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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.
Jun 24, 2011 - published work, Twitter    13 Comments

You want a picture? With me?

When I was asked to attend Pakistan’s first ever social media summit earlier this month, I jumped to it. Because not only it gave me a chance to visit the old country (for me, Karachi would always be old country), it also gave me the opportunity to meet some old friends and make some brand new ones.

VJ Mathira (Baji Online) with one of her admirers

The organizers held an informal dinner for the participants to mingle and get to know each other before the summit. Though stand up comedienne Saad Haroon made us all laugh, the star of the show was VJ Mathira who was there in all her sartorial glory including blue contact lenses and leopard print wedge heels. Most men wanted to get their pictures taken with Mathira and she graciously obliged. (The men must be all be silently thanking Tristram Perry for inviting Mathira over)

The summit started next morning and during the opening session, US Consul General in Karachi William Martin said Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing Facebook- and Twitter-using nations in the world but he also lamented the fact that a lot of Pakistanis love to come up with conspiracy theories implicating US in all kinds of wrongdoings in Pakistan which makes his job a tad more difficult.  

The opening session was followed by 3 panel discussions on ‘Education and Good Governance: Going Digital’, ‘Women and Social Activism in the New Media Era’ and ‘Monetizing your Social Media Space.’ Knowing that no matter what I do, learning to monetize my social media space is something I won’t learn in an hour and half, I decided to attend the panel on Education and good governance because it has some relevance to my day job.

There were several breakout sessions following the panel discussions on various topics. One of the sessions that I was looking forward to attend to was on “Humor in cyberspace” but the speaker pulled a joke on us and decided not to show up. As we were waiting for the speaker to show up, Jahanzeb Haque of Jay Toons got up and decided to talk about how he started his xkcd inspired stick figures cartoon strip. When he introduced himself, there were audible gasps among the female audience with “OMG, you are Jay Toons guy?” He drew a couple of his strips, including one of his self censored cartoons for the participants and discussed whether art should be created just for the sake of art or does it has to have a higher message. Jahanzeb Haque, or Jay Toons are he was called during the session, was obviously the rock star of the summit. At least I have not heard girls gasping and going breathless at the mention of any other name.

What did I take away from the event? Even though I have been blogging for 4 years now, I never took my blog seriously; for me it was a place where I vent without any editorial guidelines and delays. But the response by some of the participants at the summit made me realize that there are people who not only care what I write, but they do attach a lot of importance to my opinion and I am truly grateful to all of you guys. I am still reeling from the fact that a very smart and intelligent young reader of my blog wanted to get his picture taken with me. I now know how Meera feels and can empathize with her.

PS: Must thank Raza and Tristram publicly for inviting me and giving me an opportunity to feel like a celebrity. 

PPS: A special shout out to @pishipotty for his twitter handle.

PPPS: I made it to the Tribune’s twitterati of Pakistan but they called me brainchild behind A Reluctant Mind. I thought A Reluctant Mind was MY brainchild.

Find the complete version on The Friday Times