Browsing "Social Media"

Why my instagram account sucks?

I was at work when this kid  – at my age all fresh faced recent graduates seem like kids – asks, “Is anybody on Facebook these days?” Before any of us uncool (read old) people could’ve confessed to having an active FB account, he went, “Only women in their fifties are using Facebook, and Twitter is for attention seeking celebrities and bitter politicians; people who matter are on Instagram and snapchat.”

Now I don’t even want to know what snapchat is (okay I know what it is but I never ever want to go there, like ever!) but I do have an Instagram so I reassured myself that I may not yet be a relic from days past. I must confess that I only made an account because my phone was acting weird and every picture I took came out with a bluish hue, and unless I filtered the hell outta all the pictures they looked like they belonged in smurf world. That is how my Instagram account was born. But one look at my follower count and you would know it hasn’t seen much success since its arrival into the world. Even people who are my FB friends do not follow me on Instagram. For a while I was hurt by this cyber neglect from friends but then realized there are reasons why my Instagram sucks:


No panoramic views with positive gyan

No kidding, but there are people out there who wake up in the morning, take amazing panoramic shots from their windows, perhaps a selfie while contorting their bodies into some yoga asana and spread a positive message about winning the day, capturing the moment or something equally cheesy. I, on the other hand, wake up with just enough time to make myself presentable before I hop on the subway to get to work. I also do not live in a posh building overlooking a lake or an idyllic park. How many photographs can a person take of their backyard? Hence no early morning images to make my fellow Instagrammers hit that follow button.

No brunching with ‘my girls’

I work from 8.00 am to 5.00 pm. It is humanly impossible for me to do brunch. I eat granola bars or random bananas and yogurt on the subway and grab my caffeine of choice on my way to work. Secondly, a lack of ‘my girls’ in Toronto (where I live these days) is a bit of a hindrance in taking glam shots over a meal that didn’t even exist when I was young. My girls with whom I would love to brunch (yes, brunch is so cool, it is practically a verb now) live in places far far away, like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Mumbai, Chennai, London, The Hague, Los Angeles and New York (okay New York is not that far away, I concede).

My office is not cool (neither am I)

Yes, offices in chic post-industrial loft style buildings with brick walls, exposed beams, high ceilings and cute cacti on desks where hipsters and cool people work do exist outside Indie films. I have been to at least three to know it’s true, but I do not work in a place like that. My workplace is a windowless, doorless cubicle and I am a human drone barley existing in that corporate environment. All I can do is post photos of a whiteboard where someone has written something illegible. The most excitement I can do is post a picture of the coffee machine. Plus, I work on an old-fashioned Dell desktop, not the latest gizmo from the Apple stable. In all honestly, even if I had a Macbook Air, I could not post a selfie with a line like “Getting my workaholic on.” I mean, seriously?!

No selfies!

Selfie might have been the word of 2013 and everyone from Kim Kardashain to Barak Obama is taking one – or one thousand – but I have never taken a selfie. Yes, not even a single one. Nor do I plan to start now, unless someone is offering me money to do it. I mean I can only embarrass myself for money, as one should, but so far, no one is biting, so I am living with my ‘no selfie’ rule. When you do not take a selfie every third hour of the day, what are you gonna post on Instagram? Your food?

No exotic meals

For Cybergods, the only meals worth Instagramming are Kale salads and Kiwi cleanse juice, with captions that go: “Rushing to Whole Foods before it closes for the night”. Unfortunately, I do not eat alluring exotic food because I am poor, and pretty food costs a lot of money. I also feel quite out of place at Whole Foods because I am always the only brown person there. No matter how creative I try to be, I know I will never get followers if I post my food that consists of frozen pizza, dal chawal and aloo gosht. I also do not understand why people hashtag their food with #FoodPorn. I mean why?

I do not hashtag my life

#FoodPorn brings us to the fact that I do not hashtag my life. I do not post a selfie with a pout and a million hashtags that go something like #bored #WhatToDoWithMyLife #TwentiesAreFunk #SomebodyGetMeOutOfMyOffice #MissMyBoo among others. I also do not post photos of funky shoes and hashtag them #ShoePorn. I also wonder about the lack of profundity that comes with various hashtags that use the word porn which makes me decidedly uncool, hence not follow worthy.

No famous friends

I have no famous friends. No one will follow me to get glimpses of my life with my cool celeb ‘hangs’. My friends are like me – ordinary folks – who eat non-fancy food, take non-exotic vacations, pick twitter fights with people professing love for Tasleema Nasreen (no substance, just nuisance value) or Jennifer Lawrence (forced adult cutesiness makes me throw up in my mouth) or Paulo Coelho (because sane people do not quote Paulo Coelho). Lack of overtly cutesy friends with no nuisance value and no pop philosophy are just another reason for my shameful number of Instagram followers.

Last but not the least, I am not a millionaire poker player

Yes, there is a guy out there with millions of followers because he is rich, posts photos of guns, really fancy cars and not so fancy women. Sometimes he kills it by posting photos of bundles of $100 bills. As I have no access to fancy cars (I use public transport), guns or scantily clad women, my Instagram account shall remain forever unpopular.

Hmm…I think I can live with that. Hey look, Facebook just revamped its interface again!



First published in The Friday Times

Photo credit: _minabelle_ and this particular photo

A case of exploding ovaries

Back in the day when tumblr was launched, I checked it out and decided that it was not for me. I mean it was neither here, nor there. If I wanted to blog, I had my blog, if I wanted to microblog, I had twitter, if I wanted to post cute videos of kittens, I had my youtube account and if I wanted the world to know that I had a crap day at work, I had my facebook page. After lurking around for another 45 minutes, I decided to give it a miss and never went back.

Until earlier this year, that is.  A friend was conducting research on audience influence on creative processes on serialized television drama through social media and wanted my help to sift through data, contact some of the more militant fans, interview them and see the patterns of influence. Boy was I in for a surprise or what! What started off as a favour to a friend for an academic research turned into a social experiment in … wait for it … Fangirling.

The fangirls do a lot of things, they ship, they have feels, they get into shipping wars and they gif. They gif scenes from their favourite TV shows and they gif their reactions to whatever is happening in the TV verse. Gone are the days when a picture was worth a thousand words. In this day and age, only a gif is worth a thousand words. A static picture is valued at a lot less.

No, this is not a disparaging post. I have all the admiration and respect for fangirls and will write a more elaborate piece about them, but if there is one thing that guaranteed a laugh out loud response – at least from this scribe – it was the gifs with explosion of body parts – ovaries to be precise.

Tumblr taught me that handsome men have the capacity to literally explode ovaries. The fangirls explode their ovaries over everything. Johnny Lee Miller’s Sherlock goes snarky in his upper crust British accent, the fangirls explode their ovaries. Gabriel Macht’s portrayal of smooth lawyer Harvey Specter and his crinkly eyed smiles are usually followed by ovaries explosions. Ian Somerhalder brings out his vampire fangs in The Vampire Diaries and there is a general ovary explosion across the globe. Stephen Amell shows off his impressive abs in a shirtless workout session on the superhero show Arrow and the fangirls explode ovaries, multiple time (is that even possible?). All the cute guys that Mindy Lahiri dated in The Mindy Project equals to exploded ovaries. Tom Mison’s 200 year old Ichabod Crane’s complains about inflated taxation on coffee and donuts are also followed by exploded ovaries. Imagine an explosion like that one, there will be so much blood and gut all over.



Men might watch Arrow for action and DC lore, women totally watch it for Stephen Amell’s abs and their ovary explosion abilities

holy fuckGabriel Macht in Suits


ian 2Ian Somerhalder, ovary exploder par excellence


Miller sherlock
Johnny Lee Miller does not need to go shirtless, his accent is enough to explode ovaries

Yes gif sets of these guys are usually accompanied with gifs of exploding ovaries

ovaries 0


ovaries 2  ovaries 4


ovaries 5


and my personal favourite is


Anyways, while thinking about the exploded ovaries and scanning the newspaper; I came across a news that said that UK will be selling pig’s semen to China in an exorbitant £45m export deal. I don’t even want to think how David Cameron worked out this deal but that is a debate for another post – if I ever get around to doing that.

Unlike UK, most other countries produce swines that are not of four legged variety and cannot increase their foreign exchange revenues by selling their reproductive juices, which lead to a discussion among the ladies at work about the two legged creatures whose sperm would sell for a fortune. If the explosion of ovaries on tumblr is any indication to go by then all the names mentioned above would make a load of money.

A totally unscientific survey based on half an hour of tumblr search, water cooler gossip at work, two hour long phone conversations with girlfriends and random conversation with women on subway who moved away after responding to my query – giving me looks that vary from “who left this one out’ to “she must be locked in a padded cell” – reveals that people whose baby makers would fetch top dollar are Jared Leto, David Beckham, Portuguese footballer with killer abs (I am assuming that lady was talking about Christiano Ronaldo), Matt Bomer, (gay man with ridiculous good looks, decent manners and a university degree was the top choice) Captain America, Thor and Iron man (I guess Marvel has done such a good job of branding its super heroes that people refer to the characters instead of actors Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. Abhay Deol with his cute dimples was the only desi entry (but my unscientific sample had very few desi women and all the desi women have hots for super hero types).

When I pointed out the omissions such as Brad Pitt and George Clooney, I was told that they are too old (and promiscuous in case of Clooney) and while they might look good, for procreation purposes, the ladies might want to look for younger specimens who reportedly have healthier sperm – such objectification of men on the basis of age was quite refreshing if I may say so. The ladies who wanted to pay a high price for David Beckham’s baby makers were not shaken when it was pointed out that there is a very good chance that a David Beckham male offspring may inherit his squeaky voice. I guess there is no deterrence against the larger than life billboards of the man with washboard abs, killer tattoes and very little clothing – definitely a case of exploding ovaries.


Dear Facebook, some of us are more than our biology

Note: This is a rant.

What in the name of internet gods is wrong with FaceBook?

Just because I am a woman of child bearing age who has not disclosed her relationship status, all the suggested likes on my timeline are about dating websites, new moms groups, fertility clinics, potty training, beauty clinics offering to make me smooth and dewy by lasers of all kinds, yoga websites, clothing companies, fashion designers, weight loss website or weight loss website pretending to be women’s health website. I mean seriously?

According to Facebook, people like me have got to be looking for romantic hook ups with other people through dating websites. If they are not looking for their online soul mate, they must either be procreating or trying to procreate through the help of the aforementioned clinics, or trying to potty train their spawn. If you are done with all that, then you must spend a fortune to try and look like teenager with no lines around the forehead and no body hair. You are also suggested to like designers you cannot afford (seriously what percentage of world population can afford Prada or Michael Kors!). If you are done with all that, then it is suggested that you must join yoga or a zumba or an aerobic class because unless you are made to feel horrible about your physique and body type, your internet experience is incomplete.

For the record, I just want to state that I don’t do online dating or speed dating. I am not a mom, young or old. I am currently not potty training anyone and if I ever get down to doing it, I most definitely will do it without plastering it on Faceook. I would also like to state that women are people too and just like their male counterparts, they have body hair. The world will not come to an end if a few women like me refuse to spend $2000 to make their legs smooth and shiny.

Get your act together Facebook, some of us are more than our biology and the identity that is thrust upon us by the society. Some of us take pride in being human beings without predisposed characteristics. It’s about time you realize that women are people too.


PS: I live in Canada so this is my personal experience, women living in different parts of the world may have a different facebook targeted marketing experience.

May 30, 2013 - Pakistan, Politics, Social Media    No Comments

Beyond voting

So everyone and his dog has been outraged at polling irregularities in some constituency or the other and blamed everyone from rival political parties to provincial governments to local patwari to bijli ka muhikma to TV anchors to their darzi and in-laws for imagined and real slights and injustices. It is heartening to see that people not only voted but they also cared about the process and did whatever they could to ensure that their voices are heard.

The elections are over now and the people have spoken. They have done their duty as voters but now they have to be responsible about their role as concerned citizens and continue their pressure on not only the government but also the opposition parties to fulfill the promises they made during the election campaign and to get their voice across.

The easiest way to stay in touch with your representatives is through social media.  Almost every political party has official facebook presence, use that page to put your point across and garner support for your cause or opinion. Use twitter to directly interact with politicians, if you speak to them without resorting to foul language and name calling, chances are that they will interact with you and listen to what you have to say.

Make sure you know who your representative in provincial and national assembly is and try and contact them irrespective of your political affiliation because they do not just represent the people who have voted them in, they represent their entire constituency. For instance, if you believe that elected local bodies should be brought back for smooth functioning of the government at your town and tehsil level, badger your representative into bringing that system back.

Once all the assemblies are in order, their websites would have email addresses and phone numbers of all the parliamentarians who can be contacted, if you have suggestions, opinions and views, share them with your representative or any representative who you think will respond. Talk to them, inundate them with your message, wear them down and make them listen to you because they are your representatives and they are in the parliament to make sure that your voice, your hopes and your aspirations are represented in both legislation and government actions.

Be active, participate in the process. If you want the system to change and the politicians to change, you have to change the way you have behaved until now and take charge because that is the only way to bring about any change. There are no guarantees that you will get the desired results if you do your duty as an active concerned citizen but if you don’t shake things up, you know that things will remain static and you will be contributing in maintaining that status quo, it is up to you what you want to be, an agent of change or someone who maintains status quo.

Social networking is a bitch

Social networking is a bitch. There, I said it.
Let’s admit it. Most of us have a facebook account with around a couple of hundred friends, but we interact with very few of them on a regular basis. The rest are just there to remind us that we have miserable existence; our paychecks are tiny, our lives are grey and our love lives are insipid. 
I don’t know about others, but I have people on my “friend’s list” who are constantly vacationing in exotic locations, land high flying jobs with Fortune 500 companies even in the times of recession, attend exclusive fashion galas, are part of peace keeping missions in remote war torn areas and have flings with extra ordinary and interesting people while they are stationed in those remote war torn areas and … wait for it … walk the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival.
You know what is most ironic? The last status update was from a masochist whose sole aim in life was to get married to a heroin addict and get beaten by him every day when she was 19!
I am sure that I lead the most boring, soul less and miserable life among all the people I know where the most exciting part of my day is watching videos of Faisal Raza Abdi and cats playing with babies on YouTube (at least that’s what I used to do when we had YouTube, I now stare at the computer screen and think about those cat and baby videos). 
At times I yearn for good old days when we had limited access to the web were not constantly trying to prove to others that we matter. The competition between friends and family may remain gentle but social networking at workplace is brutal.
When I started working for a newspaper, we only had access to office email system and no web browsing on our office computers, before anyone screams how we used to get anything done without the internet, I would say the old fashioned way. We would get off our chairs, step out and gather info on spot to write our stories or we do that via phone if we are too lazy or pressed for time. Fast forward a decade and it is unheard of that a decent workplace would be without high speed internet. What’s more, most allow access to all kinds of social networking websites for their employees. 
It’s not that most employers are bursting with goodwill for their employees and want them to have fun posting on wrestle mania’s facebook page or tweeting about the aloo gosht they just had. I have a strong suspicion that the employers are onto something and they want their employees to feel miserable about the better lives of other people, fear impending unemployment and even more misery if they fail to do their jobs. This will keep them in line without using any untoward strategies and ensure productivity. 
In my previous workplace, we had a guy who was supposed to assist us with IT related stuff but whenever you would call him, he would not pick up his phone. When you go to his desk, he would be half lying on the chair with thick head phones on and would be watching something, if not that, he would be chatting with his girl friend. One day I wondered aloud why can’t he do that at home, another colleague told me that his wife and two kids (he had a third kid later) would probably cramp his style. I think employers also allow social networking at work to ensure loyalty and uninterrupted employment of the workers who are cheating on their wives. 
Another reason why employers allow you access to social networking site is that people think that if you are not on facebook, you must be at least anti social or at worst a batshit crazy person. You need proof of that; the dude who shot people after The Dark Knight Rises viewing in Colorado or the Norway mass murderer Anders Breivik, both did not have facebook profiles. 
It is ironic that now both of them have Wikipedia pages and its content cannot be controlled by them. A cousin who wanted to bolster his intellectual credentials by not using any of the social networking websites was told to sign up asap while applying for an FMGC firm in Singapore, they do not hire people without facebook accounts and the HR manager is supposed to have full access to the employees’ facebook pages.
Apart from official prying that HR does on behalf of the employers, colleagues too snoop through social networking websites. Back when I used to work for an international organization, the pay slip for the month of August was the most anticipated pay slip of the year. Out annual increments used to be announced through August pay slip and we would get to know if our increment would be a measly 3 per cent, a respectable 10 per cent or a whopping 18 per cent. We were also advised to not share our financial details with other colleagues but everyone would soon gather all the details. How would they find out; through facebook updates of course.  If the status update is gloomy, it’s likely that the person got the derisory 2 per cent raise and if the person is splurging on a sushi dinner with the spouse, chances are that he is the lucky one who got the 18 per cent increase. 
Some employers discourage the use of social networking websites during work hours, their reasoning is simple. They don’t want people getting wishful and dreamy eyed looking at the photos taken at those exotic vacations by the facebook friend on company’s time. Personally, I would love that, why because slacking is our national method of whiling the days away and social networking just makes it just easier. I want people to make an effort to be slackers, if they cannot put time and energy at their work, the least they can do is make an effort to slack. Secondly, I would love it if people like that IT guy would be caught by their wives.  In any case, with smart phones starting from Rs 9000 and cheapest possible internet rates, slacking  sorry, social networking on your own dime would not you cost you much. 
Originally written for monthly news magazine Pique 

Social media and humanitarian assistance

The Arab Spring has forever changed the way people will view social media in the context of political change and citizens’ active participation in bringing about that change. But politics is not the only arena where social media has made its presence felt. It can and has been used by a lot of humanitarian aid organisations and UN agencies in garnering support, as well as rallying people, securing funding and creating buzz for work that is helping millions across the world.

Last year, Doctors Without Borders launched an online application on the World Food Day that enabled supporters to donate their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for 24 hours to help the organisation in its fight against malnutrition in children. Back in 2010, a single tweet from a television host in the US, which was re-tweeted a few thousand times, made it possible for the US air force to work with Doctors without Borders and land its planes in earthquake-hit Haiti. Twitter deemed it the most powerful tweet of that year. Other organisations that have a huge social media presence and actively engage with people across the world everyday include the Red Cross, the World Food Programme, the UNHCR and Islamic Relief USA, among others.

There is no disputing the role of social media in promoting social development and humanitarian aid, but it is also very important to know how to use it to serve the cause best. Social media teams do not work in isolation and must always be integrated with the press and public outreach programmes. It is also very important to strategise the use of various social media forums and decide which information goes where and why. For instance, Twitter, the microblogging site, is more useful if the idea is to get a lot of people talking about something and creating a buzz for it, but Facebook is more suitable for long-term engagement to a cause or an aid organisation. It is imperative that people working in the field understand their communication objectives and use appropriate platforms to spread their word, engage the public and influence policy.

If selecting the right social media platform for your communication need is most important, selecting the right tone for your message according to your platform is the next most important thing. A sharp and witty tweet can work wonders in getting the message across but it will require more nuanced interaction with the audience on your website or Facebook page to keep them engaged. How YouTube channels and Flickr accounts are used and integrated with other social media tools also determines the success of a cause, campaign or humanitarian intervention. I was part of the education emergency campaign last year. With the help of sharp tweets that tied the cricket World Cup and Shahid Afridi to education needs in the country, we managed to create quite a lot of Twitter buzz, which was backed with an interactive website, an active Facebook page along with a very informative YouTube channel. This year, during Ramazan, the World Food Programme in Pakistan launched the #fightinghungerRMZ campaign on Twitter and sent 30 bloggers to spend a day in one of its camps, which helped in the generation of locally-raised funds for the cause.

It must be noted that a social media campaign is only as good as the work done on the ground. A successful social media campaign does not guarantee success in the real world; it only supports the people who are actually providing help and assistance to those in need of it.

Originally written for The Express Tribune

Main naheen manta, main naheen manta

Chotay Mian sahib has got to be the most easily threatened politician in Pakistan.  Soon after the Tsunami Jalsa of PTI in Lahore last year, CM Shahbaz launchedhis facebook page – with all the requisite fan fair of course – to stay connected to people. He also tweets, he may not respond to criticism and allegations of nepotism, but he does reminisce about good old days when his choice in music was more Freddie Mercuryand less Habib Jalib and even his detractors would agree that a man who professes his love for the Queen has got to be endearing in one way or another.  
Though Chotay Mian Sahab has over 124,000 likes on his facebook page, he is not satisfied with the numbers so he asked the top district officials and policemen in all 36 districts of the province, as well as regional police officers and commissioners to join Shehbaz Sharif’s official Facebook page.
Apparently, ordering them to “like” his facebook page was not enough, so he also asked them – politely of course – to remove any PTI-related material from their Facebook accounts. It goes without saying that they are NOT supposed to “like” any PTI page.
Seriously! Looks like our politicians still behave like kids attending grade school and are still governed by the logic that you can’t be my friend if you are talking to that other boy. Most grade school kids will eventually grow up and get over this phase, the same, unfortunately cannot be said about our politicians. Looks like Punjab government officials will have to comply with Chotay Mian Sahib’s wishes; otherwise he may start signing off official documents with “Main naheen manta, main naheen manta.”
PS: The story initially came out on The Express Tribune but was taken of their website after a few hours, fortunately siasat.pkhas cross posted it on their page.

Living with the internet nanny

Pakistan has the dubious distinction of being placed quite high on all the lists that a country must avoid. While it is one the most corrupt countries with bad governance record, it is also the most dangerous country in the world to practice journalism in. In addition, we are not far behind the countries that top the lists for suppressing the rights of religious minorities and have high maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite all this, Pakistan was doing ok as far as freedom to internet access was concerned. Not any more, as the government is just done seeking proposals to build a firewall that will filter and block a whopping50 million undesirable URLs. 
Censorship is not alien to Pakistan. The country has suffered numerous dictatorships and emergencies to be familiar with restriction and suppression. Nor it is the only country in the region that is trying its hand at internet filtering. Burma, Yemen, Bahrain, and Qatar monitor political discussion and access to information in their countries. The “great Firewall” that engulfs over a billion strong China is known to all. Governments in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and UAE also filter content which they deem unsuitable to the cultural and religious sensibilities of their societies. Unlike all these countries which are either monarchies or authoritarian regimes, Pakistan is a multiparty democracy. Paradoxical is the fact that the political party currently forming the government not only claims but also has a history of battling dictators and censorship in the past.
The proposal calls for a blanket ban on pornographic and undesirable content but who gets to decide what will be tabled under the category of pornography? Feminist and gay rights websites have been filed under pornography in the regimes that block cyber content to limit people’s access to gender awareness and alternative lifestyles in the past. Even high profile social media websites like Facebook and Twitter have been called dating websites spreading immorality to curb access to them.
The government has already blocked alternative news websites such as Baloch Hal and others featuring stories from Balochistan that do not get any space in mainstream media, who knows what else will be bracketed ‘undesirable’ once the filters are in place and will be blocked. The centralized nature of the database under the proposed filtering system will enable the government to do it efficiently. It should also be noted that proposal does not call for any oversight or contribution from the elected representatives, rights groups, civil society organizations or any of the consumer groups.
As part of their licensing agreement with Pakistan Telecom Authority, all the internet service providers donate money for the National ICT R&D Fund that called for the proposal. As the ISPs get their money from the users, it will be the users who will end up paying for the cyber surveillance against themselves. How ironic!
In the day and age when most people are moving away from traditional sources of information, entertainment and employment and turning to the World Wide Web for it all, people will find ways to circumvent the government ban and all the money spent on the project would go down the drain.
Life with a firewall which monitors content is just like living with an cyber nanny who has the authority to slap your wrists if you said something or sought information that she does not like, what sensible adult would want to live like that? 
First published in The Express Tribune

Calling out the real bullies

Bullies; we have all heard of them at some point in our lives, the more unfortunate ones amongst us have faced the wrath of bullies at no provocation at all. However, very few of us stand up to them. In fact people who get bullied often lash out at their well wishers who either point out the fact that they are being bullied or tell them to give it back to their bullies. 
Something similar happened with Najam Sethi on the eve of February 7th. In his TV show, Najam Sethi ran a clip of Maulana Fazlur Rehman alluding that Imran Khan of PTI is politicking at the behest of some nameless and faceless Jews. He also ran a clip of Mr. Imran Khan saying that Maulana Fazlur Rehman is one of the three people who are responsible for the mess the country is in. Sethi later on said that Imran Khan should have been more vocal in his defense and should have denounced Maulana more vociferously than he did because Maulana will not let go of Imran Khan’s Jewish connection (Khan’s ex-wife and mother of his children is of Jewish, Catholic & Protestant heritage) and will use it again and again during the elections later this year.
Jemima Khan, Khan’s ex-wife, heard the words “Imran Khan, Jewish lobby, conspiracy” and without actually watching the programme or asking anyone with a better grasp of Urdu, jumped to the conclusion that it was Najam Sethi who was stirring up trouble for Khan. She was never considered particularly bright by anyone of note, and now even less so when she took to the microblogging website, Twitter, to start a personal attack on Najam Sethi (She wrote that Mr Sethi has always been critical of Imran Khan except when his wife and Mr Sethi wanted an invitation to dinner with late Princess Diana) perhaps undermining the credibility of Mr. Sethi as a journalist.
What followed that was just as crazy as any other war of words on social media is, but it is significant in revealing that politics based on religion is not just here and now, it is flourishing with every passing day. No one is willing to take on this issue head-on, instead they either try to shoot the messenger – in this case Najam Sethi – or join forces with the forces spreading vitriolic hatred against the other.  It was Maulana Fazlur Rehman who first spoke about Khan’s Jewish connection but it was Sethi – an easier target who can perhaps only retaliate with arguments instead of something more sinister or dangerous – who got burned for just pointing his fingers to the bully in question.
Some really charged up PTI member even started an online campaign for Sethi to be removed from the air for “making some immoral remarks about Imran Khan’s ex-wife Jemima Khan.” The fact that the campaign has received 631 signatures as yet tells us a lot about how people form opinions – divorced from reason, nuance, logic – and choose their candidate based on that very opinion come election time.  
In past, Imran Khan has been roughed up by the goons of Islami Jamiat Talaba in Punjab University but we have not heard such vehement condemnation for them, either because of political expediency or because of the fact that PTI was afraid of a repeat performance. Whatever the reason is, no one is calling out the real bullies who are getting away with all kinds of transgressions. 
An edited version was first published in The Express Tribune
PS: I guess Jemima Khan is quite fond of picking up fights with random people on twitter, sometimes they are famous journalists like Najam Sethi, sometimes they are nobodies like me. Hereis an account of Jemima Bibi calling me names for questioning if hers is the real account before she got verified.
Dec 26, 2011 - PPP, published work, Social Media    2 Comments

Making fun of North Korea

With Kim Jong-il’s death, it was but expected that the western media and its consumers would jump into mocking everything about North Korea and its dead president. Twitterverse (with its fake twitter profile of Kim Jong-un), Tumblrs and Facebook pages are inundated with links poking fun at the backwardness, insularity and stupidity of North Koreans. Media savvy, English-speaking, hip Pakistanis are taking part in this mock-fest wholeheartedly. This is most fascinating because Pakistan, perhaps, is more like North Korea than most other countries.

North Korea is usually dubbed as one of the poorest countries in the world. Pakistan may not be one of the poorest countries — yet — but it sure is on its way to becoming one with a paltry two per cent growth rate (which in any case is undermined by the high population growth rate), soaring inflation, unprecedented unemployment and never-ending energy crisis.

North Korea is dubbed by mainstream western media as an anachronistic nuclear country whose population lives in abject poverty and where political dissenters are sent to die in concentration camps. We, too, are a country where women are buried alive in the name of tradition; millions do not have access to either clean drinking water or sanitation; and the lesser is said about the bonded labour tilling the land, the better.

If North Korea is the most isolated nation in the world, we, too, are pariahs of sorts. Getting anywhere with our green passport is an ordeal. We have had sanctions levied on us on counts of aiding and abetting terrorism to child labour and what not. If the US has used trade sanctions as leverage to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programme, we have been meted out the same treatment back in 1998 after conducting the nuclear tests.

We mocked the outpouring of grief — which may have been staged and must have appeared contrived to western eyes — but how can we forget how we behaved when one of our own leaders, Benazir Bhutto, died four years ago — with fist-thumping grief, tears, chaos, mayhem and bloodshed.

We scoffed at the leadership succession plan of North Korea, mocking a four-star general in his 20’s. But have we ever stopped to think that we have done something quite similar — made a barely adult teenager, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who was not even a resident of the country, the chairman of the biggest political party of Pakistan.

The malaise of dynasty is not limited to the PPP alone. If Asfandyar Wali is a third generation ANP leader, then Mian Nawaz Sharif is preparing ground to bring in his daughter, Maryam Nawaz , to counter the threat of the PTI and help his party shed the old fuddy-duddy image. And Imran Khan is probably planning to challenge the Election Commission on the issue of the enforcement of the law barring dual nationality holders from contesting elections, to ensure that his progeny be able to do the requisite politicking when their time comes.

Heaping scorn on a malicious dead dictator is fine, but ridiculing an entire nation for their collective bad fortune is just in bad taste. I wish Pakistanis had shown a bigger heart and extended compassion to the North Koreans. After all, who else should have been able to empathise with them like us?

Originally published in The Express Tribune.