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The year that pushed us further from being human

Published Dec 31, 2012 08:19am


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So here we are. 2012 comes to an end. It has been as eventful a year as can be. I am not sure, if it has been good or bad but it hasn't been disappointing. It managed to carry its share of stresses and anger which is most proverbial to Pakistan. 

It is difficult to read news in Pakistan and not get angry about it. You often think you are in the wrong profession. For a media organisation, bad news being in good supply should mean the business is good. But it is not. Certainly for channels competing for ratings, they may deliver such news with a certain pressure of speech and a dramatic sense of urgency; screaming with all the breath in your lungs as if it was the last war cry.

But soon it starts resembling a cockfight because it is an every day affair. And you find yourself in awe of this fight, anxiously betting in the hope that you might win a few dimes. But if you are perpetually the harbinger of bad news, you want to step back and think before you say anything. Because you have a sense of belonging to the same people you bring this news to. Reporting on the Ashura blasts, you want to make sure the information is correct when you are fully aware of the fact that your Interior Minister has suspended mobile services on the pretext of security. There might be readers out there whose loved ones may have gone to a Majlis or a procession. Why panic them unless you really know? In smaller a way, at the least you can act more responsibly than the Interior Minister.

Not that it always goes in your favour, you build a reputation for not breaking stories. To the extent that when you do break them, no one notices. But you breathe a sigh of relief when you are cautious and get it right. We are all humans. We make mistakes. But if we continue learning from these and more importantly, admit when we make one, it somehow gives us the strength to carry on in this cut throat competition. And that too in a country which is perpetually at war with itself hence, another dilemma. Everyone asks us to cover the good stories too. As if what is happening in Pakistan really isn't happening. It is all a figment of our imagination. We try, because we, too, are desperate for good stories. I earnestly wish we could do more.

We made our share of mistakes in 2012. But a clarification is in order here. We did not entertain the demands of some of our readers of taking such and such feature, news item or blog off our pages, and there have been many. I would like to emphasise here that we are willing to publish a rebuttal to a certain article or news story giving it equal prominence. We are willing to apologise or regret an error or accept an oversight in editorial judgment but removing what has been published is not what should be done on websites. In the world of the world wide web, removing anything is more embarrassing than making the first mistake of publishing something that clearly betrayed your error of judgment. Someone might have written something and linked to it; someone might have taken screenshots and may accuse you of trying to wipe off your tracks. It is the nature of the internet which is different from print and television media. Somewhere, someone will find it.

At we get our fair share of blame and we routinely publish this criticism  But what we do not publish are comments that are plain rude, make accusations without substantiating, promote hatred and violence against any race, religion, nation, community, gender, and in particular children. We also receive threats and tread this landmine carefully, if nothing else for the safety of our staff and contributors. I am not complaining, I am sure in our times all professionals face similar hardships. I just want to share an insider's view so that as a reader you might be able to forgive us … sometimes.

We are perpetually short staffed given the momentum of our time, the flow of information and the interaction taking place between a reader and an author. I understand that readers don't care about these limitations and expect us to listen to what they have to say, which is their right. We try but sometimes we fail. Not because we do not care. It’s because we are humans.

I am sure by now you must think that I am obsessed with the idea of being human while talking about 2012. You are right, I am. Earlier when I said that we do not publish anything especially against children, it was because for me this was the worst year for our children. Even though we started with tragedies like the Bhoja Air Crash, the usual conspiracy theories and whether an elected Prime Minister stood disqualified or not. We remained glued to our screens by the curious cases of our military bases becoming the favorite targets of militants as it seemed like a battle of survival.

But despite all this, it was the year when in Pakistan a lot of people forgot to be human. We burnt down the places where we could dream collectively. We silently witnessed the scene of a young man falling to his death while the crews normally went about filming it as if it was all enacted. We started targetting our children for refusing to enroll in an imaginary holy mission of Jihad. After the Malallazai Attack, a TTP statement clarified that once Hazrat Khizre had also killed a child. It was as if the Taliban were Hazrat Khizre. Ironically, in one of its verdicts the Supreme Court of Pakistan also ruled a defendant not being a Sadiq and Ameen.

Both, our level of the judgment of ourselves, and others did not seem human any more. While we could have put behind bars a child with down syndrome and that too on the fictitious charges of blasphemy, both the above statements escaped our attention. Suffice it to say, I became obsessed with being human in 2012.

I felt being human was a blessing because if you did make a mistake despite all your faculties focused on not making one, you could sit back, see through it, admit, repent and ask for forgiveness. It is better than trying to be God or angels and administering your views of justice to hapless children who could instead be saved with simple polio drops. Had Adam not taken the step to be human, would we be here?

Listen to my Urdu Blog

[soundcloud url="" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

Musadiq Sanwal is the Editor at 


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Comments (15) Closed

Ajaya K Dutt Jan 01, 2013 04:07am
I second it with glee.
Neeraj Bhushan Jan 02, 2013 04:19pm
What a review! I also heard the soundcloud audio. Liked throughout. Thanks for the boldness which you told your story.
George Jan 01, 2013 08:05pm
For years the rich and upper middle classes in Pakistan have been living illegitimately on the earnings of the lower classes. Upper class Pakistanis have been living off the alms from the developed world, which was actually being sent to help the poor of the state. But by living off borrowed/ donated money and not paying any taxes or if I can say the least possible and evading taxes wherever possible the upper classes ensured they could enjoy all the goodies. And as if this wasn't enough the upper classes unleashed the worst possible corruption on the country. The turn of events Pakistan now finds itself is therefore not a surprise. The "have-nots" thus grabbed the opportunity they got and raised there morbid heads against the state. Pakistan is now an international embarrassment. Upper class Pakistanis want a continuation of there "free-ride" the lower classes are finding it difficult to remain alive due to rampant corruption, inflation and lawlessness. The state is fast losing its legitimacy to exist.
AHA Jan 01, 2013 03:26pm
Wow, simply superb.
nnn12 Jan 01, 2013 09:25am
I am impressed..especially .... the last line, just can't digest...well said.
nnn12 Jan 01, 2013 09:18am
I am impressed...
Koi-Kon Jan 01, 2013 01:33pm
Like most of you guys there...Master Stroke
Omar Jan 01, 2013 06:01am
I have now been gone from Pakistan for some 40 odd years and have have made my life in the U.S. The retrospective editorial from Musadiq Sunwal is one I would hold up against the best that any western newsmedia editor might offer. Actually, if, I think of it, more honest than most western editors might offer.
Samar Dec 31, 2012 03:35pm
This touched the very human core of me, specially the last four lines. Intelligently put!
asif siddiqi Dec 31, 2012 02:42pm
I absolutely loved every word you wrote . You are one of the few decent human beings still left in our country. Can i solute you sir?
osama Dec 31, 2012 05:13pm
no complains against newspapaper....ever
pathanoo Jan 01, 2013 06:03pm
An EXCELLENT ARTICLE ONLY TO BE SUPERSEEDE BY THE COMMENTS BY MUSADIQ SANWAL'S URDU BLOG. WHAT LUMINOUS THOUGHTS BY MUSADIQ!! Dawn and it's staff is a credit to Pakistan. It is one of the very few sane voices and a flickering light of rationality in a sea of hatred, fanaticism, exclusion, killiing and religious barberity. MY HATS OFF TO YOU DAWN AND MUSADIQ SANWAL. MAY THE GOOD LORD BLESS YOU ALL AND KEEP YOU IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND.
Rob Jan 01, 2013 04:22pm
Dawn never published negative remarks about India or its own columnists. It is not a fair newspaper.
R Naqvi Jan 01, 2013 11:11am
I read your article twice and both times I felt the knots in my stomach. My heart feels heavy and even though I should rejoice knowing that it's a new day, a new year. I feel melancholic, mainly because there is nothing right now that can make me feel hopeful about the lives we're living. No matter how much I try to tell myself that change will come, at this point, I only see a bleak future. I just hope that people learn to become humans before they meet their maker.
Isadora Dec 31, 2012 08:56pm
Excuse me for expressing an opinion since I'm not from Pakistan and really don't understand the country all that much. However, in reading the site as often as I do, I find I'm angry too much of the time - at the violence I see, but I'm also encouraged when I read the comments of others who are also angry, and I have so much respect for Dawn because I appreciate its courage. Happy New Year Dawn. Carry on.