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Urdu is our national language and is the language of the majority of our religious books. Our ulemas and religious leaders are very articulate expressing themselves in Urdu. It is also called the ‘Army camp’s language’ and fits our national psyche of a warrior race.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar

Urdu columns provide the energy that runs the engine of Urdu journalism in Pakistan. Urdu columns are read by millions as Urdu newspapers are shared in homes, tea stalls, hotels, hair salons, offices, buses, trains, airplanes, while the English columns are buried in just a few thousand readers. Becoming a successful Urdu columnist is the stepping stone to becoming a host of popular news channel.  Here are the top 10 golden rules for a successful career in Urdu journalism.

1.    Throw out all English literature, preferably sell it to raddiwalah and buy a few red hardbound books with golden printing. Buy a few books of Urdu poets, preferably Allama Iqbal. The rest are easily available on footpaths on Sundays. These books will come in handy when you are starting a column.

Keep a copy of firozullughat, a book with lot of fancy words and a cassette of a mullah from the local mosque. Use flowery and emotional language like dialogues in our television plays and films.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar

2.    Use prophetic language in your column much like, O People, Why don’t you ponder on open signs! Don’t you seeth the signs of the arrival of a messiah! The sign art in front of thee! Write about the politician you are supporting for the next elections. A divine halo will shine throughout the column if you quote from the early Islamic period from the red hardbound books. Make sure to repeat that story or quote at the end of a column. For reference read the columns of Kaptan ur Rashid.

3.    Create a character of a simpleton or village idiot and name him Jhera, Bala or Natho etc. and then use him to mouth your recipes to get Pakistan out of the present crisis without worrying about practical implementations, or fact and figures for your recipes. This character is very useful for your suggestions like, what use is the $16 billion foreign reserves if these reserves are not distributed among people of Pakistan.

4.    Poetry is like a processor that runs the computer. Poetry can be used to reverse all arguments in your favour. Use poetry as a building block and proof of your argument e.g. if you want to rubbish democracy, you don’t need to go into the details of the social contract, Rousseau, John Locke and others to establish your argument. All you have to do is quote a couplet from Iqbal, ‘juda ho din siyasat se, tau reh jati hai changezy’. Also poetry is useful when you can’t give facts and figures e.g writing about a budget; just give a couplet, like, ‘lafzoon ka ghorakh dhanda’. Don’t tax yourself about the root causes of division in Pakistan; just a couplet will establish your argument,

Yun tou Syed bhi ho, Mirza bhi ho, Afghan bhi ho Tum sabhi kuch ho batao tou Musalmaan bhi ho

Always remember this thumb rule, if you don’t have any knowledge on a particular subject, throw in some couplets.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar

5.    Often mention in your columns how you have travelled around the world and met a lot of successful Pakistanis living abroad. Expat nouveau-riche Pakistanis want to publicise their new found status in columns that are read by their relatives in Pakistan. They sponsor columnists’ visits abroad. Never mention your host directly. Make a story about how you were marooned in an unfamiliar country which is when the kindhearted, rich expat Pakistan came to your rescue and offered his hospitality. Only mention the names of his family if they hosted you and paid for airfare. Don’t write this column the moment you land in Pakistan, make them wait for two weeks before you return the favour.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar

6.    When you meet a politician don’t write about it. Only write about it casually so that people get the impression that you are always sought after by the bigwig politicians who are dying to seek your advice on political affairs. Tell the tales of how these politicians want to listen to your gems of wisdom to solve the problems of this society.

7.    Always start your column by condemning Western media that is being controlled by the Jews for spreading lies against Muslims. Also mention the conspiracies being hatched by think tanks in Western capitals. But when you need a reference, quote it from Western books, newspapers and think tank researches like the New Stanford/NYU studies as that would give your opinion credibility.

8.    Paint yourself as a true patriot on a holy mission to reform the society. Attack only politicians as they will not counter attack you because they are eager to show themselves as tolerant and democratic. Stay safe and don’t mess with powerful state/non state actors.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar

9.    Respect public opinion and discard informed opinion. If the public believes that Americans are the only source of problems in Pakistan or that the Taliban brought peace to Afghanistan or that Muslims are destined to eventually conquer all world or that the Pakistani Taliban are Indian and American agents, always stay on the course of popular narrative and don’t try to educate people.

‘Learn from people’s wisdom’, should be your motto. If you support Pervez Cowboy over Agha Waqar’s water car, you should look for another profession.

-Illustration by Sabir Nazar

10.    The cornerstone of your every article should be the ‘honour’ of the nation, family and ummah. For further help, study Zaid Hamid, Imran Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmad. The psychological cure of honour is the Achilles heel of the Pakistani nation. Use words like qaumi ghairat, puppet Muslim rulers, great resources of the nation and true leadership.


The author left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo. He is the jack of all trades.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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Comments are closed.

Comments (37)

Mohsin A Babar
November 21, 2012 5:47 pm
U just proved your point by adding Imran Khan into your sarcasm... Hypocrasy, no matter how far we travel away from it, it catches up to us..
Sajjad Hussain
November 22, 2012 12:59 am
A couple of days ago a Chaudhry Sahib in his column in an Urdu daily 'informed' his readers that there were 20 million jobless graduates in Pakistan. Now the total number of graduates in this country are not more than 15 million. Chaudry Sahib has added another 5 million and then he tells us that each and every graduate in Pakistan is jobless. This is how he disinforms his readers and churns out fictitious numbers every day to put force in his fallacious arguments.
Salman Naveed Butt
November 21, 2012 10:21 pm
A very stereotypical analysis on the whole. Calling the entire group of a particular linguistic intelligentsia as a group of clowns or victims of emotionality and irrationality, is height if imbecility in itself. I only found a couple of points, pertaining to poetry as well as the absence of scientific inquiry as valid. The rest is mere rhetoric.
Sujjawal Barlaas
November 21, 2012 9:32 am
An excellent article and you have thoroughly observed the Urdu "NEWS" Papers "Columns" which is highly visible in you article. Well done and Carry On.
November 21, 2012 9:50 am
It is a precise and exact analysis of the Urdu columns and anchors who appear on T.V channels. Majority of them write columns following certain formula, without any research and think it is incumbent upon them to criticize every thing that is against their liking and expect that government should take every step with their consultation.They are always somewhat snobbish, pose themselves as holy men and lately they have adopted a new style of using invectives against those whom they don't like. It is a negative trend but it can't be curbed because they are giving the public what it wants and they are least interested in educating them.
Noor Ahmad Khan
November 22, 2012 11:20 am
Ignore the facts, manipulate emotions and create a hype; that's the formula.
November 21, 2012 12:16 pm
Well Done. Excellent insight about urdu columns & columnist. Highly liked it.
November 21, 2012 9:18 am
???? !!!!!
reality not selected truth
November 21, 2012 12:47 pm
A very shallow article anyone who reads both newspapers without doing any background check reaches these conclusions. Depth required to understand more should be there. Whatever is written is more true for english writers. Shunning urdu and looking only into english is typical of people writing english columns it is so obvious from what they write. This is though the trend of all educated people as well of last 2 decades which is a shame. Not true of urdu writers as mostly are educated and have insight into both english and urdu writers. Much is wrong in english newspapers and that goes for historical facts as well. Strat reading urdu books you are missing out on alot.
November 21, 2012 1:40 pm
Absolute bigotry. Same is good for english columnists, where there are other rules!!!
Shahid Latif
November 21, 2012 1:48 pm
Good light humor. Reminds me of great humorist late Shafiqur Rehman. While some Urdu columnist may fall into the category described, not all are truly reflected. The contents of quite a few of them are very shallow. But then this is true for English newspapers in USA or elsewhere too.
Siddiqui, khi
November 21, 2012 2:13 pm
no doubt English is also a spiritually and morally hollow and dead language just like the western civilization its the pseudo-intellectuals
nain tara
November 21, 2012 2:27 pm
I am really impressed by this analysis and think I should also try these rules but I can't be so biased and partial as our Urdu columnists do.Please post it on the face book of all the urdu columnists, that may bring a change in there attitude.I use the word attitude because problem is not with the language, but with the attitude and perspective.
November 21, 2012 2:43 pm
These days, there is only one rule to get instantly popular: Criticize Imran Khan!! :D
Ritesh Hyderabad India
November 21, 2012 3:20 pm
Hats off to you sir! Great job!
November 21, 2012 3:22 pm
'Tashakur' is an Arabic word and this script you posted is also Arabic. Urdu word is 'Shukria'. But this will surely appeal to some Pakistanis bent on turning Pakistan into an Arab country.
November 21, 2012 3:28 pm
How about not using English phrases when there is a clear Urdu substitute. This applies to Urdu TV news as well and drama serials. Next time you watch one of these see if you can find Urdu substitutes for the English they will surely use.
November 22, 2012 9:35 am
Urdu is in between Hindi and Arabic.Purist want Pakistan to be an Arabic country.
Dar Jee
November 21, 2012 4:09 pm
I have written regular Urdu columns. I have no way of knowing how popular they were, except a hint that no one I know has read them, unless I specifically asked them to. I haven't so far considered the experience a failure, simply because I couldn't see any reason for failure. Now I do. Wish I knew the golden rules then.
Cyrus Howell
November 21, 2012 4:14 pm
The only thing wrong with English newspapers is that the writers start sentences (and even paragraphs) with conjunctions. They teach others to do the same. In other words "and" and "but" are not to be used for punctuation. People everywhere are not as educated as they once were. When newspaper writers stop beginning sentences with conjunctions they will at least look better educated. I get my history from people who are and were smarter than I am.
November 21, 2012 4:38 pm
Well written and raises very valid observations. But the art of quoting selective facts to support one's own biased point-of-view is not limited to Urdu columnists only... many english writers do the same. And if urdu columnists stay away from western literature, many english columnists also stay far away from local ground realities.
nain tara
November 24, 2012 6:12 pm
Urdu columnists are never to the point , most of the time they are irrelevant beating about the bush,they narrate stories and quote verses, there used to be people like Munoo Bhai who wrote columns after proper research but now they just drag a few lines in urdu and try to appeal to your emotions and not reason and column is ready.
Dr Khan
November 21, 2012 4:49 pm
wonderful. I have been reading urdu news papers for almost 15 years. I agree with every word you wrote about urdu columnists. I would like to add one more thing for writing urdu column. One must read all Nasim Hijazi novels to become a top urdu columnist.
November 21, 2012 5:02 pm
good analysis of the readers we have with the appropriate Tag of urdu columns.
Tauqeer Alam
November 21, 2012 9:52 pm
Not only Kaptan ur Rasheed but many other Siddiqis and Qasmis are of the same tribe. The writer has done a great job and made it easy to write an Urdu column in the typical style. One thing, perhaps, he omitted to write that our renowned columnists repeatedly exercise is, for time saving and money making purpose, they reproduce their archives without any expression of regret or shame. Anyways, Mr. Sabir Nazar has pleased readers including me too much.
Noor Ahmad Khan
November 22, 2012 11:18 am
Right on spot! Add to this list "A wild imagination for conspiracy theories".
Ejaz Butt
November 22, 2012 11:09 am
A wonderful article indedd. The writer's observation is sharp and accurate of Urdu Columnists style. I used to read Urdu writers columns daily but recently I hae lost interest in them. The reason being that they write the same thing over and over again. Most of the columinists are right wing and have one focused view without any flexiblity.
November 22, 2012 6:41 am
There's a column in Nawai-e-Waqt by the name of Sar-e-Rahe. I encourage you to take time out of your solipsistic schedule to take a gander. The difference in the quality of satire and humor between you and the author of the column aforementioned should be an eye opener.
November 22, 2012 7:01 am
The writer is absolutely spot on, however, it is really unfair to purposely drag Imran Khan in every thing. What he has to do with what columnists are writing? It is an unfortunate and malicious trend on news media to try to pigeonhole Imran Khan as some sort of right winger extremist. He has become a soft target and every one knows that just mentioning his name can easily get you lots of attraction for your article/blog. Criticize him for whatever he says but in proper context. Don't try to create confusion please.
Dr Khan
November 22, 2012 3:32 pm
"tashakur" is a persian word not arabic. arabic word is "shukran"
shahroz khurshid
November 21, 2012 7:08 pm
nice ........ i m already feeling like a columist.... thnaks.......:D
Zahid T Ahmad
November 26, 2012 8:29 am
U were my student for a while during my stay with NCA teaching Architecture. Surprised to see U transformed into a columnist/cartoonist.
November 21, 2012 9:12 am
Totally agree with the observations of this article. There is a huge difference between whtas written in english and urdu even by the same publishing house. Totally different narratives, different arguents, different conclusions. Does look like its meant for the same street bookstore.
Jamila (Karachi)
November 21, 2012 5:55 pm
Well I have spent my entire life reading mostly Urdu newspapers and literature. I think that the writer of this article has made some great observations about these Urdu columnists who are riding on the wave of populist (yellow" journalism and have destroyed the psyche of this nation. I think that it is you need to discard your biased spectacles and understand the truth!!
Maarij Syed
November 21, 2012 5:29 pm
Well written.... So why is it that these are the established tricks of the trade for a successful urdu paper columnist but lose their usefulness for their english medium counterparts?
November 21, 2012 10:58 am
Zabardast kaptaan ur rasheed :D
November 24, 2012 3:13 pm
What is he trying to say? There is no single good Urdu columnist? If he is so dissatisfied with the quality of Urdu columns, why not start writing columns in Urdu and show us how an exemplary Urdu column should be written? Pathetic.
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