Tagged with " media"
Mar 9, 2012 - Punjab    16 Comments

Imran Khan running away from Awami Tsunami?

If anyone is handing out awards for writing the most refreshingly hilarious news copy without even trying, this Dunya Tv report is the top contender for it. 
Imran Khan went to attend a political rally in Kala Shah Kaku last month and true to his elitist roots, got flustered with awami love. He first pushed an over exuberant fan, then scolded his party leaders for the ruckus and then jumped off the stage when that love and affection got too much for him. When asked why he jumped off the stage, Imran Khan quipped with “Abhi tau main Jawan hoon. ”
Looks like Tsunami Khan is not too enamored with Awami Tsunami, but what awami leader wants to run away from awami junoon?

PS: You gotta know Urdu/Hindi  to enjoy the clip to the max
PPS: PTI workers looked extremely happy eating stolen oranges. 
Jan 28, 2012 - published work    6 Comments

It is never about education

It has been almost two years since the Eighteenth Amendment was passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan and all children aged between five to 16 years have not only gained the right to not only access, but also to demand free education, in case it is not provided. However, it is sad that no provincial assembly has chalked out its own education policy as yet. More depressing is the serious lack of reporting and debate in mainstream media about this issue. For a country where more than half of the population is below the age of 15 and nearly one-third is below the age of nine, such laxity about reporting on the issue most important to the biggest group of population is scandalous.

Pick up any newspaper — English, vernacular, national or regional — and what passes for education reporting is never about education. Most news items published under the head of education are actually administrative statements like press releases by the various examination boards, announcement of academic year, examination notifications issued and reports about the annual meeting of board of directors or an academic committee of a university.

If the education news is not about the examination boards’ notices and proclamations, then it is usually about the administrative corruption of the education officials and the incidents and number of students caught red-handed while cheating during board exams. There would be some news pieces covering protests by the parents and students, against the aforementioned corruption and cheating, but the news coverage is always reactive and hardly carries any background information.

Most of the reporting on education is about performance of government-run schools. Although a huge number of children now go to private schools, there is hardly any impartial mention about the quality of education imparted there. There would be odd news about parents protesting fee hikes, or a school fair, but nothing more concrete. Some newspapers even have sections devoted to education, but they too print interviews of successful students and review job fairs and education expos, instead of focusing on real issues pertaining to education.

The reporting on education is also overwhelmingly urban. The news about rural communities does not get much airtime or space in any case, but the news about rural education is almost nonexistent in Pakistani media — not even the reports about cheating in exams or lack of facilities in rural schools. Similarly, education provided in madrassas does not get any attention from the media. Even though the madrassas have an estimated six per cent of children of school-going age, any news reference to them is almost invariably related to terrorism and never about the kind and quality of education which is imparted.

We devote reams of newsprint and hours-upon-hours of airtime on a non-issue like memogate, but the issue that is of most significance to the largest section of population does not command even a fraction of that attention. There is still debate about ‘what is to be taught and how and in what language’ but it commands less space in the media than the useless exercise of bashing the US. What is most tragic is that the group that is most affected by this criminal carelessness — the children of Pakistan — never get any space to voice their grievances. The future of millions of children is being ruined by this negligence and the media is silent.
First published in The Express Tribune
Jan 20, 2012 - Ramiz Raja, Shahid Afridi    11 Comments

Somebody save Shahid Afridi

If you are an advertiser trying to sell any product in Pakistan, what should be on your wish list? If you are smart and want to make your life easy, you would want Shahid Afridi as your brand ambassador/model/spokesperson. However some advertisers cannot even properly use a brand ambassador as universally adored as Shahid Afridi and screw up gallactically. 

I think just about everyone has seen the latest television commercial (TVC) for Head & Shoulders featuring Shahid Afridi and Ramiz Raja. The concept is that a hot headed Afridi is practicing in the nets and is getting bowled on every ball. Ramiz Raja asks him to cool down and hands him a bottle of Head & Shoulders. Just after one hair wash, Afridi has cooled down to the extent that he can actually block a ball. Other cricketers celebrate an occasional sixer, but Afridi – for whom sixers are as commonplace as dot balls – actually celebrates successfully blocking a ball. The TVC, though kinda lame, is still bearable. It is the radio commercial that drives you crazy.
The radio commercial features Ramiz Raja in his real life role of a cricket commentator. He is talking about how Afridi is getting beaten by the ball all the time. The copy that follows is so gigantically fucked up, it’s unbelievable. It goes something like:  
“Drinks break shuru hua, aur yeh kya, Afridi ne pani ki jagah Head & Shoulders ki bottle mangwai aur waheen ground mein apna sar dhona shuru kar diya, ab Afridi cool ho gaye aur unhon ne buhat hi achi tarah ball ko rok liya. Is baat pe poora ground ek sath chilla utha – Afridi cool cool.”
I mean seriously? 
Who wrote that copy and the more important question is who approved that copy?  Can you seriously imagine Afridi washing his hair in the middle of a cricket ground during drinks break? You realize what kind of havoc a scene like that would wreak? All the ladies – and quite a few men – would break all the cordons and battle the security to get up close and personal with the erstwhile skipper. They would also want to lend him a hand or two, to wash his hair, to hold the bottle of shampoo and the water bucket (I am assuming that Afridi would need a bucket of water to rinse off that shampoo). What I find most disconcerting is that no one else seems to be disturbed by a radio commercial as crazy as this one. 
Another important question that needs to be answered is who, in the God’s name, is handling Afridi’s commercial endorsements? Anyone who allows our beloved Lala to feature in TVCs as lame as this one should either be lobotomized or banished to the deep dark dungeons.
PS: It’s a Saatchi & Saatchi advert. If anyone of my readers knows people in either Saatchi & Saatchi or P&G, make them read my post and tell them how awful their effort is. If anyone of you knows Shahid Afridi, ask him to hire me as his image manager, coz I am the best person for the job.
Jan 18, 2012 - rant, TTP, USA    11 Comments

Another foul murder; RIP Mukarram Khan

On my way back home last evening, I received a text from my colleague that Mukarram Sahab has been shot and was taken to a hospital in Peshawar.  So stunned was I with the news that I did not realize when the signal turned green and only moved when the cars behind me honked. An hour later, I found that Mukarram Sahabb has succumbed to his injuries. 
Mukarram Khan Atif was a senior tribal journalist from Mohmand Agency and was killed on January 17th 2012 in a targeted attack after receiving repeated threats to his life. He was offering evening prayers in a mosque when he was shot in the head by two gunmen. 
I have known Mukarram Sahab for only a few weeks but he made a profound impact in that very short time. I am city girl, from Karachi, with my fair share of prejudices about the tribesmen and how they behave. Mukarram Sahab was one of those people who helped me in looking beyond the stereotype of a stern and unyielding tribesman with his intelligence, valour, grace, and self effacing sense of humour. He humanized the area and its people for me, a city dweller who only conjured up images of Hakimullah Mehsud and the likes in reference with the tribesmen from FATA. 
Mukarram Sahab had many interesting stories about his time as a reporter in the tribal region, be it about interviewing suspected suicide bombers, traveling to remote areas on foot for stories and sneaking into difficult areas as a goat shepherd. Back in 2001, Mukarram Sahab was taken hostage by Afghan Taliban along with a French and a Pakistani journalist. All three of them were charged with spying for USA by the Taliban government.  As none of the other two journalists could speak Pashto, he was asked to interpret for them by the Taliban government in Afghanistan. He said that he would do it but he would want to be paid for his services.  He actually managed to charge the Taliban govt. for interpreting for the two journalists in captivity. I asked him how he pulled off this incredulous feat and he said that he takes his work very seriously and believe in being paid for whatever he does.  I asked him to write all such fascinating stories and share it with the world.  Mukarram Sahab agreed and said that one day he would sit down and write. He kept an archive of all his radio reports for Deewa and thought that he would transcribe it all when he can spare the time. Unfortunately, he was killed by the TTP for not giving them enough coverage on those radio reports and the world will never know about his hard to believe escapades. 

Deaths and journalists’ murders are a sad reality in Pakistan, but what irritates me most is the way local media reports these incidents. Dawn, a supposedly responsible newspaper came up with the headline “Pakistani journalist working for US media shot dead. The News, a generally horrid newspaper came up with the headline “VoA journalist assassinated in Charsadda.” What are these reports trying to imply? That he was working for a US media house and in some way responsible for his own murder? Are we absolving his murderers of their brutality?  Does his employment for a foreign news organization make him less of a Pakistani or less of a human?  Mukarram Sahab was a Pakistani journalist working as a correspondent for Dunya TV and a stringer for VoA’s Pashto service Deewa Radio. It’s about time we claim our people and heroes and give them due credit for their courage, fearlessness, and bravery. 

Mukarram Khan Atif in Islamabad

Reporters Sans Frontier has declared Pakistan the most dangerous country for journalists second year in a row. I never thought that the first journalist to die this year would be someone I knew personally. Mukarram Sahab, you were a fine gentleman and a brave soul. May you rest in peace.
Jan 14, 2012 - published work    6 Comments

Land of rumour and hyperbole

They say there is no business like show business. The case of Pakistan, however, is a tad different and here there is no business like news business. Take any newspaper for instance; the front page would be full of statements, rhetoric, hearsay and guess work. There is hardly any good old-fashioned, solid news.

Every newspaper — national or vernacular — is wondering the state of Mansoor Ijaz’s visa application for his appearance before the judicial commission in Islamabad. Whether he has applied for the visa or not, and in case he applies for it, will he apply for a visa in Washington DC or London? Mansoor Ijaz, who vows to appear before the judicial commission yet again, even though he has made no concrete move to actualise his commitment, gets a headline. A news item like this, which is nothing but speculation and rhetoric, is usually given a prominent spot in most newspapers.

The news about the course of action advised by the coalition partners to the PPP government is one of the most prominently displayed ones, yet it is full of platitudes. The news about the army’s silence and how it is worrisome for the movers and shakers in Islamabad, is nothing but speculation. Similarly, the news about Altaf Husain talking to the Taliban and Imran Khan talking to all but the PML-N is mere political posturing.

The electronic media is worse and the events of the past couple of days are a good example of the fact that large segments of it seem to thrive only on sensationalism. Many anchors were willing to suffer coronaries and brain aneurysms to make their point. Some were so eager to ensure that they appear most earnest; they risked combustion by passionate rhetoric, if that’s possible. Dr Goebbels used propaganda as a war tool in Nazi Germany and he was quite successful in it. We, it appears, live in the age of rumours where it is used as a tool of political manoeuvring.

Similarly, the media’s news gathering is limited to a few big cities. A bomb blast in Lahore or rioting in Karachi gets maximum coverage and stays in the news for far longer than a blast in Charsadda and brutal massacre of government officials in Turbat. The lack of voices from Balochistan in the electronic media is unfair, if not criminal.

Those who sing praises of a free media should pause and ponder if the media is really doing what it is supposed to do? Does it give all the players equal opportunities to present their case? Does it posit the same pointing questions to all the players — political and apolitical — or does it do the bidding of a select group? Only this week, we have seen one TV anchor or the other championing coup, but were there any dissenting voices? If the honour of the armed forces cannot be questioned then why are we subjecting our elected representative to the repeated shame and humiliation? If the institution of judiciary is above any scrutiny — as presented by the media — then why not parliament?

Amidst all the rumours, rhetoric, conjecture, gossip, posturing and speculation, the real news gets lost somewhere. There are so many news worthy items that never get airtime because the media is busy peddling inanities.
First published in The Express Tribune.
Dec 26, 2011 - PTI, religion, women    13 Comments

Peddling obscurantism

In  Shahzeb Khanzada’s programon Express News Imran Khan, in response to a question raised by a young woman, said that if his party forms the government, they will not dictate how women should dress up. When I saw that I was quite pleasantly surprised because back in 1990s when Imran Khan discovered religion, his first op-ed for The News/Jang was on the importance of “Chador and Chardeewari.” He was all about how important pardah and the four walls of the house are for a woman and praised women who chose to stay at home to raise their children, away from the eyes of others.  Now that Imran Khan refused to concern himself with women’s clothing options, I thought he is finally maturing into a politician who cannot be bothered with the non issues. 
But somebody was not happy with this development and that somebody was Ansar Abbasi. In his columntoday, he questioned Imran’s pronouncement asking how a follower of Allama Iqbal and God fearing believer of faith can say something as outrageous as that: giving women option to choose what they want to wear!  If God and his prophet have restricted women’s clothing to a certain standard then how a mard-e-momin like Imran Khan can question that restriction. If Ansar Abbasi is to be believed that the code of an Islamic welfare state is hidden in a woman’s blouse.

Ansar Abbasi questions if the change Imran Khan talks about is Ata Turk and Musharraf inspired or a true Islamic change and wants Imran Khan to explain his stance on women’s clothing. In a country where half the population is malnourished and 70% do not have access to clean drinking water and sanitation where law and order is in a shambles, our very senior reporter/defender of faith is worried about the length and breadth of the dupatta of our ladies. 

Ansar Abbasi was so perturbed by this new aspect of Imran Khan’s personality that he went up to him on Sunday and said that enlightened people like Veena Malik would be very happy with this new Imran Khan. According to Ansar Abbasi, Imran Khan responded that people like Veena cannot do much in Pakistan and the country will never have any law against Quran and Sunnah. 
When I read this piece, I wanted to die – literally die. Forget the obscurantist rant, I cannot get over the fact that the chief investigative reporter of an English daily does not know what the word enlightened means and uses it in context with actresses known for their risqué wardrobe! People like Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Spinoza must be turning in their graves with such liberal use of the term “enlightened.” If I am not wrong, Pakistan perhaps is the only country in the world where being enlightened is considered a stigma and a matter of disgrace. Not that I expect much from Imran Khan, but if people like Ansar Abbasi keep peddling the pedantic agenda, we cannot even hope for gradual maturity that comes with being part of the mainstream politics. 
Here is to staying in the darkness. 
Those who can read Urdu should check out this gem 

Dec 10, 2011 - Veena Malik    27 Comments

Wither professionalism?

I never really wanted to get into the whole Veena Malik debate on my blog, but something happened which made me realize that the issue is far greater than just one person and misogynist pricks are found everywhere; not just in Pakistan. 
I was invited by BBC Asian Network to be part of a radio talk show on the why Veena Malik’s father has disinherited her on December 8th. I agreed to be on the show because it gave me opportunity to be on air with Veena Malik, who I find fascinating at so many levels.
The program started with the host Nihal (he is this really slow presenter who puts his listeners to sleep, I wonder why BBC hired him in the first place but I digress)asking Veena Malik how does she feel about being disinherited. She gave an appropriate response about getting her father to see her point of view eventually. He then took a caller, an army officer called Malik from Islamabad, who first refused to say salam (Muslim greetings) to Veena Malik because he thought of her as a vile disgusting creature who has insulted the her country (Pakistan) and her religion (Islam). He then went on to threaten Veena Malik (well indirectly of course) of dire consequences when she comes back. He also said that if his own daughter would have done something like this, he would have given it to her. This guy was given ample opportunity to engage with Veena Malik and they argued back and forth. As if that was not enough, he was allowed by the presenter to repeatedly insult the guest of the show, something I never expected on a BBC show.
Another female guest was allowed to ask Ms. Malik if she was a Muslim. When she said that yes, she is a Muslim and her religiosity is a private matter between her and her Allah, the caller was also allowed to mock Veena Malik.  
In response to Veena Malik’s argument that she is part of entertainment industry and she will continue to do bold shoots to stay in the business, Presenter Nihal asked her a very pointed and leading question. He asked if Veena Malik is a Muslim and if she is asked to select between her religion and entertainment industry, what will she choose?
Now it was a very inappropriate question to ask in normal circumstances, but considering what has happened earlier this year –Salmaan Taseer’s murder – this kind of insensitivity was mind boggling and unprofessional. When the presenter turned to me to seek my opinion on Veena; I decided to point out his super unprofessional attitude and how his leading question can jeopardize his guest’s life. It was against journalism ethics 101 to put someone on spot and ask them to testify about their religiosity in hypothetical situations. Instead of responding to my objection in an adult and rational manner, Presenter Nihal took it as a personal offence and said something to the effect that he was right in raising that question as her Veena’s dad has already disinherited her. Before I could’ve responded to it, he cut me off and went to another person.
For starters,Veena’s dad disinheriting her does not give the present any right to mock and insult his guest in a manner that can put her life in danger. Secondly, his tone was accusatory when he was speaking with his guest and it was all good, but when a caller presented him with a genuine grievance, he cuts her off. That was real mature of him. Lastly, if he had allowed me to speak, I would have said that there should be some difference between him – a BBC presenter with a first world education – and Veena’s dad who, if I recall correctly, is a retired non commissioned officer in Pakistan army. Veena’s dad’s comments could be waived as something which is said in the heat of moment, but the comments of a supposedly responsible journalist who makes his living by talking to people and about people cannot be ignored that lightly.
Dear BBC, 
I know it was a programme targeted towards the Asian Diaspora in UK and is not for your mainstream audience, but please, make an effort, and hire someone who is at least professional and courteous if not more. 

PS: If you want to listen to it, you can do so for five more days here 

Jul 22, 2011 - religion    29 Comments

Halalness much?

If the marketing gurus trying to make a few gazillion dollars off the religious sentimentality are to be believed, there weren’t any good Muslim a couple of decades back. People used to eat food, deposit and draw money in the banks, eat chips, drink cola, wash their hair and no one’s faith was under consideration for doing all that the regular way.

But that was then. These days, everything you do has got to be shariah compliant or you are toast. Every other bank offers you Halal credit schemes and one of them has the gall to tell you that there is no barakat in interest so all the non shariah compliant bank users will not only be condemned to hellfire and damnation for eternity, they will be also be deprived to barakat in this life.

Shariah is the way to go, so says Burj Bank

Junaid Jamshed has already benefitted handsomely by declaring fatwa that potato chips are Halal (all vegetables, fruits and grains are halal you dummy) and Unilever is now focusing on hijabi babes and their hidden follicle beauty by churning out shampoos for the unexposed scalps. There are halal toothpastes and halal erotica for those who want to indulge in some religiously sanctioned kink.
After offering us all things halal, a California based company is offering us – yes, you heard it right – Halal Wine. You now have to option to drink a glass of Rosé, Merlot and Riesling and celebrate without the fear of intoxication. Errr, forgive me if I am wrong, but isn’t the point of drinking is to let lose a bit and let go?

This advertisement photo of halal wine is kinda non halal, innit?

Apr 22, 2011 - rant    9 Comments

Is it PR, is it pimping or is it fraud?

A friend and I have always dreamed about opening up a PR firm where we would provide top of the shelf consultancy on rebranding, lifestyle public relations, crisis public relations, running PR campaigns to influence policymaking and creating a personal brand and image makeovers for politicians and celebrities. Our dream clients would have been the cricket board (because no matter who is at the helm of the affairs, they repeatedly manage to shoot themselves in the foot) and Shiekh Rasheed because we thought he would just be super interesting to work with.
My friend is currently pursuing a post grad degree in PR in USC and visits Jimmy Kimmel Show (Or was it Jimmy Fallon) sets to learn the tricks of the trade while I slave my days away dealing with clients who want this and that and the other and writing an occasional piece or two to remind myself of the good days when I used to do it full time. The point of this long winding personal story is that PR is something I hold in high esteem and have utmost respect for the people who do it well without excessive schmoozing.
Recently, a UAE based newspaper approached me to do a profile on a local celebrity to which I readily agreed. The said celebrity is someone who I find rather interesting (just for the contradictions he represents if for nothing else) and thought he would make an excellent subject to write on.
I called a reporter friend and got his number. Called him quite a few times and sent him various text messages but did not get any response. Someone suggested that I should find a common friend who can introduce me to him if I really want him to talk to me. I approached a famous columnist who very kindly introduced me to another journalist who is apparently friends with this superstar celebrity. Both these gentlemen – the columnist and the journalist – went out of their way to help me, a person they have never met. But the celebrity remained elusive.
Then another friend suggested that I should approach his PR representative and maybe he can get me a time slot with this guy. Honestly, I was getting tired but thought there is no harm in approaching this guy, after all it is his job that his client gets the right kind of exposure in worthy publications so I approached him. The PR guy Arsalan Shah claims to represent a few high profile celebrities. In the beginning he was amenable and wanted me to email him the details. I told him the name of publication interested and the kind of piece I wanted to do, he then emailed and said yes, the interview can be arranged. I was happy that my persistence paid off and I finally managed to get a response. I emailed the PR rep asking him about the date/time/venue of the proposed interview.
I then received an email saying that he is willing to arrange for the interview but I need to cough up something to the tune of $1000 to $1500 to get face time with the celebrity is question. the exact words he wrote were:

…. but the entire speculation will be charged to an amount no less than USD 1000 – USD 1500. If geared up from your side, we can talk over further parley on my direct line.

I was stunned! $1000 to $1500! He wanted to be paid to arrange for an interview and he was expecting me to haggle with him over the price!!!! What was he? A PR guy or a pimp who not only wanted to be paid in cold hard cash but also willing to negotiate the price! And he called setting up an interview speculation!!!! Just when I thought I should write to him telling him what I think of his offer and where he can stuff it, I got a text from the reporter friend of the star saying that the celeb in question does not want to do any interviews, period.

I then realized that the PR guy probably have not even spoken to his client and wanted to make some extra cash on the side. I am not really sure if this guy was a PR professional, a glorified pimp or a fraudster out to con gullible journalists. If I were that celebrity I would fire this guy before he can type in the dollar sign.

PS: The celebrity in question is NOT Shahid Afridi. From what I know and have heard, Lala does not ask for money for interviews.

Feb 12, 2011 - Uncategorized    21 Comments

Apa Firdous, you rock!

You know what, people may think I am a bloody nobody and Apa Firdous is well, Apa Firdous, but she and I have a lot more in common than anyone would ever guess. For starters, neither Apa Firdous, nor I have a Wikipedia page. I mean even bloody Fawad Alam has a Wikipedia entry but not us! What kind of world are we living in?
Apa Firdous in all her ministerial glory
Secondly, we both have crashed weddings of cricketers. She flew all the way to India to crash  attend the wedding of Shoaib Malik while I begged a friend – who was a genuine guest – to take me to Waseem Akram’s wedding. Even though I was a little girl back then, I was not too delighted when my sister called me a wedding crasher and I kept mum about it till the day Apa Firdous gloriously committed the same act. Being Apa Firdous, she did it loudly and she did it in style; gold crowns and family planning kits included. Thanks to Apa Firdous, I too mustered enough courage to come out and say, “yes I have been a wedding crasher once and I am not ashamed of it.”

Apa Firdous with that aforementioned gold crown.

Both Apa and I admire diverse linguistic expressions. I have chosen to be a writer to articulate my linguistic aptitude whereas Apa’s legendary linguistic proficiency is immortalized in this video where she insults a fellow parliamentarian in choice words – yes, swearing and name calling is an acceptable linguistic expression and there is no one who rips it like Apa Firdous.
Now Apa Firdous has a spanking new job and guess who is rubbing her hands with glee, good ol’ moi. I have earned my living through the business of information/communication all my life and I am so happy that Apa Firdous has joined our ranks by accepting the portfolio of Minister of Information. Personally, it has just brought me one step closer to Apa Firdaus. There may have been more articulate ministers in the past who were a lot more adept at handling media and information but Apa as the official spokesperson is so going to rock the ministry. Official briefings would now be in a different league altogether; fun times ahead.