Defending the National Ideology

Pakistani protestors holding posters of Osama bin Laden

The national ideology is a topic that has been discussed from before independence. Actually, it may be even be discussed more today than it was in the time of Iqbal and Jinnah. Certainly their words continue to be discussed and debated as much if not more today. Most of the discussions of national ideology center on defending the the boundaries of the national ideology of two nation theory, keeping Pakistan from being undermined by Indian hegemony. But while a vigilant watch has been kept on one boundary, another was left unguarded.

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#BanGeo: Bringing Some Balance To The Debate

The national drama around who tried to kill Hamid Mir has divided the nation into two vocal camps: Hypernationalists calling for censorship and punishing anyone who dares to criticise the military and those who are so accustomed to criticising the military that they are defending some of the very same practices that they condemned in the past. Some balance has begun to appear, though, and it is worth promoting these perspectives as part of an effort to find a solution based in reason and not emotion.

First let us address the issue of whether ISI was responsible for the attack. Geo’s airing of this claim was sensationalistic, and the airing of a photo of DG ISI during the reporting was the equivalent of media ‘trolling’. It was designed to create a strong reaction. The problem with responding to trolls, though, is that strong reactions usually backfire, making you look as bad as the troll. The Army would be wise not to fall into this trap.

The Army is understandably unhappy about some of the way the attack against Hamid Mir was reported, but accusing Jang Group of being anti-military is hard to believe when this is the same group that publishes the opinions of columnists like Shireen Mazari, Ahmed Quraishi, and Maleeha Lodhi.

Not only Army, but other media houses should avoid the temptation to engage in opportunistic attempts to benefit from Geo’s troubles. Express’s claim that Jang is ‘running a malicious slander campaign against Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency and its chief’ is itself a malicious slander campaign that is both unnecessary and unhelpful to Express’s own image problems. And all media groups should be careful about participating in a setting a precedent for censorship. Today it may be #BanGeo…but tomorrow it could just as easily be #BanExpress…

It should also be noted that the #BanGeo campaign is not a response to the recent controversy, but has been going on since years before the present situation. Here is a a Facebook page created four years ago that parrots the same talking points.

bangeo

Maybe the question should be asked more prominently whose interests are served by this campaign that has been going on for years?

As accusations are thrown and parties try to benefit from the chaos, it should be remembered that when mud is thrown, even the thrower himself ends up dirty. Finally, all sides should take a moment to reflect on the excellent editorial from The Nation today:

If we leave journalism and its ethics to the journalists, and criminal investigations to the police and related authorities, and both do their jobs — we should be fine. At the moment, this is not the case.

Fear of Aabpara

hamid-mir-car

The attack against Hamid Mir on Saturday was not the first time that the senior journalist has faced a life attack. In 2012, the Taliban attempted to kill him with a car bomb in retaliation for ‘pursuing the secular agenda’. Neither was this the first time Hamid Mir faced such a threat. In 2011, he released evidence consisting of SMS messages and phone numbers that had been threatening his life. This time, though, it wasn’t the Taliban who were allegedly behind the threats, but the ISI.

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The first step towards defeating terrorism

Hamid Mir

Talking to Hamid Mir, guests from across party lines along with defence analysts unanimously agreed that the jihadi terrorism that is threatening the very existence of the country is a frankenstein’s monster of our own state agencies.

Saeed Ghani (PPP), Waseem Akhtar (MQM), Shahi Syed (ANP), Mohammad Jamaluddin (JUI-F), Asad Qaiser(PTI), Salim Safi (analyst and anchor), Irfan Siddiqui (noted columnist and analyst), Shehzad Chaudhry (defence analyst), and Mahmood Shah (defence analyst)…were unanimous in the view that the Pakistani state had made private jihad as the cornerstone of its foreign policy which gave birth to religious terrorism in the country.

This frank discussion should be applauded as the first step towards any solution is being willing to face the cold hard facts behind the problem.

How Many Riyals Per Word?

Ahmed QuraishiWhen I was in school my uncle got me a job working for a journalist. Mostly I took notes for him or did some basic research on topics. But occasionally he would pay me to help write his articles. He would then complain that I could never make it as a proper journalist. My writing was always too long. I rambled on and on and lost the point halfway through. The guy would shake his head and say, “do you think I’m paying you by the word?”

It is an open secret that some of our finest journalists take a little extra bonus from intelligence agencies. When people still cared about Hamid Mir’s involvement in the murder of Khalid Khawaja (if you can remember history as ancient as six-months ago!) the inimitable Nadeem Paracha wrote for Dawn:

The agencies have always had personnel on their payrolls operating as reporters, anchors, and ‘analysts’ ever since the Ayub Khan dictatorship in the 1960s. Respected journalist and author, late Zamir Niazi, in his book, The Web of Censorship, suggests that the agencies recruited a number of ‘journalists’ during the Ayub dictatorship, specifically to check leftist sentiments that were all the rage among journalists at the time.

I always thought there was something about bit strange about how quickly journalists at a certain news organization started writing that Nawaz Sharif should emerge as a new liberal alternative to Asif Zardari. Had these guys really begun to lose their minds, I thought? Of course, now we have learned that this was exactly what one foreign government had in mind – Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis betray a strong preference for Sharif, who fled into exile in Jeddah in 2000 to avoid prosecution under General Pervez Musharraf. The cables contain details of Sharif’s secret exile deal – he was to remain out of politics for 10 years – as well as hints of Saudi anger when he returned to Pakistan in 2007.

Perhaps then we should not be so surprised that these journalists found a sudden taste for Nawaz?

With Ahmed Quraishi, especially, my friends and I play a game where we read his column and then guess who paid for it. The decision was unanimous a few months ago when he published a love poem to the Saudi Royal family and the Saudi women who gave up a necklace for the flood victims. Really, man, try for a little subtlety next time!

This time around it’s especially obvious. First, Quraishi’s article for The News reads like a wish-list of the Saudis – weaken the democratic government and enable a “smooth” military takeover. But notice also that while Quraishi blames everything under the sun on “serving US interests” and “foreign meddling”, his article is only another in a long list of conspiracies about the US while he blatantly ignores the damning evidence against Saudi Arabia’s meddling. Perhaps that was not designated in a contract with GIP?

Now do you notice how little attention all these same journalists pay to the meddling of the Saudi monarchy in our sovereign affairs? Hypernationalists like Ahmed Quraishi scrawl their columns about Wikileaks and condemn the politicians for airing family secrets in front of a US Ambassador, but are strangely silent on the secret deals made between Mian Nawaz and a certain foreign government that nobody will name.

These guys are also peddling the story that Wikileaks is a US conspiracy to embarrass Muslim countries, which is hilarious. They want to make headlines from the parts about Zardari, but ignore everything that’s inconvenient. But even if Ahmed Quraishi is correct and the Americans are hiding documents that could be embarrassing to Israel or India, he doesn’t explain why they want to embarrass Netherlands, not to mention France and Italy also. When you look at it without the distorted perspective of these self-interested conspiracy theorists, their story seems more a convenient excuse to protect someone than a reasonable and objective analysis.

Thanks to Wikileaks, it is now revealed that Saudi Ambassador Adel al-Jubeir famously told that “We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants”. We readily accept that everyone else is paying a certain fee to have their political agendas published by our army of ‘Journalists To Let’, so why shouldn’t the Saudis also? If Wikileaks really wants to do some good, they should reveal the bank accounts of some of our more ‘creative’ journalists. I bet you’ll find a juicy conspiracy or two there!

Quraishi says he wishes Pakistan was more like Emirates, which he claims is superior to Pakistan. So go live there already. For all his complaining about ‘foreign meddling’, Ahmed Quraishi sure seems to be deeply in love with other countries. As for his column that defines Pakistan as “bankrupt, uncreative and miserable”, I say I hope you’re getting paid by the word to sell your country out like that.

The point of all this, now that I’m done rambling, is that I’m thinking of setting up a PayPal account to raise money to buy Ahmed Quraishi a ticket to Saudi Arabia. Partly so he’ll stop spitting in the face of our country, and partly so that his trip to the office at GIP will be shorter. He can even fly Emirates if he wants to.