Mar 31, 2009 - published work    21 Comments

No news is good news

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Waking up on a Monday morning is an ordeal in any case; waking up to ghastly news is a double whammy. Picking up the newspaper on a Sunday is easier – you can easily forego the news section and go directly to the magazine (or sports section if you are a man) and have breakfast in peace. But no such luck on a Monday. On Mondays, you have to grow up and read the news as it happened the day before.

I braced myself and picked up the Monday edition of Dawn and saw that while US President Obama ruled out deploying troops inside Pakistan, his Defence Secretary Robert Gates clearly stated that Pakistan needs to do more otherwise US troops will have to take matters in their own hands. Does this mean that Obama was speaking for the world media while Gates was speaking to the people who are running, or rather attempting to run, the country called Pakistan?

Another news item reports that a former nazim, district police officer and three other people were killed in Lower Dir – an area adjacent to the troubled Swat valley – while resisting the kidnapping of a local bank manager. In Khyber Agency, 10 khasadars and six religious activists were kidnapped. The Bara-based Lashkar-e-Islam accused Taliban militants of the crime. It seems that army forces and civilians were not enough of a target and now the Taliban are spreading their wings and targeting other Islamist groups.

The front page proved to be too dreadful, so I turned the page only to learn that Pakistan is one of the least popular countries in the world and keeps sterling company with Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Israel.

National news turned out to be a disaster, full of stories about crime against women. In Dadu, a young girl was gang-raped and killed. In Sukkur, a jirga decided to marry off two girls – one of them a minor – to punish their brother, while a mother of two in Layyah fears for her life after being accused of having an extra-marital affair, a punishable crime in Pakistan. What these news stories suggest is that in case you escape regular siege-and-hostage situations and frequent suicide bombings and if you happen to be a woman, chances are, you may not survive the alternative justice system, discriminatory laws and good ol’ patriarchy and misogyny.

The newspaper also carried a report about the YouTube video of ATM robbery incidents in Karachi that are being circulated via email and Facebook: people armed with pistols can be seen robbing citizens using ATM machines. The message the clip gives to people is that working hard is pointless – just get hold of a weapon of your choice and rob anyone at will, safe in the knowledge that no one will apprehend you.

A sad picture of a child working in a recycling plant in Hyderabad and the Economic & Business Review’s analysis of economic doom and the Pakistani rupees’ abysmal standing against world currencies completed the dismal picture. I shook my head and skimmed through the paper once more, looking desperately for just one positive report, but failed to find any good news.

Putting aside the paper, I switched on the TV and witnessed what was perhaps the most disturbing live footage of armed terrorists attacking a police training academy in Lahore. Even though police recaptured the academy with the help of army and paramilitary forces after an eight-hour siege, it left questions about the vulnerability of our security apparatus and the government’s will to bolster it.

While the country is in complete chaos, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is doing his bit to increase European tourism in Pakistan by bringing his firang friends from university – in identical outfits of white kurta-pajama complete with a red silk shawl more appropriate for a mehndi function – to attend daddy’s address to the parliament. We have heard of disaster tourism and poverty tourism in the past, but Bilawal takes the cake for innovative thinking and introducing political tourism in Pakistan.

At times when the country needs a leader to takes charge and do something to combat militancy, everyone from the president to the coterie of ministers are busy issuing rhetorical messages. Pakistan is perhaps the only country in the world where the president and prime minister only ‘condemn’ acts of terror instead of taking concrete actions against them. Someone needs to tell them that condemnation just won’t cut it anymore.

Originally written for Dawn.com

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21 Comments

  • Did you notice, this time, nobody even demanded a resignaton from anybody. We should get the world record for having the most ‘dheet’ politicians in the world.

  • Oh, that’s bad… the newspapers/elctronic media can really make you feel awful at times.

  • this is very bad situation…I hope pakistan survives and be a good nation…

  • Pakistani politics is nothing short of a travelling circus

  • – I am surprised the police training academy didn’t fall to the terrorists — maybe there’s some hope :O

    – Lol @ the European tourists in mehndi outfits!

  • Just curious, is this a Frankenstein situation or a case of the minority becoming powerful with external help? I really am curious.

  • Great piece Tazeen – I read it in Dawn first thing this morning.

    I actually was just lamenting to my friend that there hasn’t been a day lately where Pakistan has had a “slow news day.” Is it awful that I long for the day that I have nothing bad to write about it? Probably not.

  • You still read the paper??? hats off to your bravery woman…it makes me just want to go back to bed so i have been skipping it for the past few months..

  • Whats the point anyway…. I feel no hope, I see no hope, and I wish for no solution. End of story. You are right, what an ordeal, but heck with monday morning or friday nights, Heck with Sunday afternoons. Are these politicians blind, are these leaders brain dead and are these soliders and police junkies out of the squishy brains.
    We are 60+ year old nation with the the thousand year old history of captivity and illiterate traditions. We need to do a lot of things but how and when. Looking at the nature of nature, I truly wonder if we are just puppets in the hand of naturaly phenomenon / cycle of rise and fall of nations. We just happen to be in the era when our nations is simply at the short end of the stick… We are to either flee the scene or turn away. We are doomed.

  • So true Tazeen,
    the present situation is quite depressing..

    But to an extent I would blame our nation for the current situation, since we were given the option to chose our current leaders.

    And the outcome is in the form of Bilawal’s daddy!

    God Bless Pakistan!

  • about the resignation…read this blog http://www.thestudentsview.blogspot.com

  • Is the media really free? It is free when it comes to criticizing the government but not when criticizing the militants.

    Geo news censored Rahman Malik’s press conference yesterday when it named Behtullah Mehsud as the mind behind Lahore attacks. Other channels showed it but Geo consistently blanked it. It did not once show in the News that Behtullah Mehsud is being accused.

    Again, today it is a headline in all major papers that Behtullah Mehsud has accepted responsibility of the attacks and Geo News is not showing it. Similar vaguness is carried out by the News and Jang papers.

    Those of you who interact with Geo, can you write letters to them, talk to them, do anything to shame them for this pro-militants censorship?

  • Ref: Bilawal, I agree! I thought Attaur Rehman with his Islamic tourism was innovation at its best, but political tourism: wah wah

  • http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/media-coverage-hs

    This was Dawn’s editorial today. This was exactly what I was talking about. Media restraint does not always mean stifling the media.

    But as your blog post reads, Tazeen it’s really the bad news that sells. If it’s good news, people really aren’t that interested in. And plus, bad news can always be sensationalized and made to sell if not news worthy enough.

  • This is why I don’t read papers… 🙁

  • People in power have always been treated like royalty in our country. But with the present government it’s reached a new, audacious low. The current democracy is more of a monarchy than any of our previous dictatorships were. At least back in the day we weren’t forced to see the president’s son (and heir apparent) bringing his friends into the parliament to show-off before them the country he and his family ‘own’. I wonder if he also apprised his Mehndi-outfit-clad friends of another honor daddy has held in the past: of being named Mr. Ten percent for his outrageous corruption and looting the country dry.

    For me, Tazeen, waking up every day to the reality of Mr. Zardari presiding over Pakistan is bad news. Bad news and hopelessness that just doesn’t go away anymore.

  • cmon women are into sports too 😛

    PS: very out of tune comment

  • Sometimes I feel they make up news just cos they have to make a days newspaper out of it…

    but yeah there are some genuine news as well…

  • I don’t know much Pakistan is different from India, but reading about these sort of things makes me question whether Pakistan is really a part of South Asia. Seems like it’s descending more and more into chaos. Increasinglt pulled away from it’s mughal past and more into the lawless medivialness of Arabia.

  • Hi,

    I am writing an article on the resilience of people of Pakistan in spite of unending violence by terrorists/Taliban.I would like to use some of your thoughts on this post regarding this topic without revealing your identity.

    Thanks

  • Hi Tazeen,
    ur country is not alone ur neighbouhood is no different. Im from India and I have similar complains against my country 🙁
    I believe that these are gimmics to divert attention from real problems :- poverty and unemployment.

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