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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How things change ...

It was the late 70s. Our ship docked in Beirut - a city I had loved in my early visits in the '60 and '63. Wonderful climate, beautiful places, lovely people. And, for someone in his early 20s, the added charm of visiting Kahlil Gibran's city.

But things were different.

The city had been brutalized by wars and battles too confusing to even begin to comprehend. Quickly changing alliances meant everyone was shooting at everyone else at one time or another. The lovely buildings were torn down, ripped apart, or bomb-blast rubble. All roads had blockades and tons of sandbags and morchaas where on-duty soldiers sat when they relieved their colleagues who were occupying all the modern hotels no longer capable of attracting crowds or tourists.

TV News Channels had not been as rampant then and the few news pictures in the press had barely prepared us for the real sight

Although we should have guessed how bad things were becoming in the world (not just in Beirut) from the first 2 shocks we received when entering the harbour. The pilot (for those unfamiliar, this is person who navigates the ship into closed harbours and ports after the ship's captain has brought it up to the entrance, because the pilot is more familiar with the local tides, seabed changes and movements in the harbour, to name some reasons) was taking the ship in to dock, when a mild but very definite explosion was heard on the side of the ship. All of us, except the bemused looking pilot, rushed out into the bridge-wings to see what had happened. All we could see were some very young kids in a boat. Puzzled, we turned to the pilot, who - totally nonchalantly - informed us that the kids in the boat must have been using grenades to throw into the sea, since it brought up many fish (including dead ones) ... a novel method, but practical (he said) since fishing nets and wires were often more difficult to get hold of than grenades.

No doubt this was the greater of the two shocks, at that time. But, over the years, I feel that the second one was more impactful: The wave of laughter that my fellow seafarers burst into on hearing this, while Nuzhat (who was travelling with me - as she did for 12 years at sea) and I exchanged pained and shocked glances.

The next incident in Beirut caught us totally unawares.

The city was heavily divided into Christian and Muslim sectors (even the harbour had two different gates) and it was generally unsafe for people from one community to venture out into the other. (In some other post, if it warrants, I shall describe how different the two sectors were.) The head of the shipping agency was also the leader of the leading Christian political party and, eventually became a very senior official in the government. He sent his car to escort us to the office and join him over a cup of coffee. We had armed guards with us and felt really odd in such surroundings, being used to Karachi's peace. (Yes you heard right!)

We'd just gotten off the car outside the office when there were sounds of what we assumed was motor-rickshaws backfiring. So Nuzhat and I stood and looked all around us to see what kinds of rickshaws existed in Beirut. Very slowly it dawned upon us that we were the only two people standing. Everyone else was sheltered somewhere or lying face-down on the ground. And our driver was desperately motioning us to do the same. When it was over we realized that our preconditioning had caused this problem. We had never heard gunfire up so close and motor-rickshaws, in Karachi, were an everyday sound source.

It was not much longer, later, that Karachi's Beirutization took place and every motor-rickshaw misfiring began to sound like gunfire to us. We have only Zia to curse for this because, in him, we have found an easy peg to hang this on (and a lot of justification, too). The country's politicians, the dissenting factions within the army, and a frustrated population waiting to be misled ... all contributed.

Fast-Forward to today. Despite what many of you saw on TV of May 12, the fact is that many of us in Karachi also saw it only on TV. Contrary to the kinds of questions I get asked about Karachi (not just from people from other countries wanting to visit for whatever reason, but from friends in other Pakistani cities), many of us have not been eyewitness to something like this. Yes, a hell of a lot more have had phones and cars snatched. And dacoits enter homes. But killings, no. So, when - about an hour ago - I was startled by extra-ordinarily loud gunfire and pistol shots outside my house (we live in a cul-de-sac so we hardly hear anything but cars visiting us or our neighbours), Nuzhat and I rushed out to look through the window and - very quickly - ducked back for fear of being hit by a stray bullet.

Around 20 minutes of frighteningly increasing cross-fire later, there was silence. Doc Shamim and I (our gates are opposite each other, just over 15 feet apart) came out to see - just two houses away - a horde of police vans, some still screeching in, an overturned motorcycle next to a windshield broken car, many civvies with large guns and mustaches (this scary lot belongs to some minister who has, much to our chagrin, moved nearby) and kids from everywhere nearby gathered. So far all I can report is 3 young men injured (and captured). Plus one shot dead. One unconfirmed injured policeman. No idea what kind of encounter or chase resulted in this. Keep tuned in. If I hear anything, I'll add it.

The only thing I could see staring me in the face, as in the first Beirut incident, was the utter insensitivity on the smiling faces of people who gathered, their voyeurism satiated. Who, then, can blame the kid from the gali who, in the midst of all this, went up to the police to ask if he and his friends could now go back to completing their lane cricket match which was disrupted by this 'incident'?

Peace!

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Wassup with our newspapers?

'The News' features this story on its front page: Two Japanese girls raped in Lahore By Salman Aslam

LAHORE: Two Japanese girls were raped by five persons in the provincial metropolis five days back, The News learnt on Friday. The victims, who were identified as Shizuka and Yazana ...
Who the eff identifies and publishes the names of victims in rape cases? And why? To what end? Granted that The News didn't score as badly as The Dawn of a couple of days earlier (see below), it's not good enough. Learn to be sensitive and ethical, guys. You are not competing with sensationalist tabloidism (or even your own group's Urdu paper).
This is what I had written to the Editor of Dawn two days ago. Have been travelling, so I don't know if it made it to the Letters page or not.
Dear Editor I am amazed that a newspaper of your standing and reputation should publish pictures of rape victims. Even in the absence of a law [preventing such information being published], I expect better sense from a publication such as yours. Here are two excerpts from international sources that may help explain my view. The first from the Organization of News Ombudsmen "You will rarely see the name of a rape victim -- or the victim of almost any sex crime -- in the pages of any newspaper. Most follow the same guidelines we do here, which is not to name people who have been, or allege to have been, victims of sexual assaults or attempted sexual assaults. We allow three exceptions: the person agrees to be named; the assault and the victim's identity are so well known that it's pointless to withhold it; or there is a valid news reason to do so. No law prohibits the publication of these names. The Plain Dealer and most newspapers elect to withhold them because of the stigma often unfairly attached to victims of sex crimes, and because we do not want the fear of disclosure to discourage victims from prosecuting their attackers." And the second from a source relatively closer to home, a Thai newspaper ('The Nation'), after two other local newspapers published victims' photos: "Photographers don't have the right to point their cameras at victims and relatives in this kind of case. I'm not going to say if it's right or wrong to publish those pictures, even with the faces blacked out," said Tulsathit Taptim, chairman of the TJA's Rights and Freedom Committee. Boonrat Apichat-trisorn, of the TJA, said the association had launched a campaign in 2004 to promote media ethics and sensitivity when reporting on cases of sexual assault but this case showed some journalists were still failing to grasp their responsibilities. 'As I senior female reporter who has worked in the media for a long time, I demand the press show more understanding of the issue,' she said." Granted that in this case the victims' families held a press conference and wished to publicize the case, the same effect could have been achieved by powerful and sensitive reporting - sans photos. I sincerely hope that Dawn will be more considerate in the future.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

If you thought blog bans were bad ...

You ain't seen nothing yet! Thank you, Jehan Ara, for bringing the info to blogland.

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Do the Dead Know They Are Dead?

"Newspapers must win online, or face a future of painful contraction." So stated Winning Online - A Manifesto, published in September by Editor & Publisher, a publication that bills itself as America's Oldest Journal Covering The Newspaper Industry. It went on to say, "Newspaper industry leaders are frogs in a pot. The water’s starting to boil, and it’s time to jump. Only 19 percent of 18-34 year olds read a daily newspaper; 44 percent of them go to a web news portal. Broadband penetration has reached 57%. The blogosphere is doubling every 5.5 months. Search provides instant access to the world’s information. User-generated content has turned the authority model of institutional media on its head. Peer-to-peer networks, tag clouds and reputation engines are fundamentally changing how people engage with content and communications." It is obvious that members of the NOW generation, as well as the hightech-savvy among the older generation, are more likely to agree immediately. A reflection of this can best be seen in the many comments the appearance of a portion of the above E&P piece prompted on the blog of Microsoft's Emerging Business Team blogger Don Dodge, after he stated, "In the past I subscribed to Forbes, Fortune, Inc, Red Herring, Venture, Computer World, Computer Reseller News, Byte, and Time. I also subscribed to The Wall Street Journal and my local newspaper. Now I subscribe to none of them. I get my news online." Before you pooh-pooh this as the hollow words of some techie (which Don is most probably not), do pause to think that Microshaft is about money. Its Emerging Business team must be looking hard at trends of all industries to know where to make inroads, where to invest, what to grab, who to target. Bob Walsh, reader of that blog, commented "Like a very bad car accident you drive by slowly, shocked by the blood and gore, there's actually two near-fatalities on the information superhighway today: 1. Traditional journalism. The mood of most newsrooms today is one decidedly gallows humor. There are approximately one half as many reporters in America today as there was a decade ago. Reporters are caught between the desire to glitz up the news, the need to dumb it down for an increasingly undereducated market, and their corporate masters who demand ever-improving profit margins forever and amen. 2. The second casualty is the idea of local. Local hasn't been doing too hot for about the last hundred years, but the Net is providing the final nail in coffin: I have more in common with people in the UK, New York, and hundreds of other places than I have with my next-door neighbors. And I can get a hold them quicker. Newspapers are a sinking ship; the captains of industry still refuse to see the icebergs ahead. The big question is whether reporters are going to go down when the ship, or realize that they no longer need newspapers to do their job." Gerald Buckley, another reader, pitched in with: "I think the model is slowly (and painfully for the print-minded) turning a new, more efficient leaf. Once the print consumers are flushed from our ranks (die or convert) then it will fait accompli." An opposing POV came from someone called LayZ (Hmmm. Could that be the problem?): "...the form factor of an electronic device for reading anything longer than 5-10 minutes is intolerable for me. Nothing will replace the ability to hold a document, periodical, or book in my hand and read it, refer back to it, annotate it. Throw it in the corner for future reference ... And there is no way I'm EVER taking my PC device into the bathroom!" The objections raised by LayZ, will all be sorted out fairly soon ... with digital paper, better form factors, flexible screens, and other technological innovations. Some already have. As Kevin Tofel points out on the same page: "The few magazines I actually still subscribe to are digital editions simply because I can store them without wasting closet space, plus I can annotate them or even clip them with notes into OneNote, Evernote and the like, which makes them searchable."

In wi-fi enabled homes (a fast-growing phenomena, even in our city, as Broadband rates and Wireless Modem costs reduce and more than one member of the family begins to own computers and wants to go online from separate locations), I know several people who do take their laptops to the loo. One customer with a laptop surprised and amused the staff at T2F by asking if the free WiFi (Thank you, MaxCom!) was accessible from the toilet :-)
Lest I be accused of relying too much on one kind of source and thought-pool, here's more: Marsha Geller (Editor at Large of iMedia Connection) has been covering the interactive advertising industry for nearly a decade. She quotes a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism which says that 2005 may go down in history as "the year when journalism in print began to die." Marsha adds that the report base[d] that ominous ruling on events such as newsroom staff cuts, scandals, downward spiraling stock prices, declining circulation, and frustrated investors [...] BTW, if these people sound like near-techies because of their fields of work, do remember that not all techies are anti-newspapers. Visit the post Will the Internet Kill Newspapers for a sampling of views of one such community on the Palm Addict website, where - for example - Kris Gainsforth writes, "Just like books, I don't think that electronic means will replace the newspaper. The tactile feeling of reading a newspaper just cannot be duplicated by a Palm, no matter how cool it is. ;-)" ... and jvburthingy says, "I don't think the internet will kill newspapers. After all, TV didn't kill radio." The State of the News Media 2006 (a very large report but exceedingly readable for anyone deeply interested in the media) has some interesting graphs and charts that tell their own story. Let me share a couple.
I have no intention through these graphs, let me hastily add, of turning this into a 'blogs vs. print' debate - already done to death (a trifle too emotionally by the print-supporters) elsewhere on this and many other blogs. That the newspapers (and print journalism, as an obvious corollary) are in big trouble is NOT due to the internet and blogs, alone, for sure. There are countless other factors, two of which can be seen in the next two charts.
Warren ("no one has followed the newspaper business as closely as we have for as long as we have—50 years or more.") Buffet, investor and philanthropist (he gave away over 80% of his fortune to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), in a Hypergene interview stated: "People will always want to be entertained and informed. But people just have two eyeballs, and there are only 24 hours in a day. Fifty or 60 years ago, media for most people consisted of the local movie theater, radio, and the local newspaper. Now people have a variety of ways of being informed faster (if not necessarily better), and have more entertainment options, too. But no one has figured out a way to increase the time available to watch entertainment. Whenever more competitors enter a business, the economics of that business tends to deteriorate. Newspapers are still highly profitable, but returns are falling. The size of the audience for network TV is declining. For years, cable TV was thought to operate in its own world, but that’s changing. Few businesses get better with more competitors. The outlook for newspapers is not great." For a while now, some relatively smaller newspapers - more concerned about their future than the giant media conglomerates - are beginning to take note of this phenomena, and articles like Are Newspapers Dying can now be seen voicing such observations as, "Newspaper readership is something of a function of age. If you're 50 or older (hello to all those baby boomers), you're still reading newspapers, and usually four-five days a week. If you're under 50, and definitely if you're under 30, you're a lot less likely to read a newspaper every day of the week. Younger folks turn to the Web, and all of us use multiple media sources for our news and information." (Rockford Register Star). I found Sandy Berger's piece, Newspapers in The Digital World, to be a really interesting read. So far, though, and for a host of reasons - the chief among them being issues of access, lack of local language internet content of any value in countries like ours, the absence of more than a handful of known names writing for the new media (and, even more, of the public being aware of the 'cyber presence' of those who do), coupled with the stop-gap and utterly ludicrous idea of publishing digital look-alike 'copies' of the print edition of major newspapers that use none of the new media's numerous strengths - has kept the waves from drowning the industry. But, in the end, the story of King Canute is worth keeping in mind.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

An amusing paradox

Pakistan's much-publicized same-sex marriage case took on a really odd turn yesterday with the court ruling that the husband was, in fact, a woman (as medically defined) and, therefore, the couple were guilty as charged. I am not clear on whether (and how) the 'unnatural act' part of the charge applies, until evidence of physical sexual relationship is established. The learned judge then ordered the couple to jails: Wife to a female prison, hubby to a male one. Rather self-contradictory, na?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Graduation Day

Thanu, Sanaa, Sophia, Ragni, Julian - May 19, 2007

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Vaah Jafri Sahab

Husain Haqqani's column, carried by The Nation starts off by saying:

Recent events indicate that General Pervez Musharraf has no intention of becoming the first ruler in Pakistani history to relinquish power without first trying to hold on to it by all means, fair or foul.
I am reminded of my favourite humourous poet Syed Mohammad Jafri's tazmeen of Ghalib:
Hazaaroñ kürsiaañ aesee keh har kürsee peh dam niklay Jo inn par baeth kar khüd say üthay hoñ aesay kam niklay

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Finding humour in the worst of times

Dear Customers We regret to inform you that due to critical conditions of the City on May 12, 13 and 14 our staff - despite their best efforts - could not reach their offices. As a result of this you had to spend these three days without loadshedding. We sincerely apologize for the convenience caused to you. The KESC Management [Thanks for sharing this, Freddie!]

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

A 'Wake Up!' Call for Muslims

Who's sleeping? Click on the image to read caption.

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The Battle Within The Battle

Professor Adil Najam, on his very popular All Things Pakistan blog, featured 'Another Dark Day, But Hope Persists' - a guest post by Fawad, "a California-based literati-at-large" with an interesting blog, ‘Moments of Tranquility’, which you can read by clicking its link on my list of favourites in the right bar. The post, dealing with the recent Karachi carnage, has attracted several comments (and continues to do so). Views often clash, as they should. However, as an off-shoot, a tangential debate on the place of citizen journalism has emerged. I am sure it will be of interest to bloggers at large (and very specially to those who have read Dr. Awab Alvi's recent posting on the Proud Pakistanis e-group). I have taken the liberty (apologies, Adil) of extracting some of the pertinent comments from ATP to save you from sifting through the larger collection (although they are all worth a read in terms of the main theme, so do visit the ATP site).

Aqil Sajjad May 14th, 2007 at 10:53 am And by the way, even pictures captured by the camera crews of the private channels can be anonymously put on-line unofficially if there is something worth broadcasting that the channels are unable to show due to some govt threat. omar r. quraishi May 14th, 2007 at 12:15 pm aqil you have no idea what your’e talking about [...] how many people do you think get their info from Youtube or blogs in the country — they get it from the print and electronic media Aqil Sajjad May 14th, 2007 at 10:10 pm The censorship pressure is undeniable (for some reason Omar gets angry when we mention it), omar r. quraishi May 14th, 2007 at 11:59 pm aqil — i dont get angry but kind of shocked because you have no idea what you’re talking about and when you’re corrected by people who are professional journalists you still insist on having your say [anon] May 15th, 2007 at 6:26 pm Mr. Omar R Qureshi: Whenever I read your comments I get the feeling that you are threatened by the ‘alternate media’ and are forever trying to impress upon people the weight that the print media and its ‘professional journalists’ have in your opinion. Nonetheless, slowly but surely that equilibrium is shifting, however much people like you may try and deny it. If I get no newspaper at my place and get all my news from either the net (online newspapers, blogs etc.) or television (and I am an ardent news follower) then I am sure there are others like me and in the coming years the number will only increase. Blogging may certainly not be as widespread a medium as the regular or print media but it has given a voice to people who have no vested interests, no advertisements to think of, no jobs being threatened and no editorship/censorship. Now obviously the above can be both a good and a bad thing but the fact of the matter is that it has its very own niche that newspapers cannot possibly have for they will forever be controlled in some way or the other. As for Geo (as that is the only Jang Group part I can speak of with authority) it WAS certainly hedging and trying to play it safe, listening to Hamid Mir today on NDTV the fact hit home even more as he was far far more open in naming names while on NDTV compared to when he is on GEO. Syed Talat Hussain is one of the few really brave and truly investigative journalists in Pakistan which is why he was targetted so on the 12th of May, GEO didn’t even come close to Aaj in their coverage. Even during the earthquake GEO had the utterly (PUKE PUKE) reprehensible Amir Liaquat Hussain insulting the thinking Pakistani’s intelligence whereas Talat Hussain dealt with the catastrophe with the dignity and heart it deserved. As for your point about the print version of The News dealing with Hammad Raza’s death and not the online version, it is only when ‘professional journalists’ like you will start realizing the importance of news on the internet which is for more readily available will groups like The Jang Group really move forward in a new direction, till then you will continue to feel threatened by the ‘new media’ instead of embracing it and considering it an augmentation of the regular one and its friend and quirky partner. omar r. quraishi May 16th, 2007 at 4:11 am [anon] — you are living in dreamworld — the number of people who get their news from blogs is miniscule — in any case, just because it grows doesnt mean it comes at the expense of the other media — only an idiot like you would think that a journalist like me would actually be threatened by the alternate media — and even within the mainstream media there are alternative spaces — bet that didnt occur to you either anyways i am not talking about geo but about the print media — also even when aaj tv was attacked they did not name the party either — and for your information no print media organisation has either — so to single out one publication is a bit disingenous on your part also professional journalists do not think of adverts or vested interests when the do their job [anon] — your insinuations that they do are in poor taste [anon]   May 16th, 2007 at 9:27 am Mr. Quraishi: I think it may be a case of weak comprehension skills on your part, your ‘professional’ linguistic ability and ethic you have already revealed by the tone and content of your comment. You can protest against a State Minister resorting to abuse against a journalist but feel free to do the same yourself without batting an eyelid. You have unmasked your ‘professionalism’ right there. If I had been a young graduate begging for a job outside your office I may have been forced to stand such language from you but you know what Blogging has done? It has given me a voice that does not require putting up with a high handed authoritarian attitude, so I am afraid it is beginning to be a LITTLE hard to cow down the everyday man/woman’s opinion by declaring it asinine and throwing it across the table. This is a democracy that you just cannot do anything about, however much you may rant and rave. also even when aaj tv was attacked they did not name the party either — and for your information no print media organisation has Proves my point. It is only bloggers who can come out with the naked truth without any fears of losing a job or a license I too said that blogging is very limited at the moment but in the future it will gain greater currency as blogs with cult following like ATP have shown. If you are talking about percentages, then how many people in Pakistan read an English daily in relation to the country’s total population? I assure you even less are bothered about your editorial piece hidden between reams of other assorted truths and half-truths. The ‘alternative’ spaces within mainstream media are also controlled, it is only blogging that allows complete freedom and ownership to the individual and that is what I was talking about. If you had actually read my comment (or understood it) you would have realized that I end it by talking about the alternative media working in tandem with the mainstream one, not pitting it against each other as most of your comments here seem to do. Each medium has its own limitations and its own strengths and they can work together to fill in where the other lacks. Fawad May 16th, 2007 at 12:36 pm @[anon], I couldn’t agree more with you overall point that Mr. Quraishi is either willfully distorting the argument or doesn’t have the basic intelligence to understand the point. He doth protest too much. He is not even clear himself on what exactly he is defending other than ranting and raving about the virtuous print media and his own supposedly courageous op-ed piece. Again I want to emphasize what I have written before. The Pakistani press deserves praise for its courage under extreme duress but not acknowledging the limitations it works under or being able to see the value of the incredible and growing contribution of online media in opening up the dialog takes a peculiar personality and a head firmly lodged in sand. omar r. quraishi May 16th, 2007 at 2:34 pm fawad — welcome to living in a dream world as well — let me clarify i didnt call you an idiot [anon], i called your remarks idiotic — the number of people who read english newspapers is far more than the number of people who read blogs — and the audience of the english press is quite different from the urdu press — smaller but far more influential as well — and for the record, open your eyes ‘ms’ [anon] — i never said anywhere that the print media is high and mighty but yes do say that those who think that it is not doing its duty are telling lies themselves — and on this i proved it by posting several links from my own newspaper to refute two other interactors — i think people can say a lot in blogs because the medium and anonymity allows it — if you have a mob outside your house which is there to seek revenge after finding out you are writing against them on a blog then I will see your reaction — or i will ask you to be a reporter in a newspaper and see your reaction to threats — till then your posts are immature and idiotic — you have heard of the phrase ‘put up or shut up’ i hope omar r. quraishi May 16th, 2007 at 2:39 pm fawad — open your eyes and learn to read — no one is denying the limitations but there is a difference between saying that the media works under a lot of censorship and tries to do its job and saying that it is a sell-out (because of the govt pressure) – i edit the editorial pages of one of the country’s largest english newspapers and have yet to receive any call from any minister or govt official or the publisher for that matter telling me what to do — like i said you guys have no idea of what you are talking about or of how journalists go about carrying out their duties in real life also [anon] if you read a bit, you would have noticed that in my own columns and editorials i have written about the increasing popularity of blogs and the web — but it is still very very limited omar r. quraishi May 16th, 2007 at 2:45 pm [anon] wrote: “. If I had been a young graduate begging for a job outside your office I may have been forced to stand such language from you but you know what….” what gives [anon] — do you suffer from some severe complex or what — i am not the one who launched in a personal attack for no reason here — stop insinuating about my professional work ethic, or lack thereof, please — the problem with people like you is that they see everything in black or white — you thrive on generalisations — the media is all bad — everything they say is a lie — good grief! you need to get out of your protected blog-existence
Only on the Internet could a professional print journalist (albeit one of no particular import in terms of personal writings, regardless of the 'official' position he holds) write such trash or behave so unprofessionally - telling others they don't know what they are talking about, calling them idiots, making sarcastic but meaningless personal comments - such as asking the author of the original post to 'learn to read', and living in a dreamworld thinking everyone else lives in one. Although Omar R Qureshi's comments must have upset many, both for their tone and content, we see that this democratic medium - which could have been used to call him the many things he more than deserves - has shown more decency and decorum in allowing him to express his inane views and use language that his medium of choice (or his newspaper) would not permit. The times, Mr. Print Journalist, are a-changing. Wake up! You are young enough to be writing (hopefully more maturely and with fewer knee-jerk, personal reactions and with certainly a less authoritarian tone - difficult to shed, I agree, when brought up under years of martial regimes!), in times ahead, for this medium which will be there for a long, long while after print journalism has further lost it's relevance and impact and only the best among it survive.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Up & Running!

Photos: The b.i.t.s. Team

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Injemaad

If the younger readers are wondering whether the current situation in the country is of recent origin and it is only they who have to bear with this crap, let me assure them that this has been the state of affairs here since almost the beginning. Poets, artist, writers - whose role was best defined by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. when he said:

" ... when a society is in great danger, [they are] likely to sound the alarms. I have the canary-bird-in-the-coal-mine theory of the arts. You know, coal miners used to take birds down into the mines with them to detect gas before men got sick. The artists certainly did that in the case of Vietnam. They chirped and keeled over. But it made no difference whatsoever. Nobody important cared. But I continue to think that artists — all artists — should be treasured as alarm systems."(Playboy Interview, 1973)
have been pointing out to our stasis - one that gets cured for just long enough to allow us to slide down further - for years. Humourous poet Dilaavar Figaar had this to say:
Har baat ka javaab hae 'Haalaaté Haazrah!' Sün sün kay loag haal say bayhaal ho gaey. Haalaté Haazrah nah sahee müstaqil, magar, Haalaté Haazrah ko kaee saal ho gaey!
On a much more serious note, Himayat Ali Shaer's lament in a ghazal from the 70s rings in my ears as I look at images like this:
Ab bataao jaae gee zindagee kahaañ, Yaaro Barq kee haeñ phir nazrayñ sooé aashiaañ, Yaaro Türbatoñ ki sham'ayñ haeñ aur gahri taareeki Jaa rahay thay kis jaanib, aa gaey khaañ, Yaaro Baagh hae keh maqtal hae, phool haeñ keh laashayñ haeñ Shaakh shaakh hota hae daar ka gümaañ, Yaaro Raahzan ke baaray mayñ aur kyaa kahayñ khül kar? Meeré Kaaravaañ, Yaaro! Meeré Kaaravaañ,Yaaro!

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Magar ün ghamoñ ko maeñ kyaa kahooñ jo khüshee ke naam se aae haeñ?

The images on our TV screens yesterday continue to haunt me. The artificiality and the ridiculousness of the Islamabad event where it was not even considered necessary to disguise the fact that people had been brought in from far and wide, often with little or no choice of refusal to participate when commanded by their chaudhries. Karachi has seen violence before. Worse, too. But the inaction of the police was a phenomenon never seen on such a large scale - now made visible, thanks to the power of the new media. Aaj TV under siege, viewed by people around the world, appealing for help to "everyone except the President and the PM" ... and the total lack of response, except for the remarkably stupid comments of some of the higher ups. Faintly reminiscent of the yet-to-be-solved mystery (hahaha!) of the recent police attack on Geo, na? As you can see from this BBC website image, this made our beloved President very, very sad:

I think the protestors and the CJ supporters (many riding the bandwagon, obviously, for their own political gains) goofed. Their strategy should have been to call off the visit and the jubilee celebrations at the last minute, postponing them for 3-4 days later. That would have pulled the rug from under the feet of the government and its supporters. It would have been impossible for them to rechedule their large events at such short notice ... or to postpone them to coincide with the CJs changed visit date without exposing their designs.
Things don't bode well ... not just for Karachi but for the country. We may be in for a long hot summer again. Here's what Physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy has to say. [This is a PDF I have just received.]

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Saturday, May 12, 2007

The wait is over!

Do drop in ... You never know whom you'll meet there ... Stars & Bloggers ... Bankers and Media Persons ... Publishers and Authors ... Famous Dads and Daughters ... Educators and ... ... Anti-Schoolers! There's food for the body ... and the soul. And a whole lot more to chat about! • Visit the T2F Website for more info. Read discussions on the blog. Sign in to be kept informed of events. • NOW OPENS MAY 15TH DUE TO THE TRAGIC EVENTS IN KARACHI Photos: The b.i.t.s. Team

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Thanks to you, Mr President, we now have this (and more to come)

Dr. Razia Sultana, associate professor, is one of the few women teachers left at QAU without a hijab. I received this from a friend of mine (also a professor at QAU) who visited her immediately following the incident: At about 10:00am Dr. Razia Sultana was in her office working on her computer when she was suddenly hit from behind upon her head by a heavy hand. The man would have hit her again, but Dr. Razia Sultana's student was present and caught hold of the assailant. He was turned over to the chowkidars. He said that he had been instructed by God and would not allow bay-purdah women in the university. He is not a university student and, apparently, had been stalking her since early morning. Although discouraged by the QAU authorities(???) from doing so, Dr. Razia Sultana has filed an FIR. IMHO, the mishandling of the Lal Masjid case - and the inexplicable as well as inexcusable consideration shown to the culprits - is directly responsible for this.

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