Tuesday, 22 November 2016

The art of obfuscation

Having a voice, an audience, a platform is a privilege not afforded to many. Those who are afforded this luxury wield power, a control over the flow and dissemination of information & narratives. Those that abuse this power to spread misinformation & propagate false narratives represent a particularly strenuous curse. This is because (i) the large scale & brisk consumption of media today makes the damage they do often irreparable and quite substantial (ii) there’s no way to take that power away from them.

So I am going to try to educate whoever reads this on how writers obfuscate and distort the issues in order to propagate false narratives. Particular attention is to be paid to illegitimate, false arguments, or fallacies, that are used to achieve this end. Since Babar Sattar has welcomed criticism of his piece “A perfect heist” -a commentary on the SC probe faced by Sharif family- we can use it as sort of a case study.

Having followed Sattar’s work for a while, I have noticed a tendency to invoke the middle ground fallacy almost as if it were a doctrine. This is not a surprise, writers who put extra emphasis on appearing detached & clear-headed often fall prey to, or make use of, the middle ground fallacy. It has also been a preferred method of obfuscation for media whenever the ruling family runs into legal trouble. The middle ground fallacy, or the argument to moderation, is the tendency to believe/contend that the extreme arguments in any debate are always wrong, that “the truth lies somewhere in the middle”. Of course that is not the case. The argument supported by the facts, no matter how extreme, is where the truth lies.

We see this in the article in question as the agenda is set in the opening para:

Is the explanation presented by the Sharifs regarding ownership of the London flats believable or plausible? The answer depends on what you already believe.”

The implication is that the evidence for the extreme positions is insufficient, the one extreme being that the Sharifs’ explanation is not true, the other that it is. By the end of the article, the author will grant the Sharif argument plausibility, but hold off deeming it true. That is the key to this method of obfuscation; it presents a false compromise, a status quo. The status quo, obviously, supports the ones in power.

The facts though do not support the status quo, they support the extreme position; the explanation of the ruling family regarding ownership of London flats is not believable – more on that later. So to create enough confusion regarding this, Mr Sattar lends credence to claims that have none, sometimes passing them off as facts, employs more logical fallacies and in the process presents a distorted picture of the case.

Deconstructing all of it is impermissible due to space constraints, but looking at key passages should be informative still. Most telling is the passage justifying the main question; ownership of the flats, or the Al Thani letter story:

In an interview oft played by the media since the Panama leaks, Hassan Nawaz said that the flats were rented. We now see the mention of ‘ground rent and service charges’ paid by the Sharifs in the Al Thani affidavit and the response filed by Sharif siblings. As no money was paid to the Al Thani family, there is no money trail to be established and no laundered money to be justified. The only question that remains is that of truthful declarations and valid documents.”

This is a classic example of the cherry picking fallacy, or the suppressed evidence fallacy, employed at leisure by Mr Sattar. What this means is that there is a body of evidence available, but the author only cites the evidence that supports the argument he wants to forward, and omits all of the evidence that counters it. The Sharif family has made a number of statements about the properties in question. One of Kulsoom Nawaz states that the flats were bought, not rented, before 2000. One by Maryam Nawaz states that the flats have never been owned by the family at any time. The one by Hussain says they were bought around 2006 and money was transferred officially to Britain from Saudi Arabia, not to Qatar or the Al Thani family. Majority, if not every single facet, of the Al Thani story is contradicted by every statement of every member of the Sharif family. The Supreme Court noted that even the Prime Minister’s statements are contradicted by the letter presented before them.

The author does not notice the contradictions because he is employing the suppressed evidence technique; picking the one statement that, he contends, supports the Al Thani story. Just that it does not. Here he uses the “contextomy” fallacy. This is to say that the reference quoted does not actually support the argument made, just the context is removed to make it sound like it does. The “Ground rent” mentioned in the Al Thani letter refers to an annual token rent paid on leased land in the UK, such as the one the properties in question are built upon. In the interview Mr Sattar has referenced, Hassan Nawaz states that quarterly “rent” not ground rent, is paid for the flats to the owners and the money comes from Pakistan. If that interview were to be believed there must be quarterly payments to Al Thani family from Pakistan; the interview contradicts the Al Thani statement and actually establishes that there is a money trail, from Pakistan no less.

Still more distortion is on the way. Let’s look at a troubling passage which Mr Sattar uses to draw his conclusion:

Each piece of the Sharif story, seen in isolation, is plausible. Could Mian Sharif have invested AED12 million in the Al Thani real-estate business? People make minority co-investments on the basis of trust without written formalities all the time. Do business families settle investments and make payouts on the basis of profits and mutual understanding? Sure they do. Can grandparents nominate a favoured grandchild to inherit a particular asset or property? Yes. Are such transactions illegal or invalid if not reduced to writing? No.

Plausible or not, does the story sound truthful? That depends on what side you are on.”

Mr Sattar is answering questions no one has ever asked. Nature of family investments, profit sharing, inheritance? These have nothing to do with the case at hand, which revolves around, in Sattar’s own words, “ownership of the flats, declaration of ownership, source of funds for the acquisition and money trail”. It’s as if he’s using the straw man fallacy on himself. 

On the questions identified as key ones by the author, the answers are pretty clear. The Sharifs have not provided a money trail, they have not provided evidence to refute the documents leaked from Mossack Fonseca and there is evidence, in the form of a UK court ruling, crediting them with the ownership of Park Lane properties before 2006. The UK court ruling refers to the Al Tawfik case & is the most critical piece of evidence suppressed by Mr Sattar.

The most bizarre type of reasoning in the article is saved for the defence of Maryam Nawaz. Have a read:

Maryam says she is the trustee and not the owner of the offshore companies that own the flats. The allegation against her rests on letters in which the law firm representing the offshore companies identify her as beneficial owner to a foreign investigation agency. But to refute the allegation, the Sharifs have produced before the SC a trust deed executed by Maryam and Hussain (witnessed and verified by a London attorney in February 2006), where Maryam agrees to hold 49 shares of Coomber Group Inc on trust for Hussain.

Each piece of the Sharif story, seen in isolation, is plausible.”

Maryam is listed as sole beneficial owner of the firms Nielsen & Nescoll who in turn hold the Park Lane properties. The omission here is that letters identifying Maryam as owner of Nescoll & Nielsen mention that Mossack Fonseca were unaware of any trust associated with them. The tremendous error in logic here though is this: COOMBER GROUP INC is not NESCOLL or NIELSEN. You cannot refute allegations regarding the latter two with a document regarding the former.

I do not know what this kind of reasoning is called because I have never seen anyone over the age of 5 employ it. It is like somebody tells you that the milk has turned sour, so you take a bite of the apple and say “it seems fine to me”. It is not fine. This is not how it works. This is not how anything works. The apple does not represent the milk, because it is the apple; the milk is the milk. The apple can only represent the apple. I don’t know how this can be confused.

The apple & the milk are different, they are not the same.

Okay then. On to the conclusion where Mr Sattar states that the “buyer”, i.e. the Sharifs and the “seller”, i.e. the Al Thani family, presently have the same story. Right? Wrong. Wrong. Not right. The Al Thani family is not the seller. There is zero evidence to establish that they were ever owners of the Park Lane flats. If they provide the court with purchase deeds, that would help.

That has not happened though. Nothing the Sharifs claim is backed by proof, it is contradicted by their statements and it is refuted by documentation. Yet the reader will leave Babar Sattar’s column with a very different impression. This is the art of the wordsmith. To just subtly pass on claim as fact, shroud what is fact & put into question what is established, all in a seemingly articulate, coherent manner. This is the art of obfuscation.

To recap: Babar Sattar’s assertions are just plain false not because of what you already believe, or what side you are on, but because of the facts relevant to them.

On ownership; the Sharif position is not supported by any documentary evidence and negated by UK court judgment.

On date of purchase; the Sharif position is not supported by any documentary evidence and negated by UK court judgement.

On Maryam’s status as trustee, in turn need for declaration; the Sharif position is not supported by any documentary evidence and negated by documents leaked in the Panama papers.

Oh, and the Sharif position on all questions is proved false by previous statements from every member of the family.

These are the facts. There is no middle ground here.


The false arguments pointed out here can be intentionally designed or, for the most part, an unintentional product of inherent bias. I have taken the view that they are a result of intentional design because of (i) my inherent bias/suspicion of the media (ii) the sheer number of them.

If Mr Sattar were to argue that he is so incompetent as to not be able to do basic research for an article, do a google search, or tell that this grouping of alphabets “COOMBER” is different from this one “NESCOLL” I will concede that I have taken an incorrect view and respectfully apologize. 

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Media Matters

During the height of the last dharna, former Election Commission of Pakistan Additional Secretary Afzal Khan made an appearance on TV & seemed to endorse the allegations of the opposition. The fallout from his remarks wasn’t only confined to TV screens or newspaper columns, it also played out on social media.

The most memorable, if one can call it that, reaction to Afzal Khan’s statement came from journalist & anchor Nusrat Javed. Nusrat took to twitter in an excessively abusive diatribe, even for him. His remarks can most decently be summarised into this: Afzal Khan was a “gay sex” addict, who performed acts of said gay sex in the Islamabad press club, and Nusrat used to watch.

Even the best of us lose our cool in moments of anger, anguish, disappointment etc. and are prone to outbursts we would later regret. This moment stood out not only because Nusrat insisted he was of sound mind, but also because of what it came as a reaction to.

Nusrat, one of the most seasoned journalists in the country, did not lose his cool when the government shot 100 people in broad daylight. Nor did the outburst come when a CM, sworn to protect his citizens, promised to send “truckloads of tissues” in the wake of a massacre. It came when a former government employee piled on more pressure on the ruling family.

The incident has been retold to highlight two things. One is that while journalists often rightly complain about abuse they have to deal with on social media, they partake in it more often than they would have you believe. Second is the sense among many opposition supporters and third party observers that large sections of the media are partial towards the government.

As the opposition headed to Islamabad again, tensions between journalists and opposition supporters on social media became apparent once more. The last sentence is the problem, why should a showdown between the government and the opposition translate into one between large sections of the press and supporters of the opposition?

The media’s explanation of why that is the case was put forward just the other day by an anchor on Capital TV when he described the opposition as “fascist”. Even when opposition supporters were literally being picked up by the state from their homes, this is a view that held sway among many of his colleagues.

What’s the other explanation? .. Nusrat Javed. 

Like the rest of us, journalists find it harder to hide their biases on social media, which is why the divisions are so clear in that medium. However, anyone paying a little attention to what gets said or written in the press can pinpoint how this partiality has translated into their work.

Consider how violence is covered. The government has a long record now of extremely violent suppression of political opponents. It ranges from entering opposition compounds and killing political opponents by firing at them to entering private halls and hitting pol workers with batons. The opposition’s “violence” ranges from entering a government building to gathering in large numbers in the so called red zone. Yet the government’s actions are often described as “mistakes”, “rash”, “strong arm”, while the opposition is allocated “attack”, “siege” & “invasion”.

Not only is the coverage lenient towards the government’s propensity to kill, the whole narrative is dangerously similar to that of the government. For example, the last DAWN editorial on “economic costs” of protest wouldn’t be out of place if it were released by Ishaq Dar’s office. Almost every point made by the newspaper is one the Finance Minister has pleaded in the past; the stock market shock, the need for a steady ship, the confidence of investors. Tellingly, even the onus to prevent government’s draconian act of confiscating containers and using them to block the arteries of the state, is put on the opposition.

An editor in this newspaper wrote a charge sheet against the opposition a few days before the recent government crackdown started. Following are some of the points he made that are verbatim what Rana Sana, probably the most confrontationist minister in the government, regurgitates regularly:

The opposition wants to lay “siege” to the capital. The opposition leader is “non-democratic” and is “delegitimizing” state institutions. The opposition wants to run through government like a “medieval army”. I could go on.

If history is any indication, the words of this section of the press would have become even more visceral than the government’s if the planned November 2 showdown had taken place. Good citation for said indication is one Kamran Shafi, a columnist for DAWN & Express Tribune, who in 2014 represented little more than a microphone for the vilest of government propaganda. In one memorable, again if one can call it that, episode, Shafi remarked that women go to opposition protests to perform “mujra” and men go to watch it. He then shared a video made by ruling party supporters saying we go to the “dharna” because you can grab a girl and disappear in a container, or in the greenbelts. He was made an ambassador by the government not long after.

Shafi is one of many. An ever increasing number of journalists now appear to be formalizing ties with the government through caretaker positions, government posts etc. They include Muhammad Malick, Absar Alam, Iftikhar Ahmed, Arif Nizami, Najam Sethi, Ata-ul-Haq Qasmi & Irfan Siddiqui. Mushtaq Minhas, recently made a ruling party minister, served for years in the executive committee of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists & was the secretary of the Islamabad/Pindi Press club. Clearly the rot is deep.

These appointments are beyond the money government pours into media houses in the form of adverts; Rs 450 million was the bill during 2014 protests. How bad exactly is it? Even Hamid Mir admitted the other day that the reason for government’s confidence is that they believe they have 3 media houses in their pocket.

It is hard to quantify how much influence is bought through these tactics, but the infestation in Pakistani journalism is hard to ignore. At present, many news outlets just serve as avenues for hit jobs, and the opposition isn’t the only target.

Earlier this year the Friday Times, the paper run by Najam Sethi, launched an astonishing attack on an under-age rape victim. Granted that Sethi has been awarded one favour after the other by the ruling party, there was still something shocking about the way he went after a girl just 15 years old and maligned her character after she suffered the heinous crime at the hands of a ruling party office bearer.

Yet while social media saw a huge outcry over his appalling conduct, journalists, barring some women, closed ranks around Sethi. Not much, if any, of the criticism of his attack on a rape victim made it to mainstream media.

Which represents the second part of what ails journalism in this country.  The interconnectedness, patronage, friendships and favours that run in the industry give journalists a carte blanche to abuse their considerable power, without the threat of any scrutiny of their actions.   

Again Sethi provides an obvious example. In 2014 some women playing for Multan Cricket Club had accused the admin of harassment. Anchor Imran Khan of Express News covered the issue. Najam Sethi, who’s been made overlord for all cricket in the country for some reason, simply told the anchor in question to cut it out. The TV host stopped after assurance by Sethi that he would protect the girls and reinstate them. Instead Sethi left the girls at the mercy of the officials they had complained against. One of them, a 17 year old by the name of Halima, committed suicide.

No journalist I know has questioned Sethi over his role, and I don’t believe many I don’t know did either. The nature of their profession means that any criticism from the outside will always be met with a hint of scepticism, called intolerant or even viewed as an effort to suppress speech. Which is all the more reason that journalists question one another & call out the abysmal abuse of their power.

Fool’s dream. 

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Some thoughts on treatment of PTI women

Sadly most folks who were very vocal about the reporter slap incident the other day have not spoken a word about Sharifs attacking PTI women

Politics has a dehumanizing effect here. There's those who were vocal about that incident but apolitical-ish so won't speak for women attacked today. I don’t understand that lot at all, so can’t fathom their reasons. Then there are those who abhor PTI & lie somewhere between the "acha hua" to "ignore because speaking for them is against the greater good" range.

Have had conversations with a few politically active women about this the last few days, they feel a little abandoned, but more attacked.

Remember they have been characterized for years now because of their politics. A "liberal" journo and Sharif pet Kamran Shafi, now rewarded with Cuba ambassadorship, remained a big hit with his avowedly liberal, pro womens rights, anti mulla etc etc crowd here even after he said PTI women go do "Mujra" at rallies and lower class men go to watch them. His is an extreme example, but as Gul Bukhari betrayed the other day, another columnist, sigh, people who don't like PTI constantly characterize these women as "bait". Often other women. Often ones that wear the social worker garb & only break it to take these “dance shance”, “poondi party” pot shots.  

That has such shit effect, not just on the women, their families, loved ones. One told me yesterday it's harder to go to these rallies because people have heard the "nach gaana" characterization so much it feels like now some men attend them expecting that, expecting easy girls.

But it doesn't stop here. These greater good, sensible types haven't just made life harder for PTI women. Contrary to what they profess, the issue between PTI supporters and these people isn't that they don't like PTI methods, rhetoric, tameez. It's that these people have accepted murder, rape, theft etc in return for politics of their liking. That's the lowest quality I can think of in a person. To support someone who commits murder because you like their politics.

Anyway, this shows in how they behave regarding other women too, not just PTI. The constant rape cases involving PMLN go unnoticed. That the Sharif family is involved in wife beating doesn't bother them. At best a couple of hollow condemnations, a little fake surprise of how the party is really *any form of vague badness* and then back to accepting/supporting the thugs in question. At worst, which is increasingly the case because of so many journos entering formal employment of Sharifs, and it's a massively over-represented but small, incestous circle, an attack on the women in question a la Najam Sethi with the underage rape victim.

Basically, they stand for the rights of women, in this case but minorities, workers, anyone oppressed, as long as their oppressors aren't politicians they support. Or "accept" as part of their vision for the greater good.

What a sad way to be.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Human Cockroaches

This is just unending, pathetic diversion from mass murder.

In the golden period between 2008-2013, every other month, often week, the killings in Karachi would “get out of hand”, as one gent put it. Rehman Malik would fly to the city and hold talks with MQM. Everyone was supposed to pretend that after he “redressed” MQM’s concerns, the lull in killings was because the killers had their favourite show on, went out to get sushi, or in one memorable instance, the wives and girlfriends that were doing the killing had seen the light.

In any case, MQM and their supporters in what goes for journalism in this country would throw in a “hum pay jinnahpur ka ilzam lagaya gaya tha”, or “people up north don’t understand Karachi” just to keep everyone quiet.

Then came Zulfiqar Mirza, he didn’t keep quiet. Again we would hear “pehle bhi jinnahpur” or “people outside Karachi don’t understand”.

Then came the SC judgement that MQM, ANP and PPP indeed were killing people. “Jinnahpur”. “Prejudice up north”

The last year or so the following has happened. MQM London members admitted to police there that they take money from Indian intel. Then the MQM golden boy Mayor told everyone who would listen the same.

Couple of days is it now since Altaf Hussain ordered an attack on the media after denouncing Pakistan? Yesterday Altaf and the MQM rabita committee expressed their firm resolve to undo the country and launch a rebellion with the help of Israel and India.

What is the response? A garbage anecdotal piece on people outside Karachi being prejudiced against it? The irony of ascribing negative stereotypes to a whole people, based on your personal experiences with a few, as a means to decry negative stereotyping is just completely lost on the largely Karachi based journalists lapping it up.

For almost a decade now debate on MQM’s mass killing gets shut down over and over through this excuse, that people outside Karachi don’t understand, that they are prejudiced, that they shouldn’t speak.  

Just one man who hasn’t stepped foot in Karachi since the turn of the century can speak about it, this one.

The description of that tweet isn’t off at all. Altaf Hussain literally tells his followers to hammer nails into their opponents, not to shoot them because it wouldn’t be painful enough, instead to smash open their skulls and feed the brains to dogs.

Hear that one more time. He wants opponents to not be shot because that wouldn’t be painful enough. Instead to hammer nails in them, smash open their skulls and feed the brain to dogs.

This is the man that should speak, not you. These nail hammering, skull cracking orders are the tactics Dawn and journalists in Karachi at most call “strong arm”. This is the freedom of speech Asma Jehangir is fighting a court battle to restore.

Not yours though. You don’t know how it is.

 The narratives are so completely false and wilfully dishonest it leaves you awestruck. They’re created just for a single purpose, divert from the mass murdering of MQM. Thousands of people have been killed and a madman is ready to plunge the city into more violence; “2 guys in my office said this to me”...  What!?

What? What is that? Why doesn’t that come up when they shoot an elderly woman in the face for protesting rigging? Or when people decry extortion? Or when ramzan turns into a bloodbath? Why do these narratives only spring up when MQM is in trouble? How did they even come into being?

Consider a current one, MQM is marginalized. If you ask how, you get a retelling of 47 to 85. Stopping at 85 because every dictator since has had their back. ISI helped them rig an election. Musharraf handed them the city, let them kill off every policeman they had complaints against and, I am fairly certain, assumed the small spoon position in bed.

So how is it marginalized now? How is it persecuted by the establishment of all fucking things? There are many persecuted people in Pakistan, denied their rights. The Baloch can argue a denial of education, of resources etc. The peasants in Okara are agitating for land rights. Religious minorities can claim neglect.

In 2013 when the current operation started, what were the rights MQM was fighting for? And against who?

It was the right to kidnap, the right to street crime, the right to “china cutting”, the right to extort, the right to kill people who refuse extortion, the right to kill members of other parties, the right to kill immigrants of unwanted ethnicities, the right to kill relatives of the people they had killed to dissuade from pursuing the matter, the right to kill witnesses if the matter did make it to court, the right to kill police investigating cases or giving protection to witnesses and the right to kill journalists for favourable coverage. Oh, also, after doing all this, the right to have a peaceful life with their families while drawing salary from government offices they had never been to.

These rights are not guaranteed in our constitution, in any constitution anywhere in the world. They are frankly a little unreasonable. And who were they fighting against for these rights? PPP and ANP and ST and so on and so forth. The hell was the issue with the state?

By 2012 the target killings in Karachi had claimed 8 thousand lives. The current figure is anywhere between 10 to 13K. This is the scale of the violence, just these last 8 years, not the 90s. To put that into perspective, consider that suicide bombings throughout Pakistan’s history have claimed 6.5K lives.

The state’s reaction to that violence, egged on and cheered by every journalists providing cover to mass murder in Karachi, has been sustained military operations. Aerial bombardments, artillery shelling, gunships letting loose in bazaars, the complete destruction of whole city centres, villages raised to the ground, millions of people made to leave their lives and homes behind to become refugees in their own country. How many of them lost their lives we will never know because journalists in Pakistan don’t believe in outdated concepts such as reporting.

In Karachi the state’s reaction is paramilitary raiding MQM headquarters to arrest convicted, convicted, target killers housed there.

How is that persecution!?

Nor does it stop there. The operation in Karachi has again been falsely built up by journalists sympathetic to MQM’s mass murder as just against the party. Nothing could be further from the truth. MQM is the most untouched out of all the violent actors in Karachi during this operation, despite being the largest armed group present there with the lengthiest history of murder.

The worst aspect of the Karachi op is the extrajudicial killings. Two months ago MQM claimed 56 of its members had been killed without trial since 2013. Yesterday in a talk show one MQM member claimed the number is now 62. MQM claim, not verified by any independent body.


The number of people killed in extrajudicial killings in Karachi, according to HRCP, is 404. 404. This year. In 2015 it was 507 and in 2014 it was 925.

In all 3 years, 1836 people have fallen to extrajudicial killings by LEAs in Karachi.

Of them, by MQM’s own unverified claim as of yesterday, 62 belonged to MQM.

That is 200 less than the number of Police and Rangers, the “persecutors” that have been killed in just the first two years of the operation.

62 out of 1836.

That means 03.37 % of the extrajudicial killings in the city of Karachi in the last 3 years have been of MQM members.

How again is that being singled out for persecution? How is the operation being used just to target MQM?  Their supporters basically just make shit up out of thin air to keep the killing machine rolling.

The establishment doesn’t persecute MQM, that hasn’t been their history. That isn’t happening now. MQM falls foul of political governments and thrives under military rule. The most army is trying to do with the MQM is to wean it away from the drunkard in London because he’s become a liability.

The journalists and intelligentsia love MQM because its “values” align with their own; it fits the kind of country they want to see. Mass murder across 3 decades is small price to pay for politics of your liking.

What of the other 1836 killed in the operation? What of the thousands and thousands that have lost their lives since 2007 in Karachi? Nothing. You never hear a “you don’t understand Karachi” piece for them. That is only reserved for MQM. The pain of journalists and newspapers is only reserved for MQM.

The poor people in Karachi that die at the hands of MQM or at the hands of the state should now accept the fact that they are just little cockroaches in the grand scheme of things. That’s how they are toyed with, cut up and thrown away; like insects. For no good reason at all. Except that it was their misfortune to not be born in liberal, progressive MQM households. So now their fate is to die.

They have to die so the military can keep its pet hounds another decade, they have to die so MQM members get over their sense of marginalization, they have to die so Asma Jehangir can restore freedom of speech, and they have to die so DAWN can see the progressive politics it has overlooked 3 decades of mass murder for.

That’s what cockroaches are for, dying.

And if you aren’t okay with that, or with MQM getting away with mass murder over and over again, then you are just a prejudiced outsider.


The combined journo-military project to present an institutional killing machine as having a “non-criminal, non-militant” wing has gone off to a fabulous start. Since Ajmal Pahari wasn’t available, they have got the next best thing to be mayor of Karachi.

Waseem Akhtar once called a judge into his office and had him quash criminal cases against 5000, that is five thousand, MQM criminals in one go. Normally in Sohail Warriach’s “Aik Din Geo Ke Saath” the guests speak about the food they like, or what they do in their leisure time. Waseem Akhtar’s question was about which weapons has he used. Alhumdulillah, he replied in the positive to everything from a T.T. pistol to an AK47.

Now the Home Minister of 12th May and the man who armed MQM to the teeth in Mush era, you’re all welcome, will head the rebranded “political/Pakistan” wing of the party.

Expect more cockroaches to die.

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.