Saturday, 5 March 2016

Supporting mass murder

Mumtaz Qadri’s execution on 29th February was a net positive. For once the judicial system delivered and he was held accountable for his crime. It shows that despite support for a murderer, he is, and should be treated as, a murderer.

What has happened since isn’t all that though. That a large number of people treated Qadri as a hero and launched protests was expected. As was the turnout for his funeral. So the shock over that was a little bemusing; his execution was a big deal precisely because he had this support.

Yet more than the shock over the numbers that turned out, the surprise over the idea of it was, more bemusing? There was indignant outrage over the fact that people - mullahs, uneducated idiots, religious nutters, seminary students, etc. - openly support a murderer. Yeah. That people can support murderers caused considerable doom and gloom, not to mention anger. Pakistanis have a special talent for overlooking irony, especially journalists.

Mustafa Kamal’s tell some press conference a couple of days ago explained why that was nauseatingly hypocritical. Sub nauseatingly hypocritical for more bemusing. Since when is support of murderers an alien concept, especially for journalists?

Whenever the truth is spoken about the MQM, many pillars of clarity in the media react like they were Mufti Naeem and somebody had said we have a rape problem. Straight to the foreign agenda, in this case the “script”, coupled with ad hominem quips and a vague, deliberately false reference to lack of proof when knowing that most cases go unreported, with an even more abysmal conviction rate.

Yet Mufti Naeem isn’t as suave and I am pretty sure that his explanations wouldn’t tally as closely with a rapists’, as these journalists’ do with the mass murderers. It’s like the editorials and MQM press releases are written on the same desk.

A more important distinction is that while a Mufti Naeem does his best to convince you that rapes aren’t an issue – DAWN’s editorial on the subject makes no mention of the fact the MQM commits mass murder, does not mention killings at all actually, not even in passing – he wouldn't go on TV to bat for a particular rapist.

Again. A very important distinction. Not just apologia, not just obfuscation, not just misdirection; support for the perpetrator.

Have you seen a Mullah come on TV and tell you that rapists actually have a nice personality? Or write in an Op-Ed that rapists have some progressive values? Vote for the rapists to strengthen democracy? Rapists are the bulwarks against terrorism?

Yet that is the prescription from the, I think “rational” is the self-anointed badge now, section of the media. The mass murdering terrorist organization in Karachi is openly supported, championed by people in the media (Dishonourable mention: Nadeem F Paracha). We are told it is the bulwark against terrorism, of all things, liberal hope and shits rainbows.

Even by 2012, target killings in Karachi had killed roughly the same number of people as all of the suicide bombings & drone attacks combined, combined, in Pakistan’s history. Target killers, convicted target killers, have been arrested literally from MQM’s headquarters. Many of the same people that support the mass murdering MQM often take to writing dramatic, emotional details of the atrocities they want to highlight in order to spur a reaction. Although that largely works, they are among the target audience here and since they don’t actually give a shit about human life, going into the details would largely be redundant.

Which brings us to the propaganda job journalists do for this mass murdering entity. No matter what happens, they keep telling people that actually nothing has happened. If an MQM member confesses to security agencies, they will tell you it was under duress. If he confesses to the media, it’s the script. If he confesses to the Scotland Yard.. screenplay perhaps? Supreme Court ruling; well there’s a lot of extremism in the country. Convicted and convicts captured from the bloody headquarters of the party; Musharraf was a supporter of RAW then?

There’s denial because it’s deliberate. There’s side tracking because it is intentional. There’s no intellectual honesty here because people who wilfully support mass murder aren’t looking for an honest dialogue.

This is an invaluable service these journalists provide to MQM. Misdirection, diversion, intellectual dishonesty and plain lying help maintain legitimacy for MQM. A terrorist organization that shoots elderly women in the face, cuts people up from limb to limb or burns them alive for extortion is continually presented as a viable political entity. It has a mandate, and so many admirable qualities that it should be accommodated in the political system.

You could say but it already has support of the people, well as did Mumtaz Qadri. As did Malik Ishaque, who wasn’t even convicted despite killing a lesser number of witnesses. Should they be viable stakeholders? Do votes give a right to murder? Do elections results bring back the dead? Would it be okay for DAWN to say the Nazis had a “well-earned reputation for strong-arm tactics” but they did improve the economy and were “popular” so… you know..

Guess who would encourage a soft corner for the Nazis as the bulwark against…. say communism?

Hint: Rhymes with foebbels.

People vote for MQM because of ethnic identity, ideological leanings, death threats, illegal patronage or self-interest and make their peace with its mass murder. They are supporting mass murderers because there’s a contract where they get something in return. That does not however mean that it is not a mass murdering terrorist organization. It is. The same way the Nazis were. Malik Ishaque. Mumtaz Qadri.  

The good thing again is that Mumtaz Qadri paid for his crime, and people who support him were called out for it. Supporters of a murderer; how disgusting. Revolting. Sickening. Repugnant. You get the idea.

It would be nice if these MQM supporting journalists & media people, who ironically take pride in facing “fascist” trolls on social media, were confronted for being supporters of a mass murderer who is the closest thing to Adolf Hitler in this part of the world. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Questions for Najam Sethi

Najam Sethi’s weekly publication, The Friday Times, recently attacked a teenage gang rape victim in their gossip column “Such Gup”. Most of his colleagues from among the journalist/media community ignored this despite much comment on social media. Still some, mostly women, called it out for what it was and demanded an apology, which has resulted in this clarification from TFT.

Even when they were apparently warned of the consequences, that presumably kept others quiet.

The “clarification” which is based on falsifications basically says TFT was right to slander the victim and devotes the more sizeable portion to lamenting the fact that Mr Sethi has come under fire and his motivations questioned.

The exact line at the end reads:

“As the DAWN editorial noted on Jan 5: “There is surely a need for civil society to counter the urge to resort to the sensational through debate and popular consensus”. To this we would add the quest to ascertain the truth before accusing someone or attributing motives to anyone.”

This is what Mr Sethi (TFT have not identified the writer, addressing the chief editor who's stood by what was written) wrote in the initial Such Gup column, from the first para:

“The girl arranged to meet her boyfriend, a young man connected to the ruling party, at the hotel for a tryst and while there, the couple had an argument, after which there was a heated exchange of words followed by blows.”

That is Mr Sethi accusing the 15 year old rape victim of going to, what he described earlier as a “seedy hotel”, with the motive of a “tryst”. While the rapist, is referred to as her boyfriend. Later on in the passage the two are referred to as “the couple”. In fact, throughout the initial Such Gup piece, the rapist PMLN office holder is referred to solely as the “boyfriend”. Not as the rapist, not as the criminal, not even as the accused. No mention is made of the fact that an acquaintance or any kind of relationship between a rapist and the victim does not in any way condone or dilute the crime.

Without going into a complete overview of the original Such Gup piece, here are some issues that most of us were expecting an unconditional apology for:

1. Suggesting that the girl went to the hotel with the intention of having sex with the rapist.
2. Falsely claiming that the beating the girl received was because of an “argument”. 
3. Leaving the matter of the girl being drugged completely unaddressed, a detail which would invalidate most of the claims in the article.
4. Falsely claiming that the girl was able to move around and came out of the room when the rapist left the hotel, even though police recovered her in a drugged, unconscious state. 
5. Suggesting that DNA evidence can determine consent.
6. Falsely claiming that the DNA tests proved the girl had consensual sex with the rapist.
7. Falsely claiming that there was no evidence of any “extraneous encounters”. 
8. Repeatedly suggesting that there was no rape and the minor girl had consensual sex with the rapist from PMLN.

Coming back to the clarification itself, it raises more questions and answers none; basically ignoring every one of the points identified above. TFT cite a Dawn news item that provides some details of the report prepared by an inquiry team to vindicate their stance. After cherry picking irrelevant details of the news item, TFT contend that their Such Gup column “says much the same thing”.

Here’s what the Such Gup column said:

“The tests proved that the couple had been engaged in a consenting relationship, and that there was no evidence of any extraneous encounters.”

Here’s the first line from the Dawn news item they have cited to vindicate themselves (Not making it up link is available):

Other details from the inquiry report mentioned in the Dawn news item include; two semen samples were recovered, the girl was sodomized, the girl was drugged before being assaulted. This is where the real questions arise.

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, were actually privy to the contents of the report, as they claimed in the initial Such Gup piece, why did they falsely assert that a “consenting relationship” had been proved?

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, read the report which said there were multiple samples of semen, why did they claim it was not a gang rape and there was no evidence of “extraneous encounters”?

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, read the report that said the girl was drugged why did they leave out that information in the Such Gup column?

If Mr Sethi, or his mole, read the report that concluded the girl was assaulted by two people and drugged beforehand, why did they suggest that she went to the hotel with the intention of having sex and what happened to her was with her consent?

Hopefully the TFT can answer these questions in a clarification of their clarification, and issue an unconditional apology for the initial Such Gup piece.

Cautionary tale:

There was another girl. Her name was Halima. She was among a few who had accused Multan Cricket Club officials of sexual harassment. As a result they had been banned from playing by the MCC. Anchor Imran Khan highlighted the issue, but then PCB chairman Najam Sethi stopped him from raising it anymore.

The 15 year old girl who was the subject of Such Gup tried to commit suicide a few days ago. Luckily she survived the attempt, but if she were to go down that path again, it will be the second teenage girl Najam Sethi has had a hand in driving to suicide.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The Lifafas

Some years ago I came across an article about Najam Sethi & GEO, before the two were together. The article narrates the story of a visit to the US by GEO TV CEO Mir Ibrahim Rehman. Mr Rehman graced with his presence a reception thrown by US AfPak ambassador Richard Holbrooke's media assistant Ashley Bommer. This was a time of strained relations between the US administration & GEO because of the latter’s aggressive nationalist, “anti-american” rhetoric. The purpose of his visit apparently was to assure the US that his channel was changing tact soon, and that the allegedly millions of US tax dollars it receives for airing American propaganda show “Voice Of America” need not be stopped. Accompanying Mr Rehman was Najam Sethi. 

Not much later, Najam Sethi joined GEO & started his show “Apas Ki Baat” on a pretty neat time slot. Everyone will have their own interpretation about whether that’s a step in more or less “anti-american”-ness.

Some critics have pointed out that there seems to be a peculiar trend in the Pakistani media. Neutral journalists that are hounded through accusations of bias by rabid social media “trolls”, often end up with cushy jobs. The jobs then often turn out to be provided by people they are, unfairly, accused of being favourably biased towards.

The latest incidence in this unsubstantiated fabrication untruth thing is appointment as ambassador of one Mr Kamran Shafi. To that harsh, unforgiving, wasteland; Cuba. Yet Shafi and friends have not made a big deal of the tough task he has been handed. Perhaps because earlier when uncle Micky almost got the UK job, ungentlemanly conduct ensued on social media. In case you are wondering why, it is because of Mr Shafi’s, entirely unwarranted, reputation as an attack dog of the PMLN.

Mr Shafi is expected to guide Raul Castro on intricacies of misogyny against political opponents.

Individual frailties, if a frailty at all right? Recall that during Dharna days last year, an attempt by the protestors to move from in front of the Parliament to in front of the PM House resulted in a crackdown by the police. Killed a few, injured a few hundred. The PMLN back then paid 450 million to private media, from the public exchequer, to promote their ads terming the episode an attack on parliament. As luck would have it, many journalists working for the channels paid started to propagate exactly what the PMLN were saying.

VC PHA & Geo journalist Iftikhar Ahmed gives his professional, unbiased & independent opinion on flowers to not his boss' son.

The point of these examples is to see things on three different levels so as to be sure before drawing any conclusions. That individual journalists, single news channels, and larger media all appear to bend their rhetoric to suit apparent benefactors is, surely, without a doubt, positively; an accident. 

It’s what you may call a fluke, a glitch, stroke of luck, chance, freak of nature, unlucky break, random occurrence, an anomaly, an inconsistency, an irregularity, or an abnormality. Etc. Point is; it’s not indicative of anything. These things happen.

“There are accidents”, said grand master Oogway.

That Najam Sethi is hired after he and GEO management assure the US of going soft on them is an accident. That Kamran Shafi gets the cushy post he’s been hankering after for years whilst attacking PMLN’s political opponents is an accident. That 450 million paid to the media coincided with journalists using exact terms as analysis as those advertised by PMLN is, no prizes for guessing; an accident. 

"O ballay ballay phir PCB chairman bana dya Mian sahab ne"

Here is a partial list of accidents one can recall that happened to journalists or people in the media who in turn happened to be parroting the stance of those in power.

Murtaza Solangi (Radio Pakistan)

Najam Sethi (GEO)

Irfan Siddiqui (Advisor)

Najam Sethi (Caretaker 90s)

Mubasher Luqman (Caretaker)

Najam Sethi (Caretaker 2013)

Iftikhar Ahmed (Vice Chairman PHA)

Najam Sethi (PCB Caretaker)

Arif Nizami (Caretaker)

Najam Sethi (PCB suspending constitution)

Muhammad Malick (MD PTV)

Najam Sethi (PCB Board)

Kamran Shafi (Ambassador Cuba)

Hussain Haqqani (Ambassador USA)

Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi (Chairman Alhamra Arts Council)

Note: Marxist rebel turned US real estate investors are more prone to accidents than others.

"Nazareen ab contractually mandated 5 minute me Murtaza ko bolnay du ga kyun ke channel PPP ka hai"

Of course these are bigger names whose misfortunes have been of a public nature. Accidents are happening daily. In areas such as gov housing allotments to journalists, plots, business to advertising companies, or media consultancies run by journos or spouses or relatives.

If you go through the names above the preceding lines, and the ones in between them, you will surely realize that most, if not all, of these gents have had it with their motives being questioned. They have all faced the virulent harassment by trolls who think, unreasonably, that they sell their speech for various incentives. That harassment must stop. They are the victims here.

I know it’s a small step, but I hope this write-up has clarified a number of misconceptions that pollute social media & trolls will now realize how wrong they have been to question our paragons of virtue, truth, neutrality & weird hairdos. So the next time you see them or their friends having an indignant rant on TV about allegations of bias, or sharing a joke on social media about non-payment of bribes, have a heart and give them a hug. They need our support, for they get no Lifafay.

P.S: Wishing Mr Shafi a jolly good time & deep statesmanship in Cuba.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Balochistan(Part 3): The Politics of HR

In the aftermath of Sabeen Mahmud’s murder, actually right after the cancellation of the LUMS talk, a large number of people voiced anger against those trying to highlight state abuses in Balochistan. Mama Qadeer especially came under fire, but many people vocal about the issue were also accused of being traitorous, or at least of lacking patriotism, or colluding with separatists or, well, you get the idea.

The group under fire have expressed shock over the reaction they have faced. All they are trying to do is highlight basic, basic, human rights violations; human life itself. Human life, in theory, should be the foremost concern of every decent person, even in an indecent society.

In Pakistan however, that is perhaps too much to ask for.

As mentioned in part 2, an overlooked aspect of the Balochistan issue is that tactics employed by Baloch insurgents are similar to those that are used by TTP in FATA and KP. Another overlooked aspect is that the state’s security apparatus has also employed similarly abusive tactics in KP/FATA to deal with them.

The displacement of a population, like that of parts of the Bugti tribe, has been witnessed in South Waziristan. Also witnessed is distrust of the populace and delayed rehabilitation. The raising/backing of pro-government militias to fight the insurgents, as alleged to take place in Balochistan, is another common occurrence in the long fight against the Taliban.

There’s more. Amnesty International’s report in 2012, “The Hands Of Cruelty”, details some of the other abuses committed by the Pakistani forces in the tribal areas. These include abductions, torture, deaths in custody and dumping of bodies. They also include “enforced disappearances”, again, like the ones that have brought Balochistan into the limelight. If anything, the intensity seems to be greater, with the report noting 2000 court cases filed by 2012, compared to only 135 by 2015 for Balochistan.

In addition, the people in FATA and parts of KP face intensive artillery & aerial bombing campaigns in populated areas, villages and towns etc. These forced millions to move and caused unprecedented damage to property and, one would imagine, to life. “Imagine” because even though there are recorded instances of gunship helicopters firing indiscriminately, and mowing down everyone, in crowded main bazars, no figures of civilian deaths have been compiled by any organization whatsoever.

This is because their lives, or deaths, are not relevant to politics of any organization. Or any group. In fact, highlighting the above mentioned tragedies is considered, by most of us, as detrimental to the greater good.

Consider that, according to Wikileaks, Asma Jehangir & HRCP, when investigating HR violations in the wake of the Swat operation, actually covered up the military’s abuses. The rights body, that has been vocal on Balochistan, did so in order to “avoid arming the militants' propaganda machine”

Is it a secret that the establishment doesn’t want its abuses in Balochistan to be highlighted for the same reason HRCP covered them up in Swat? What happens when someone is intent on highlighting abuses another group would rather have swept under the carpet?

Let’s take the example of drone strikes. Not only a violation of international law, but also the purest, most arbitrary form of extrajudicial killings we have seen in the last decade.

Unlike in the case of missing persons, there are no arrests, no interrogations, no one is released. Drone attacks have killed roughly the same number of children as the number of enforced disappearances the HRCP could confirm in Balochistan.

Yet many that are appalled by the atrocities elsewhere have cheered them on. They have mocked protests against drone strikes with religious fervour and admonished the protesters as informers or supporters of TTP.

Is that at all different from what happened last month? The efforts to hide the truth about military brutality. The vitriol against those who protest. Only the roles have changed.

The same people who are willing to overlook abuses & attack dissenters in one conflict, for the greater good, can be at the other end of vitriol for highlighting abuses in another theatre. For the greater good.

This is the sad reality of discourse in our country. Around the world, peoples’ politics decide the HR causes they get behind. In Pakistan, our politics decide the HR abuses we get behind. 
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