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Smokers’ Corner: Zipper catches skin

Published Jun 24, 2012 12:00am


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All of a sudden all that talk about how the presence of a strong independent judiciary and media has finally sealed the spectre of military take-overs in Pakistan now seems like wishful thinking.

Of course, there are the usual murmurs about how the fall from grace of civilian politicians, media and judiciary is being orchestrated by the shadowy ones within the country’s security and military agencies, but…

Yes, but. Even though one can never rule out the possibility in Pakistan of these agencies secretly making a meal out of civilian representatives in political parties and the media and preparing the ground for yet another messianic take-over by a oh-so-concerned military man, those bemoaning and groaning about such a possibility have themselves largely undermined the traits and actions that could safeguard them from becoming so easily disposable.

I shall not go into the details of the many events in the media, the judiciary and the parliament that are now threatening the country to capitulate and fall back into the waiting lap of a military dictator.

I will not indulge in the more heavyweight examples in this respect that are already well documented and commented upon. The following ones may be a tad cheeky and light, but are equally relevant and telling of the discussed dilemma.

First one has to do with a TV anchor who, to me, is one of finest we have at the moment. I had the chance to bond with him for a few days at a conference and found him to be an intelligent and passionate man, but a tad too impulsive.

I’m afraid it is such impulsiveness coupled with the amoral cynicism of the dreadful ratings game that has often seen a number of TV anchors make a mockery of the whole idea of the freedom of the media.

On the day Malik Riaz held his infamous press conference in Islamabad, the usual talking heads on TV got down to the business of rambling their loud long nothings.

One channel placed a call to the anchor I was talking about and who works for another TV channel. The said anchor while discussing the fall-out of Malik’s press conference suddenly blew his top by suggesting that Malik was lying while holding a copy of the Quran in his hand.

First of all, how can a journalist give such a damning verdict on mainstream media without any proof or evidence?  That’s not all. On that day Islamabad was witnessing stormy weather, with rains, winds and all.

Lo & behold! This is what the angry anchor went on to suggest: ‘Malik Riaz lied while holding the Quran in his hand. And when people start doing this, Allah sends down great catastrophes. When Riaz was lying, outside a great and scary storm was building.
This is Allah’s wrath!’

Of course it’s another thing that a majority of Islamabad’s residents actually found the wrathful weather rather pleasant.

Had the anchor been a hyper-ventilating cleric, one would have moved on with a chuckle. But here was a man who is expected to give us insightful analysis on politics and society, not lectures of divinely ordained doomsday scenarios!

Then there was this other guy, a well-known print journalist who is also a regular (as guest/expert) on TV. Invited to a TV talk show to discuss the repercussions of the unflattering bungling committed by two self-righteous (but now disgraced) TV anchors in that leaked video featuring Malik Riaz, the journalist began talking about media ethics.

Fair enough, but, alas, he all of sudden tripped off to a wholly unrelated tangent and began complaining about how many journalists drink and gamble on the premises of the Karachi Press Club!

Mind you, this gentleman is the same star journalist who was furious when TV channels ran that infamous flogging video two years ago in which a religious fanatic was flogging a woman in public in Swat.

How seriously can one ever take men who are supposed to share insights and information on various political matters if they keep going off and begin to sound like angry clerics bellowing into a loud microphone about divine retribution and sins of men?
Not very.

Lastly I would like to also mention the footage shown on TV in which the CJP was castigating a member of the PEMRA. What can one say?

Instead I will relate a film I once caught on a local film channel. The film was called ‘Aalami Ghunday’ (International Scoundrels).

It was a sequel of the evergreen, International Gorrilay — a 1991 cinematic farce that sees Salman Rushdie inexplicably giving up writing novels and becoming an international gangster out to destroy Pakistan and Islam through a diabolical combination of blonde-wigged Zionist agents, a series of casinos and some truly terrible dialogue!

In Aalami Ghunday there was one scene that made my day. In it a woman, the heroine, in a red dress that was a grotesque cross between a Wonder Woman costume and a Bedouin desert tent, was arguing with a lawyer in a court room.

I have no idea what the case was about. All I saw was the heroine shouting away and condemning the spread of obscenity in a country made in the name of Islam, and passionately lamenting the practice of dishing out law according to “ghair mulki” (foreign) law books. Incidentally a pile of such infidel books lay neatly stacked in front of the judge.

The heroine ran forward, picked up the books and flung them into the air (all in slow-motion), pleading that the prisoner’s case should be heard according to “Islami qanoon” (Islamic law).

The judge suddenly becomes animated by the lady’s populist hysterics and obliges. Just like that.

Well, the sort of qanoon she was pleading for would have first and foremost booked her for her delicious sense of dressing, but that’s beside the point, no? Even though I didn’t take this piece of cinematic nonsense seriously, I did wonder, were there those who did take it seriously? Or worse, were there even those who actually decided to act upon the message that the film delivered?

These are exactly the questions that come to mind when the media, judiciary and their unabashed fans in political circles decide to go divine. For good moral reasons I’m sure, but, of course, tends to do wonders for the ratings as well.


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Author Image

Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and He is also the author of two books on the social history of Pakistan, End of the Past and The Pakistan Anti-Hero.

He tweets @NadeemfParacha

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (39) Closed

Pathanoo Jun 24, 2012 05:26pm
Dear Hassan, I am a grateful and proud American of Indian ancestory with connections to undivided India. I accept the fact and right of Pakistanis to their home land. I only wish them well, peace and prosperity. Pakistani people are good people. They have been brain washed and fed nothing but hatred by their politicians to hide their own ceiminalities.
Karachi Wala Jun 24, 2012 03:31pm
NFP. When people like you and I were going to school and colleges, Mulla and Gunda culture in our society was very naive. All of the students knew who was Jamaatia and the one who acted somewhat rebelious was therefore called a Surkha and was duly lebelled a communist. But I tell you what, in today’s Pakistan beard less people like Hamid Mir and Hameed Gul are leading the pack and one wonders if Hameed Gul was the one who financed Aalmi Ghunday. It is a very disturbing and scary thought……
ArK Jun 24, 2012 11:34am
none of these folks that you mentioned in your article have basic honesty in them. they thrive in their so-called professions because they've mastered the art of hippocracy!!! what's worse is the fact the the general public is divided over these pseudo-intellectuals and pretty much believes whatever nonsense they utter. shame on the 'free press and media' in Pakistan for being so blatantly irresponsible.
Abhishek Singh Jul 18, 2012 03:26pm
And who told you all this, God? Can you give me one evidence of God.
@SecularPakista1 Jun 25, 2012 01:05am
If God made the world then who made God? Such an archiac and Neanderthal thinking in the 21-Century.
no use for a name Jun 25, 2012 01:00am
what a joke pakistan has become!
Tahir Jun 25, 2012 01:19am
I've got a bridge that I'd like to sell you. It's cheap and will allow you to live in the US.
abc Jun 24, 2012 10:44pm
great logic indeed. bravo!!!!!!!! thats the way to go for pakistan.
Munir Varraich Jun 24, 2012 06:54am
For the Pakistani Mindset, be it Judiciary, Media, or the Parliament and the public at large, the only way to feel secure is to get back to "Islam", that way the "Farangi" can be opposed and contained. That was the exact Mindset of the "Mutineers" when they approached The Last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. They also narrated "men with big green turbans on horse backs" leading them and who vanished when they reached the Palace. Even the Emperor followed suit and convinced himself of the "divine help" which had come and he took it as a signal of the victory of the Mughal Empire and an end to the "Farangi Rule in India". No logical thinking, no scientific reasoning, simply "blind and emotional" attachment to "religion" with a conditon - only in times of "defeat and set backs". When the going is good, the "party goes on" whether they are the uniformed rulers or the civis and ofcourse now the Media has also tasted the "blood of the people" and sure the Media finds it very intoxicating, all anchors and analysts included. But genetically there has hardly been any evolution when it comes to Islam. The Mindset response to "Farangi" is still morphed in 1857. MAV Sweden
fida sayani Jun 24, 2012 11:01am
NFP, you are no different from the 2 TV anchors you keep on talking about. A honorable reporter would have spelled the names of TV anchors, which you have failed to do so.
observer Jun 25, 2012 03:50am
NFP, please name the names. I am not too current on TV anchors of Pakistan news channels. So, much of flavor of your article was lost in no names. What are you afraid of?
Cyrus Howell Jun 25, 2012 02:43am
Isn't governing Pakistan all about being on TV and in the newspapers, or do I have it wrong?
abdulrashid01 Jun 24, 2012 02:48pm
"kisay wakil karain, kis say munsafi chahain".(who will plead our case and from whom we expect justice) Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Satish Sharma Jun 24, 2012 02:19pm
Nadeem ... Name Names .. Don't write in crypt -- it's not "usefull" .. in this case the metaphor would be run naked in the streets in the name of truth!
Dehwar Jun 24, 2012 09:51pm
The main bone of contention is whether Islamic injunctions are legal or moral catigaries. When Muslims say Islam commands daily prayers or bans alcohol, are they talking about public obligations that will be enforced by the state or personal ones that will be judged by God?
Cindy Jun 24, 2012 11:09am
"...mockery of the whole idea of the freedom of the media". With due respect sir, that is the very essence of freedom of speech. Your diatribes owe much to it, and to the charity of Dawn.
Ghani Khan Niazi Jun 26, 2012 01:01pm
Making mockery of every thing slightly on the right of the centre is NFP's forte. While he uses his pen under the shelter provided by a prominant daily, anyone else expressing his/her opinion contrary to his thinking is ridiculed.I would like to see him writing a critique on present state of affairs. Of course he shuns it because he is the voice of PPP.
SabaAftab Jun 29, 2012 12:26pm
great as ever. you're a wrier which I love the most. the best parts were the wrathful weather and the movie scene. keep it up, bro!
nasr Jun 24, 2012 06:33am
Loved it,keep spilling the beans ,sir...
Mehmood Jun 24, 2012 09:25am
The judge responding to populist hysterics. Very cleverly put NFP. :)
Pathanoo Jun 24, 2012 06:17am
Forgive me for asking this. But, I wonder at times whether Allah looks down at Paksitan and has second thoughts.
hassan Jun 24, 2012 08:48am
great thought, who ever you are
rk singh Jun 24, 2012 09:33am
LOL. Great piece NFP.
sabi Jun 24, 2012 02:14pm
the so called constitution of pakistan gives protections only to mullah and theire bosses aka dictatores and there is nothing for a commen man. the only way left forward is to have a new constitution a secular one leaving no room for any one to exploit religion for his vested intrest.
l.Khan Jun 24, 2012 01:49pm
The CJ is now tainted in the mud of his son.He should step aside let the army do its dirty work without his help!
Karachi Wala Jun 24, 2012 03:47pm
If I am wrong someone please correct me, as a reputed journatlist one refrains from naming names.
Mlang Jun 24, 2012 06:02pm
Zipper catches skin..
Cheema Jun 24, 2012 05:44pm
In NFP's world he is correct and others are wrong. And others dont have the right to express their opinions. Why NFP is trying to be the judge on other anchors/media people. Let people decide. They can choose what channels they want to watch. Dawn has its TV channel. NFP believes in Democracy which has no room for people who disagree with NFP.
Syed Mehmood Jun 24, 2012 05:53am
Excellent! I toowas shocked when Mir said that and, of course, what else to expect from Ansar Abbasi, the guy who wanted the TV channels to stop playing the video of Taliban flogging that poor woman. TV anchors and their favorite guests have become a horror show.
lubna Jun 24, 2012 05:33pm
invoking GOD in mundane matters is logical because GOD made this world and who created this world and the all living beings has all rights reserved for him to make mundane laws (physical or moral )for them.the only thing is that God doesnot give you choice to go out of any physical laws(like you have to eat when you are hungry,have to sleep when tired,have to breath whether you want not to breath)but he give you choice to do or not to do the moral /ethical laws because God want to test you .now mr kuldeep you understand why mundane is not private and if it is then I dare you to not follow physical laws.If you dont follow physical laws you get the punishment in the form of disease or accidents right then and there but with moral laws no immediate punishment or reward will be given in this world but will be given in the hereafter since this is our test.I hope you and also mr nfp now understand this simple logic
abdulrashid01 Jun 24, 2012 06:12am
"kisay wakil karain, kis say munsafi chahain".(who will plead our case and from whom we expect justice) Faiz Ahmed Faiz What Mr Paracha is talking is all Greek to the Islamists spread over all the regions of our society. This at best be treated as a wake up call and patiently wait for the evolutionary processes to change things. "Wabasta reh shajar say, umeed e bahar rakh"(we can only for the advent of better times. A Rashid
Bhatti Jun 24, 2012 07:33am
It's people like NFP who are desperately required on TV. But I've heard he avoids this and has declined many offers. I can understand why, but along with Najam Sethi he can counterbalance the madness that goes on in the local electronic media.
Capt Mansur Jun 24, 2012 08:10am
Power struggle exists is in other countries as well but, the Power struggle in Pkaistan is Top of the Pops. It is illeteracy coupled with Corruption that has made Hypocrcy so much easy. There is no solution except perhaps, DOOM.
Kuldip Gupta Jun 24, 2012 08:13am
Banish Religion from Public domain. It must be contained in individuals personal domain.Raking up issues like someone holding Quran and speaking lies is ridiculous and demeaning to ones intellect.Why people have to invoke GOD on mundane and secular issues like corruption.
Syed Mehmood Jun 24, 2012 08:19am
Well said.
shaukat ali chughtai Jun 25, 2012 09:06pm
We undoubtedly need to create a a Solid Socialist Party in Pakistan. NFP. Can u initiate.
Dr Diya Jun 25, 2012 09:47pm
I agree, this is what nearly always happens in our media, bet it print or electron one!
dr sabih Jun 27, 2012 05:40am
every sane person wants to move to USA, BECAUSE they are tired of onsence people who continuesly want to ionvade each others life .
Soulkitchen Jun 28, 2012 07:00am
He looks at humanity or lack of it and has second thoughts. If he/she/it actually is there