Sunday, 20 January 2013

Why Pervez Hoodbhoy, Why?

How much bullshit is enough bullshit? That’s the question Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy ought to ask himself, or you ought to ask Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, after he produced some high quality bullshit in Express Tribune this Saturday.

Cricketer Khan and Maulana Qadri? Really, you were a professor? Do you also use Lohar Sharif and Husband Zardari?

The corruption in Pakistan, which amounts to billions of rupees daily according to a government friendly and government appointed NAB chief, is not really an issue. The youth are over-zealous pawns and contraceptives will save Pakistan! Right.

How desperate, bitter and biased do you have to be that you invent a country to justify your bullshit?

Have any of you heard of Italy? It’s a country in Europe, shaped like a boot. It’s where Pizza came from.

Well, there’s a separate Italy, the real Italy that only Mr. Hoodbhoy knows of. It’s a land filled with joy, ruled by the happy go lucky Silvio Berlusconi. It is totally unaffected by the corruption and ineptness of its rulers and it just keeps getting “richer and better”.

The fake Italy we know has fallen on tough times. Berlusconi’s corrupt government coincided with a steep decline in the country’s fortunes. It doesn’t keep getting “richer and better”; in fact the economy has shrunk in the golden corrupt hands of Mr. Berlusconi. Things were so bad that they ushered in a technocratic government to fix the economy. That’s exactly what we have been dreading since Maulana Qadri came onto the scene.

Mr. Hoodbhoy though isn’t only an expert on Italy; he also knows a little something about the USA and her devious presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Thing is, the Americans have it as bad as we do, have you ever heard them complain? I mean Romney only paid as much tax as our “unscrupulous parliamentarians.”

Very accurate on all counts.

The Americans don’t mind at all. The occupy Wall Street movement was actually a protest against skin tight pants. Long overdue, I know. The institutionalized corruption and lending to banks hasn’t hurt them either, just that people don’t have jobs, the country’s debt keeps soaring and it narrowly avoided a so called fiscal cliff.

Romney paid almost $2 million in personal income tax in 2011. That is 20 Crore PKR. That is almost 19 Crore more than what Lohar Sharif and Showbaz Sharif paid combined that year. That is 20 Crore more than what our President Husband Zardari paid. That is not “only a little more”.

Anyways, let us not dwell on the details. Bottom line is that corruption obviously isn’t Pakistan’s problem, or Italy’s. Or America’s. Then what is?

The professor seems to have sourced a 7th grader’s essay to answer that question. Saving the issues of poverty and illiteracy for another time, he chose to focus on 1) population. His insight really is unparalleled. He would also like you to believe that this problem would have been brought under control if it weren’t for the big bad Jamaat-e-Islami and their 2/3rd majority in parliament.

Then we move to 2)terrorism, which Lohar Sharif and Husband Zardari would have defeated by now if it weren’t for Maulana Qadri’s three weeks in Pakistan or Cricketer Khan’s objection of drones. Contrary to what the mad cricketer says, drones work. Just look at how North Waziristan is now a terrorist-free zone thanks to drone attacks.

Last is the economy. You don’t have to collect taxes and redistribute wealth, you just have to 3) create more wealth. Husband Zardari has been creating wealth by printing wealth, doesn’t seem to have worked.

Not to worry though, Lohar Sharif will do it. The pathetic GDP growth in Lohar’s two stints as PM, the even more pathetic GDP growth of Punjab the last five years, and PMLN’s vision to implement Bush style tax cuts that left US economy in tatters all tell Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy (PhD) that Lohar is the man.

Mind-blowing analytical skills.

Meanwhile, “the fist shaking, rostrum pounding” Cricketer, whom the professor desperately wants to group with the Maulana, has included both terrorism and the economy in his “empty thunder” that offers “nothing real”. He has been out administering polio drops, demanding justice for the Shia-Hazaras and his party has actually given an economic policy, which the heroic PMLN have not.

This is obfuscation of the most shameless kind. Lies and more lies. There was no point to Hoodbhoy’s piece apart from attacking anyone threatening the two established parties. Not an inch of substance.


Thursday, 10 January 2013

LoC Incursions & Perils Of Sensationalism

Last night I caught a glimpse of what is being broadcast in India since the alleged cross border raid by Pakistani forces that left two Indian soldiers dead. Barkha Dutt, an Indian journalist fairly well known on this side of the border, read out a very tense, stern, hyped-up monologue that set the tone for her show. Her emphasis, time and again, on the “unprovoked” aggression from the Pakistani side as well as the “gruesome” and “horrific” nature of the attack stood out.

Unprovoked because the Indian Army was attacked on its side of the LoC and had not launched an adventure of its own. Gruesome because according to the anchor, “one soldier was decapitated and the other may as well have been decapitated.”

For those who are still unaware, the Indian Army’s Northern Command have denied that either soldier was decapitated or had their throats slit, according to Reuters. How the decapitation story found it’s way into the discourse is brilliantly chronicled here. Also, this report by an Indian website confirms that the alleged attack by the Pakistani forces seems to have been in response to an earlier raid by the Indian army, on January 6th, that left one Pakistani soldier dead and another injured.

So the attack was neither “gruesome”, nor “unprovoked.” It was simply a retaliation for an earlier Indian raid and it is still only “alleged”. Why?

There is a UN Military Observation mechanism already in place, on both sides of the LoC, that can be called upon to investigate incidents of cease fire violations. India had not, until last night, called upon the UN mission to investigate the incident.

The UN mission is though going to investigate the January 6th incursion by Indian forces, which was promptly reported by the Pakistani side. As opposed to the patrol party engaging in a firefight, as happened on January 8th, Indian forces physically attacked a Pakistani post and while retreating left behind a gun and a dagger.

Based on the better evidence, Pakistan appears to have a stronger case to complain.

Yet it is the Indian media, with even the more moderate anchorpersons, building an emotional, hyped up narrative of barbarity and adventurism against Pakistan. Politicians have played their part sure, but the charge is firmly being led by the media.

The sensationalism means that the Indian Army’s initial raid, which actually escalated tensions along the LoC, has been erased from the discourse. Moreover a misreporting of the facts, coupled with TV screens flashing “When will India wake up” in red, are driving an increasingly hostile reaction against Pakistan.

The Pakistani media on the other hand did not raise much hue and cry on the 6th January incident. A part of the reason could be that we are more focused on the so called WoT. However it is also true, and more relevant, that large sections of the Pakistani media are actively working to bring Pakistan and India closer.

That is why the media is careful not to over-hype incidents that can derail the peace process and put the perpetually strained relations between the countries under more pressure. We love our soldiers as much as the other side, and we have our fair share of hawks eager for confrontation, but that didn’t stop the media from taking a cautious, reasoned approach.

The irresponsible and sensationalist stances taken by the Indian media can thus push their counterparts in Pakistan into a very uneasy corner. Already there is valid criticism on the media for not presenting Pakistan’s case as well, and as forcefully, as it should have. Parts of the media have in response taken sterner lines.

This will only grow if the Indian media doesn’t change its attitude, and the resolve on this side to keep the larger interest in mind will weaken. Journalists seen as pro-India will be called out and their credentials called into question. When one or two channels finally take the aggressive “when will we wake up” line, others will most likely follow.

The Pakistani media might have taken the pro-peace, some would say pro-appeasement, line with regards India, but they won’t be able to hold it for long if their Indian counter-parts keep sacrificing reason on the altar of sensationalism.