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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Zakhm kay bharnay talak naakhün nah ba∂h aaengay kyaa?

The tragedy, the confusion, the lies, the deceit, the unanswered questions ..... so much has been said everywhere about the Lal Masjid saga that it seems pointless to add anything. Except that there's this alternating mind-pounding and numbing that makes me want to blog about it. Sorry, folks. This is just cathartic. So skip it. Even in its wake, the major discussions - be they from the Rulers trying desperately to not let this mar their image any further, or the Opposition trying equally hard to make political capital out of what is a far bigger matter than their rumblings dare touch upon - detract from the fact that all this was merely a symptom of the much greater malaise we are suffering. When the dust settles (if anyone will let it, for, after all, it does provide a 'smoke-screen'), the REAL questions will need to be asked: Has the majority tacitly chosen this path but is too ashamed to admit it, openly? Or does it really oppose this path but is merely afraid to say so? After all, for the (wise or otherwise) course to be set for the ship of this state we need to ascertain the destination. But, unteven before the dust settles, will not fresh waves of Lal Masjid supporters - and the various groups that preach hatred and violence for everyone they disagree with - not sprout all over the country with renewed vigour, spouting greater cries of revenge? There is, I notice, a strange co-existence and accomodation of both views - the liberal/secular and the fundamentalist - in many more minds than is openly admitted. And it shows itself in the ridiculous embracing of an odd neutrality that ails the bulk of the small educated society. Enlightened Moderation, too, is just a classy name for it. The bizarre demand for a peculiar kind of tolerance - to tolerate the intolerant - is yet another manifestation of the same thing. No on dares, anymore, to call a Spade a Spade. 'Political correctness', another US import we could do without, is one more nail in the coffin of decency: Let's face it, you are hardly worthy of respect if the 'correctness' you are indulging in is spurred by 'policy'. The electronic media covered the event 24/7 ... Given the lack of training (or preparation for such an eventuality) and the mushrooming of channels that has made announcers and analysers of everyone and his sister-in-law, they did more than a fairly ok job. But, there too, Neutrality was the word of the day. Barring the performance of one specific channel on May 12 that gave the media some courage for a while, "Let's not annoy anyone, lest the side that turns out to be the eventual winner screws us over" is what seemed to be going through the media's minds (and the minds of the 'experts' and 'analysts') during this episode. One example - but it typifies much that I witnessed. Maulana As'ad, who represents the organization which looks after the various madaaris (Aside: Given the way some of these people behave, I often wonder if this word is the plural of madressah or of madaari), sounded schizophrenic on a Talk Show when he stated that "Rashid Ghazi Shaheed" acted wrongly by taking the law into his own hands, that Malana As'ad's organization and many other ulema were opposing Ghazi's stand because, although his demands for enforcement of Shariah were justified, such unilateral actions were not Islamic. Wow!!! So why the eff, in the same breath, was Ghazi being referred to as Shaheeed by him, then? Surely one cannot be a martyr by dying while trying to kill others in a Jihad that is not a Jihad.
At one point in the show, I called in (a first for me, but I could not take it much longer!) after 4 panelists and the compere began sounding perplexed about whether the buildings really had 75 rooms and basements, whether there really were hundreds of women trapped (dead?) in there. The host asked Maulan As'ad, who said that since it was a female institution, he had never inspected the premises and had no knowledge. Fair enuff. "Ask Ummé Hassan," I advised them on the phone. "She's out - 'saved by the army', as the newsbytes proclaimed - and could certainly give us the exact number of rooms and the approximate number of students trapped until she was there." ..... Not too difficult to do, IMHO, I thought --- unless we are not supposed to know! - (Anyone for launching an Access to Information Movement here?) - The host repeated my question to the panel. No one answered in the microsecond before the host moved on, mumbling something inane like "She's in police custody, so we cannot ask her." Oops. Only minutes earlier, the same channel had announced that madam had been 'released on parole' and was on her way to take part in her illustrious brother-in-law's funeral. Double Wow!!! In a culture where I have witnessed arguments over whether a wife can see the body of her deceased husband: "They are no longer mahram", a recently-bearded uncle had shouted at a relative's funeral. "Marriage is a contract that ends with death," he had said in support, adding "and wives are not even allowed to accompany their husband's bodies to the graveyard." But, of course, this particular lady - indirectly, at the very least, responsible for many of the deaths in this sad saga - had to be flown, at state expense, to attend the funeral of a renegade in-law. Yes, the vote-bank has to remain intact. I wondered, as I heard the news of her paroled trip, if all people in custody are allowed the facility of attending funerals of anyone they wish to. Or even the funerals of immediate family members. Hmmm... A few words to our young electronic media and its talk-show guests: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality." So said Dante Alighieri ... but I guess he was not in your Media & Journalism courses. So, c'mon guys/gals. Speak your mind. We don't want mere reportage from you in the media, except during the news hour. On talk shows and other analytical programs we want your opinions. Radical. Right. Left. Anarchic. Religious. And, if you tread really carefully, even sacrilegous! We need to hear a variety of views and then make our own informed judgements. There was other confusion, too. While, traditionally, Shahaadat has been held in high esteem among Muslims, surely it wasn't always the only thing worth striving for, as it now seems. While the maulanas and their followers were proclaiming wilingness to die for their noble (though often contradictory) causes, the army, the ministers, the media and others were busy extolling the shahaadats of their personnel and personal favourites. Mothers recounted happily about how their child, now sadly gone, was always - from age 7(!) - wanting nothing else but to be a Ghazi or a Shaheed. What had she been mixing in his cereal, I wondered. A child wept at his uncle's sad death, citing - in an innocent way - the continued bleeding of the dead man's wound during the burial ceremony as proof of the fact that Shaheeds are alive and do not die. While there was obviously no occasion for correcting this misconception at that time - it could have been edited out by the channel. Instead, it went out to hundreds of thousands, strengthening their belief via a wrong childish assumption. The word, Shaheed - (a word that, btw, does not appear in the context of Martyrdom in the Qurãn) - seems to have become a mockery, now, with everyone killed in accidents, epidemics, natural disasters, genocides, language riots, plus collateral damage victims and those in the rather confusing situation of "dying before their time" (whatever one is to make of that!) swelling their ranks. The conclusions I reached about our society, our nation, our community that day were/are scary. Escapism seemed the right thing to do ... at least for a while. For me, that means Music (generally Alfred Brendel's rendition of the Moonlight Sonata or Zia Mohiuddin Dagar's Yaman, played in the Dhrupad ang on the Rudra Veena). Or, sometimes, Urdu Poetry. If the latter, it needs to be the art-for-arts-sake kind: lilting old-time ghazals, with delightful plays on words, a romantic lyricism. You know ... the kind that good old ustaads, like Qamar Jalaalvi, used to thrill mushaerah audiences with. So, I slipped in the hour-long CD of Qamar (available at T2F as part of a double-volume, with Iram Lakhnavi on the other disc), hit the random-play button and closed my eyes ... only to open them with a start as I heard shayrs that seemed, suddenly, too apt. Aap bhee suniyay...

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13 Comments:

Blogger Nauman said...

Nice writeup Mr. Kidvai. You rightly pointed out that our media is still in it’s infancy. They can show the rallies of the CJP and the dead bodies and the wounded people on 12th May incident but investigative reporting and analyzing the situation as complex as Lal Masjid is beyond them. We can’t blame Pakistani media alone even channels like CNN tow the line of government like manufacturing consent for an unjust war in Iraq.

There are still a number of unanswered questions in this whole Lal Masjid episode. How did they managed to mass up so much ammunition right under the nose of ISI? Both these brothers were not hardcore terrorists like Bin Laden so how can these sheepish individuals allow their students to challenge the writ of the State in FCT? Why didn’t government allow them safe passage even if they were harboring foreign terrorists? It was a hostage situation. Though in this case they had the consent of the hostages to use them as human shields but still it was a question of the lives of children and women.

Musharraf has done an irreparable damage to the politics and society of Pakistan. It has further alienated the conservative people of Frontier, Balochistan and Tribal Areas. The reaction to this whole incident is going to be massive. Why our international and domestic leaders don’t understand that military option is always the last option not first?

15 July, 2007 00:56

 
Blogger kinkminos said...

without in any way attempting to inflate mushy's approval rating, it is gratifying that an extensive network of electronic media units exist in pakistan. you pointed out, sensibly, that thair nascent state has not prepared them to be anything other than wild scrabblers for breaking news type items.

regardless of its immaturity (understandable given its infancy) the presence of a not totally gagged media acts as some kind of hurdle against the formerly untramelled excess of governments and governors past.

it remains to be seen whether the endgame of the lal masjid saga is what commentater nauman terms "irreparable damage to the politics and society of pakistan." He also asks a pointed (poignant) question of our "international and domestic leaders."

as far as our domestic leaders are concerned, i doubt any of them would have behaved diferently (in using such tactics) if they found themselves in a similar position.

i'm not quite sure who or why or where or what nauman refers to as our "international" leaders, but if called upon to define them, i would probably point to imperial representatives who, in this the 21st century of lord knows who, are as we all know, hardly averse to the use of military options (esp where the bugbear of "radical islam" is concerned). To quote from a recent leader in The Economist (an acknowledged supporter of american power in a unipolar world):

Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld reversed the... Rooseveltian doctrine, "Speak softly and carry a big stick". After September 11th the White House talked up American power to an extraordinary degree. In that brief period of "shock and awe" when Americans were from Mars, their Venutian allies were lucky to get invited to the show (indeed, in Afghanistan, some old Europeans were initially turned away). Meanwhile Mr Bush declared a "war on terror", rather than just on al-Qaeda, broadening the front to unimaginable dimensions...

in the context of lal masjid i don't think imperial reps were ever keen to explore (or rather, have explored) less violent options.

15 July, 2007 15:02

 
Anonymous Zobaria said...

Or...you could have read(re-read?) Manto's "Shaheed Saaz" and laughed your head off!

16 July, 2007 02:02

 
Anonymous shez said...

Zak, Ive read enough posts to qualify this comment: you are a bit all over the place with this one. Its comming from the heart no doubt. I bring this up because of the difficulty and strong urge it creates to comment. Also makes it a challange to refrain from longer-than-post comments :) Therefore, I will comment on just one aspect:

Do you think it is wise for talk shows and "news" channels to be opinionated (I hate fox, but id probably love a left leaning channel). We are after all an easily influenced people. Dont you think it would be wiser to present facts as facually accurate as possible and let people make up their own point of view?

16 July, 2007 17:10

 
Blogger kinkminos said...

@shez, i think the problem with "presenting facts" within the context of news is that there are usually two (or three or four) sides to any story.

also, the average punter doesn't have the time, inclination or erudition to be able make up his or her point of view. this is after all commercial mass-audience media we are talking about, and their primary goal is not the dissemination of news or "facts" but the attraction of an ever increasing audience to boost ratings and thus ad revenue.

btw, i love fux news. wonderful cure for hypotension, apart from providing a glimpse into the inner workings of "right" minded america.

would be nice though to imagine the possibility of a "fair and unbiased" news channel.

17 July, 2007 15:05

 
Anonymous shez said...

kink, youre right "presenting the facts" is a naive concept. Still feel that news should be un-opinionated, and aim for un-biasedness. may I present "Khabarnama at 9" as a point in case?

17 July, 2007 16:03

 
Blogger kinkminos said...

@shez, you are most welcome to, and i look forward to watching you present the news @ nine, either as a point within your suitcase or as point of fact
:)

17 July, 2007 17:27

 
Anonymous lilac said...

whatever i am going to comment may not be of much high standard or based on some actual facts as u all have but i just want to reperesent what a 22 years old person like me see in the present scenario.

whatever you said is right.....but what is it showing??
what i see around me are just confusions.....i cant argue with anyone...everyone has facts so logical that i begin to believe that yes he is right too....

we talk abt extremists...yes there are extremists everywhere...some extremists says put the women in black torpedos others say its ok to be naked.....some asks for the impementation of what they call islamic rules like hell.. others say its not necessary.....both are extremists at their ends...and the other story is that actually both of these extremists are working for each others' benefits....wow...amazing

then comes the media....oh well i dont think that they are doing something for the information of nation.....they are caching themselves wherever and whenever they get the oppertunity.....they are just spreading the panic....they are just trying to tell everyone....look our country is under emergency...we are going to break...we are going to divide...we are soon going to die as a nation....its over....its getting worse......WHAT THE HELL!!!

where's the solution man!!!
what to do if everything you are saying is right???

i have seen briliant people who are capable of doing some great work fighting over petty things....i dont understand this....from where the differences come?? who is the black sheep....???

people from my generation are dividing in two groups either they are Mullas or the ones who are just happy with their latest chicks and cells and dont know a single damn thing abt the things around us....
and the third category is the one to whom i belong....confused.....just confused....we stand for something and then we step back again coz the the one we think we are against to seems to be even more right...
dont know what to think or do... :(

20 July, 2007 13:49

 
Anonymous shez said...

lilac,

youre better off confused. Everythings not so black and white. and its only a few people who see both sides of the story these days. Its the recipie of tolerance.

23 July, 2007 15:02

 
Blogger Lilac said...

Shez you are absolutely right that everything is not so black and white . infact different people have different perspectives on all the events that ever happened in the history. But we shouldn't defend only one side of an issue and thats also so blindly and at such an extreme level.

furthermore we should be mature enough to ignore the petty issues which does not give any benefit but give rise to more issues and contradictions. and above all along with the discussions constructive practicle steps should also be taken. things shouldnt linger on forever.

i know that it may take a long time but continuous struggle should go on. i am confused but i am not hopeless :)

24 July, 2007 15:17

 
Anonymous Jalal said...

A nation coming from multiple and very dinstintly different educational systems, who have access to completely different sources of media is bound to be fraught with differences.

What is needed is a common soul. One that we can all ascribe to.

28 July, 2007 19:02

 
Anonymous Sin said...

The whole situation could have been handled so much better that I think it's only fair to consider it a complete debacle. Zak, I have very little to add to this--I think (with the exception of the calling-in) that you've pretty much summed up how I at least feel about the entire thing.

29 July, 2007 02:18

 
Blogger Sidhusaaheb said...

I think that those who wish to wage war against the state, for reasons right or wrong, should never base themselves base themselves in a place of worship.

It denigrates the very religion that they profess to enhance the glory of.

Secondly, my ideal kind of television news coverage is the way BBC World does it.

01 August, 2007 12:36

 

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