, that it is not “Sindh” that slipped into a war-like state of violence, but Karachi. This is important to note because Talat Hussain’s blame game rests on the fact that the provincial government is indeed led by the PPP. But despite being in Sindh province, Karachi is not controlled by PPP. This is an important point because the complex politics in Karachi are behind much of the violence there. It is hard to believe that Talat Hussain does not know this.

Actually, it would be wrong to lay the blame at the feet of any single political party, though it is a common reaction by party activists to blame their opponents by terming them as gangsters. This gets to the second major problem with Talat Hussain’s column – in order to place blame with Zardari and the PPP, he oversimplifies a complex situation.

According to Talat Hussain, the solution to the crisis in Karachi is simple.

It is important to recount all of this to contextualise the endemic problem of violence in Karachi. These incidents do not happen without warning. There is a well-established pattern followed by any serious law and order breakdown. It is for the government to closely monitor this pattern and position resources and strategies to ensure that the slide down the path of chaos is halted. It is also for the government to engineer long-term and effective administrative solutions to address chronic sources of violence.

In the case of Karachi, this means taking on gangs that have virtually overthrown the writ of the state from vast swathes of the city and run these areas like their fiefdoms. The attempt to disinfect the city of these gangs through `reconciliation` was bound to fail since most of these gangs are politically aligned, with their roots embedded in the provincial body politic. You might set a thief to catch a thief, but that is hardly the way to deal with killers.

The PPP government and all of the party leadership should know this. After all, they have been the biggest proponents of strong-arm action against extremists in Fata and elsewhere, saying that this is the only way to deal with, in American idiom, `irreconcilables`.

So this is Talat Hussain’s solution to violence in Karachi? He believes that Gen Kayani should march troops through the streets to ‘clear and hold’ the city of 20 million? Perhaps he suggests drone attacks on Orangi?

The crisis in Karachi is the result of complex economic and demographic issues, not simple law and order problems. Certainly there are gangs and mafias, but these are the symptoms, not the disease. Anyone familiar with the history of politics in the city would know that a PPP government going into Karachi with guns blazing would be like pouring petrol on a flame. The fire would not be quenched, it would grow and spread. The solution to the violence in Karachi lies not in more violence, but in honest analysis and open dialogue between all affected parties to work out a political solution.

In a lame attempt at humour, Talat Hussain concludes his piece by suggesting that “Perhaps in his next speech, President Zardari can offer tutorials to his opponents in the useful skill of how not to govern”. And in this, Talat Hussain has clearly offered a tutorial on how to not to write critical analysis.

Talat Hussain’s revisionist history of Mohali

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

India Pakistan cricket fans

Ghairat Brigade watch out, there is a new hero in town and his name is Talat Hussain. In an article for Dawn, Talat attempts to re-write the history of the historic match at Mohali by painting an ugly picture of India and smearing our own boys in the process.

According to the Dawn reporter,

It was almost as if the Mohali match had given the whole of India a season ticket to trash Pakistan. Cricket appeared to be an instrument to unleash collective contempt. This Mohali experience contrasts sharply with the popular narrative about the growing peace constituency in India that wants to treat Pakistan with respect and believes in the principle of parity of nations. At a critical time when convincing messages of brotherhood could have been packaged with courtesy and sent across the borders to Pakistan with love, the mail received from India contained little other than hate.

Reading these words, I was stunned. Perhaps Talat Hussain watched a different match that I did. The match that I watched was respectful. It was friendly. And for a few days, we were able to forget our differences of the past and focus on the game we all love.

Talat Hussain, on the other hand, appears to have gone searching for any small example of negative attitudes like a rat scouring the alleys for some moldy crumbs while overlooking the positive facts about the match.

  • Indians and Pakistanis sat together and watched the match – many had the flags of both countries painted on their faces.
  • India gave lots of last minute visas to Pakistanis.
  • The semi-final took place in an atmosphere of friendly rivalry and respectful behaviour.
  • The political leadership of both sides watched the match together and talked about pressing issues for both nations.
  • There were no riots or burning of effigies when one side lost the match.

For the fans in attendance, and for the millions with their eyes glued to television screens, the epic battle between the two giants was not one of petty insults, harassment, or anti-Pakistan hysteria. It was one of friendly competition and the hope of a new beginning.

Sadly, conjuring this fictitious atmosphere of ‘anti-Pakistan hysteria’ was not enough for Talat who then proceeded to insult our own team and the entire nation in the process.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani too wanted to fete the team for having reached the semi-final. Suddenly failure to make it to the finals has become a point of great pride, a matter of honour rather than cause for reflection and course correction.

But this is not surprising. We have consistently rewarded incompetence. We have a culture of complacency that simply lowers the bar of achievement instead of raising the game to the level where the best compete and win.

The fact is, our team was only defeated by one other team. And that team took home the trophy. Our boys played hard and they played well. They beat international expectations and proved once again that Pakistan fields a world class team. More importantly, though, Afridi handled what was a crushing loss with dignity, poise, and class. Something sorely lacking in Talat Hussain’s spoiled rantings.

Talat Hussain says “We know media nationalism can hijack objectivity. It can lead to distortions. It can generate propaganda. This happens in Pakistan all the time.” Yes, this is a well known problem. But that doesn’t justify Talat Hussain taking part either. 170 million Pakistanis would rather have defeated India at Mohali. But, even in this minor defeat, these same 170 million can hold their heads high after a game well played and a defeat handled with grace and dignity. We invite Talat Hussain to join us in doing the same.

Where Is Pakistan's Talat Hussain?

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Talat Hussain’s recent adventure aboard the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza provides an important lesson about the potential for journalists to impact current events. It also raises an important question: why don’t our journalists risk as much for Pakistan as they will for some other country?

A Google search for the words ‘Talat Hussain Hero’ returned about 137,000 links. Pretty impressive.

To be fair, what Talat Hussain did – putting his personal safety at risk in order to get a first-hand account of what was sure to be (and certainly proved to be) a controversial story – was a commendable act, and one that serves as a model for other investigative journalists.

Where are Pakistan’s Heroes?

The first question that came to my mind when watching Talat Hussain’s story unfold, though, was where are Pakistan’s heroes? Whatever heroism may be deemed worthy of Talat Hussain, it was a heroism for Palestinians, not Pakistanis. Certainly the Palestinians are under siege and are need of some heroes. But are we not under siege also?

I was glad to see Wajahat S Khan’s recent article, I am an Ahmadi. But how disheartening that the discussion of religious freedom in our own country has all but been replaced with a discussion of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. It seems there is something of a convenient double-standard, no? We are incensed with Israel’s brutality against Muslims in Gaza, but when it comes to religious minorities here…well, it’s unfortunate, yes, but nothing to miss tea over.

Palestine has its hero, Talat Hussain. Who will be Pakistan’s hero?

Treatment of Journalists in Pakistan

The next question that came to mind was another bit of hypocrisy that can be traced to certain media types. Talat Hussain is a hero for putting himself in the middle of a deadly fight in a country that is not his and trying to report the facts of the situation for an audience deeply sympathetic to one side.

It’s a good thing he did not try that here, or he surely would have been labeled a spy and had his home address published in The Nation.

While The Nation may be one of the worst offenders in this regard, receiving international attention for recklessly calling foreign journalists ‘spies’, they are certainly not the only media outlet to ‘report’ this type of story. Why do certain media types feel comfortable with this hypocrisy?

We Must Not Miss the Important Lessons

If we are truly to consider Talat Hussain’s act a commendable one, we must not miss the important lessons. We must look at what our feelings about Talat Hussain’s courage say about ourselves when we are faced with similar situations in our own nation. Who in the media is willing to risk their lives for Pakistani Ahamadis? Why are our foreign correspondents ‘heroes’ while foreign correspondents here are ‘spies’? What does it say about our media that the best and brightest minds in journalism cannot see this critical divide?

What Talat Hussain did took an amazing amount of courage. He very well could have been one of the unfortunate souls who died in that adventure. He put his very life on the line in order to tell the story of a people suffering. The Palestinians in Gaza have a good friend in him.

Who will be Pakistan’s Talat Hussain?

Conspiracy Brigade Strikes Again Right On Cue

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Conspiracy Brigade

The conspiracy brigade strikes again, and right on cue. When I first saw the news that some Pakistani had been arrested for the plot to bomb New York, I knew it was just a matter of time before the conspiracy wallahs were out in force.

True to form, Talat Hussain ranted on Aaj that there is some secret plan to pressurise Pakistan to ‘do more.’ He even tried to revive the stinking corpse of the Seymour Hersh conspiracy and Kerry-Lugar by saying that bills such as this are just there to offer a price.

This is the same nonsense that was being recited by Kamran Khan on Geo. Whatever channel I turn to, I am hearing echoes of the same utter nonsense about how maybe the timing of Hakimullah’s statement suggests a conspiracy against Pakistan.

The only surprising thing about the return of the conspiracy brigade is that they took so long to get their story worked out! I’m especially surprised that it took them so long since they seem to have only been able to revive some old dead conspiracies from the past. Really, guys, I expect you to put a little more effort into your work!

But seriously, let’s consider the facts here. This idiot Faisal Shahzad tries to blow up a car bomb – he even admits to it. For the conspiracy brigade, though, it is everyone’s fault but Faisal and his jihadi mentors.

Why can’t this idiot just be an idiot?

Faisal Shahzad, idiot

For the conspiracy brigade, it’s always the same story. After Mumbai, same thing. These conspiracy theorists want us to live in denial always. The fact that these conspiracy wallahs are hawking this nonsense on TV really makes my blood boil. For all their complaining, our problems will not be solved by pointing the finger at India or some blaming some conspiracy in Washington every time some idiot decides to blow himself up.

Guys, I hate to tell you this, but there are actually some idiots in our country. We need to face that fact so that we can do something about it. Because there is one conspiracy against Pakistan that is very real – the conspiracy by the terrorists who continue to attack us.

Nadeem Paracha: The myths, the madness, and the media

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Nadeem Paracha who is quickly becoming a major voice of reason in the popular media has a new blog post today on Dawn.com that takes to task the talking heads of the media for irresponsible and sensationalist reporting. 

After talking of the dangerously concocted narratives peddled by the state, government, and religious parties of Pakistan that I mentioned in my last blog, let’s now turn our attention towards the political and social narratives emerging from the country’s highly animated electronic media.

Still basking (nay, indulgently bathing) in the sudden spat of freedom provided during the early years of General Pervez Musharraf, the private TV news channels, initially in their attempt to differ from the confining traditions of state-owned television, emerged sounding largely progressive and remaining as close to ‘objectivity’ as was possible – at least until they discovered the commercial wonders of what is called the political ‘talk show.’

It wasn’t until early 2006 that many of these talk shows started to devolve and mutate into the kind of rampant and anarchic ogres that they are today. Many of them actually did a wonderful job passionately reporting the tragic 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, in the process also facilitating the unprecedented interest that common Pakistanis exhibited in helping the quake victims.

But, alas, it seems this episode, which, I believe, finally brought the private electronic media into the forefront, had a rather disastrous impact on the nascent egos of various talk show hosts and TV reporters.

Suddenly, they took the noble idea of missionary journalism, and instead of continuing to tread on the ‘objective middle ground,’ began moving way towards the populist right. And what’s more, once their bosses decided that this new trajectory was actually generating better monetary results (à la FOX News), the channels never looked back, sloganeering all the way to the bank!

Personalities such as Shahid Masood, Hamid Mir, Talat Hussain, Kashif Abbasi, Ansar Abbasi, Zaid Hamid, Shireen Mazari have all emerged from the abovementioned scenario. As part of this largely reactionary and at the same time monetarily cynical phenomenon is the transformation of non-media personalities into regular TV feasts.

These include men and women who have become mainstays on talk shows as ‘guests’. Retired generals, small-time politicians, vernacular columnists and urban maulvis whose job it is to maintain the duration of their individual 15 minutes of fame by  sounding off the talk show hosts’ populist and flammable innuendos.

Since the Taliban and the inhuman havoc they’ve been perpetrating is the single most critical issue impacting the country at this very moment, let’s evaluate the popular news channels’ handling of this ordeal.

Recently, many TV talk show hosts and their favourite sounding boards (‘guests’), have come under fire from certain ‘liberal’ sections belonging to the print media, academia, and in the blogsphere.

The more sensationalist and unsubstantiated accusations against some talk show hosts of being ‘ISI agents’ and ‘extremists’ can be put aside as subjective groaning. But then so can what usually comes out of the mouths of many hosts and their guests.

In the last three years at least, TV talk shows have openly thrived on building whole ‘debates’ and arguments on what almost entirely belongs in the floozy and demagogic conspiracy theory sphere.

The topics of the show may have a ring of intellectualism and serious policy matters, but it does not take much time for the so-called ‘debate’ to spiral down into sloganeering, wild theory casting (by the ‘guests’) and self-righteous preaching (by the hosts).

I use the word self-righteous because even though most talk show hosts are having a heck of a time being this new kind of TV celebrity with impressive material and social perks, their rhetoric seems to be surfacing from a besieged mindset. Without having any qualms or need for humility or modesty, they are quick to present themselves as heroes, besieged by the powers that be.

The truth is, the media has never been in the kind of free-floating situation it is today. Though the Musharraf regime blundered by putting an old-fashioned authoritarian cap on it in 2007 – not for entirely wrong reasons, mind you – the current coalition government led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), is actually the one finding its democratic credentials taken hostage by a hostile electronic media that is sumptuously feeding upon the many lingering misconceptions about popular democracy that still linger in the minds of Pakistanis.

So what is that narrative echoing in the corridors of the TV news channels that is making some of us suspect the ideological and political dispositions of so many talk show hosts? One way to find out is to track this narrative’s evolution, especially in regards to the matters of terrorism and extremism.

Till 2003, when, comparatively speaking, suicide bombings were a rare occurrence in Pakistan, they were reported by the newly inaugurated private TV channels as part of a simple narrative: the bombings were being undertaken by indigenous sectarian organisations in cahoots with Al Qaeda in reaction to the United States’ post-9/11 action in Afghanistan.

The narrative was simple, but there was a lot of truth in it as well. Even till this day, sectarian organisations such as the (supposedly banned) Sipah-Sehaba  and Lashkar-e-Taiba are believed to be doing the ground work for the Taliban and shady Al Qaeda elements.

In the wake of Pakistan’s more aggressive involvement in the US-run ‘war on terror,’ the above narrative began being tempered by talk show ‘guests’ – mainly from the Jamat-i-Islami, and certain retired generals who still seemed nostalgically stuck in the 1980s’ ‘Afghan Jihad.’

The Pakistan Army’s half-hearted operations in the sensitive Taliban-infested territories too did not help in this respect, and neither did the right-wing provincial government of the NWFP (MMA) that attempted to ‘keep the peace’ by playing the sympathetic ostrich in the volatile province.

As one started seeing talk show hosts and their guests now condemn Pakistan’s involvement against what were clearly monsters, one was left baffled when the reason for their outrage had something to do with ‘tribal Pathans having great honour and appetite for revenge!’

Of course, it was conveniently forgotten that the ‘honourable’ tribals from whose ranks the Taliban were emerging found nothing so dishonourable about slaughtering not only fellow Pakistanis, but also their own Pushtun kinsmen?

But just when this contradiction and the utter feebleness of it started to become apparent, Musharraf blundered by delaying taking action against the violent Lal Masjid clerics and their army of self-righteous thugs.

The Musharraf dictatorship clearly manhandled the whole issue. But it is also true that electronic media coverage of the Army’s action against the terrorists at the mosque is yet to be paralleled in its utter show of irresponsibility, including in-studio and on-site reporting and ‘comment’ by reporters and hosts that sometimes bordered on actually eulogising and applauding the violent holy thugs.

I still wonder how much of the manic and rabid reactionary sparks that one saw flying around the TV studios at the time contributed to the construction of minds seeking violent revenge in the shape of suicide bombings against the common citizens of Pakistan?

The entirely lopsided and irresponsible coverage of the Lal Masjid is clearly the local electronic media’s darkest hour, one that was only partially rectified by the same media’s following fetish: The Lawyers’ Movement.

With the rise in terrorist attacks on Pakistani civilians, the narrative that put the action of Muslims seeking ‘justified revenge’ against fellow Muslims began weakening, until the sudden appearance of the likes of Zaid Hamid (on a struggling news channel and a music channel!) and Shireen Mazari.

Conspiracy theories about Mossad/RAW/CIA involvement in the matter that were once restricted to obscure crackpot websites suddenly exploded onto the Pakistani mainstream media scene. Some suggest this was done to justify the Pakistan Army’s operation in the north-west, making it look like a fight against infidels (as opposed to it being a civil war against monsters created and ignorantly tolerated by us alone).

So the following has become the new narrative, not only on TV talk shows, but consequently, and dangerously, within much of society: ‘Those conducting suicide attacks on common men, women, and children in Pakistan, cannot be Muslims. They have to be infidel foreigners, most probably funded and trained by RAW, Mossad, and even the CIA. These agencies want to take over Pakistan’s nuclear assets and control the imminent rise of Islam.’

Much psychosomatic gibberish emerges from this unsubstantiated and delusional narrative peddled every single day on talk shows. And if this is the only answer that these ‘experts’ have for the besieged people of Pakistan, then, I’m afraid, we truly have become a wretched nation which has decided to hold on to half-truths, myths, and fantastical stories as a means to safeguard our ‘honour,’ instead of depending more on reason and a positive exhibition of self-criticism. There is no bigger honour than saying and respecting the truth, no matter how disturbing it might be.

Open Letter to The Telegraph (UK)

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

In his recent column, “Pakistani TV performing vital democratic function,” Mr. Hasan Mansoor does a disservice to the facts about Pakistan’s media. While TV executives like Azhar Abbas may tell reporters that “their news helps inculcate democracy and gives a voice to the disenfranchised,” their actions tell a different story.

Rather than reply to media critics like Nadeem Paracha, Abbas instead suggests that criticism is part of a defensive strategy by the government. He claims that media critics fail to “counter argument with argument,” but this is simply not the case. For the BBC, Ahmed Rashid wrote a very eloquent and well documented piece about the glut of conspiracy theories in Pakistan’s media.

Rashid’s piece echoed sentiments in Adam Ellick’s excellent post on the New York Times’ blog that featured a video about the failure of pop-music stars to address Taliban violence, choosing instead to focus on anti-Western conspiracy theories. That Pakistani media – especially TV – has become a veritable marketplace of nutty conspiracy theories is not news.

Unfortunately, the failings of Pakistan’s media do not stop with harmless conspiracy fantasies. Take, for example, the recent international outcry around Pakistani newspaper The Nation in which a respected American journalist was accused, absent any evidence whatsoever, of being a spy for both the CIA and Israel’s Mossad.

Did the paper apologize for the obvious ethical problems, not to mention life-threatening dangers, associated with this lapse in judgment? No. Rather, the paper published a semi-coherent diatribe by TV personality and conspiracy theorist extraordinaire, Ahmed Quraishi, in which Quraishi plead victimhood for The Nation having to suffer criticism for an act that could result in the murder of another American journalist in Pakistan. Have we already forgotten Mr. Daniel Pearl?

Talat Hussain’s claim that, “We adopt very democratic methods. Here you find people from both sides,” is eerily reminiscent of similar claims to “Fair and Balanced” reporting from a certain American TV station. This American station also proclaimed that it was giving a voice to the disenfranchised, despite the fact that independent research found that it’s viewers were less well informed than those of other major news outlets. Imagine a media market saturated with FOX News clones. Hardly a service to democracy.

Sadly, Pakistani TV today serves less a democratic function than a demagogic one. Though free from government intervention and control, TV executives and editorial boards have overwhelmingly opted to promote the sort of fantastic conspiracy theories one expects from basement-run Internet message boards, not responsible commercial media outlets. Mr. Abbas and his colleagues are doing democracy in Pakistan a disservice, and would be well advised to clean up their act.

Talat Hussain makes a $640 Million Mistake

Friday, October 30th, 2009

If anyone needs evidence that Pakistan’s most popular TV anchors just reel off nonsense without checking facts, please watch the interview given by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to a group of Pakistani anchors.

Talat Hussain of Aaj TV, who often speaks as if he knows everything, wanted to embarrass Hillary by “proving” that the U.S, does not give Pakistan enough. In his recent shows he has been mouthing off against the “insulting language” in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman aid bill, which triples non-military assistance to Pakistan to $ 1.5 billion per year for five years.

Talat claimed that the U.S. was paying Kyrgyzstan $ 700 million as rent for a military base in that country. Hillary corrected the arrogant and self-righteous Aaj TV anchor and said the rent was not that high but was in the range of $ 50 million. Not one to ever digest facts, especially those that prove him wrong, Talat Hussain continued on to say that must be the rent “per month.” The US Secretary of State remained polite and left the Kyrgyzstan base rent figure unresolved.

None of the other “famous and popular” anchors, including Moeed Pirzada, Nasim Zehra, Naveen Naqvi, Mubashir Luqman and others, knew the figure themselves to be able to step in and correct their colleague.

So, what does a simple google search reveal to be the fact?

The US agreed in June 2009 to triple the rent of its base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan to $ 60 million, up from $ 17 million, PER YEAR.

The US also agreed to pay an additional $ 37 million to Kyrgyzstan to build new aircraft parking slots and storage areas, plus another $30 million for new navigation systems. That adds up to a grand total of $ 127 million in the first year and a recurrent payment per year of still $ 60 million only!

Here’s the link to a CBS news story one of many stories on the subject available on the internet, beyond the crazy right-wing dominated Pakistani blogs.

Where did Talat Hussain of Aaj get his figure of $ 700 million per year? Nobody knows. Maybe from his friends Shireen Mazari or Ahmed Quraishi—all purveyors of anti-US opinions with little regard for facts.