There are no terrorists in Pakistan

There are no terrorists in Pakistan. Osama bin Laden was never living in Abbottabad, and the American raid did not happen. PNS Mehran neither. This must be the case. Why else would the Supreme Court be spending time, money, and energy to issue orders regarding broadcast licenses?

A three-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry today ordered Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to issue a broadcasting licence to Geo Super immediately and submit the compliance report in three days, Geo News reported.

As the bloggers at Cafe Pyala pointed out two months ago, Geo Super has a broadcast license and an open uplink.

Now let me share with you what has actually happened, which Geo will never tell you and which PEMRA is too idiotic to explain properly. Basically, in contravention of its status as a foreign channel with landing rights in Pakistan, Geo Super had been secretively uplinking from Pakistan. Under the law, Geo Super could only regularly uplink to satellite from abroad (Dubai or wherever it chose). When this uplink facility violation was discovered, PEMRA basically shut that operation down. This does not mean that Geo Super cannot broadcast its programmes by uplinking from abroad, as it was supposed to be doing in the first place. PEMRA has pointed out in its ad yesterday that Geo Super still has landing rights and is free to distribute its programmes via cable. In effect, therefore it is Geo Super that has shut itself off.

This is also why Geo Super had scrambled to apply for a “temporary uplinking license” from PEMRA on April 4, a facility that is allowed under the rules for specific events such as a major sporting competition taking place within the country. PEMRA, in perfectly legally defensible fashion, asked Geo Super to specify the event it wanted to cover. Since Geo Super could not name any, PEMRA was within its rights to refuse, which they apparently have still not technically done. The Jang Group’s claims of unfair victimization, at least on the basis of this alleged refusal, are merely attempts at a smokescreen.

So Geo Super shuts itself off in order to create a PR campaign for forcing the government to give it a domestic uplink, and the Supreme Court has nothing better to do than get involved in this bogus affair? The fact that the Chief Justice was a member of the panel is all the more embarrassing for the court.

It’s a good thing that there are no serious problems in Pakistan. Otherwise someone might think the Supreme Court is being derelict in its duty by taking such miserably trivial cases.

The true meaning of Ghairat

Irshad Ahmed Arif’s piece in Daily Jang of Monday titled Toollu expressed rather eloquently the righteousness of Ghairat Brigade, and it took me back to my childhood days.

A gentleman on our street was a famous alcoholic. For some time he was able to hide this problem. He had a decent house, a respectable salary, a nice car etc at one point in life, but just as with any other addiction, his life started spiraling downwards. He would miss deadlines for things, arrive late for work hung over and always be short of money. But the man would never face the fact that his drinking habit was causing his problems. Rather it would always be someone else’s fault, or somebody conspiring against him. It wasn’t long before he lost his job. Not long after, he had to sell his big car and ultimately his house. That guy kept on blaming his downfall on one thing or another but his ego wouldn’t let him admit that his own alcoholism was the root cause of these tragedies in his life.

My father on the other hand, is a very hard working man who was living on the same street with this family at the time. Since our house was not on the main electricity transformer for that particular street, we had more electric outages compared to everyone else. I remember complaining to him how inconvenient that was and at times caused hindrance in performing homework or other daily activities typical to that of a teenager. It was embarrassing. Some of the other fathers had rigged cables into the main transformer to overcome the problem, and I begged my father to do the same. My father sat me down and said, “My son, I know you are frustrated and inconvenienced by this. It will not always be this way Inshallah. But there is no honour in cheating. We should acknowledge our shortcomings and face the challenges, not try to always find the easy way out of things”. That sentence stuck with me ever since.

To me it seems like Mr. Arif is trying to find the easy way out here by implying that what he stands for is extremely honorable and dignified and those who disagree with him do not care about honour and dignity. A major portion of his article is dedicated to showing disdain towards the west and it would also seem that he is a little confused on what Ghairat actually is. Ghairat is a word of Pushto origins and it means the integrity of an individual. It is not just sticking to your principles but acknowledging the reality as well.

Mr. Arifs latest piece talks more about how the “Ghairat” attitude is absolutely justified rather than explaining the issues related to the current political scenario (why we need aid or what other possible solutions to the national issues might be) and he fails to mention the repercussions that might follow if we stuck to his convictions out of a sense of stubborn pride.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe pride honor and dignity are extremely important but let us not confuse Ghairat with the difference between right and wrong. Ghairat should never become a cover up of ones shortcomings or wrongdoings. An example would be that I do something illegal like park my car in a no-parking zone. A cop comes and gives me a ticket and asks me to move my car. I say no, as my “Ghairat” does not permit me to because admitting to it would mean I’m cowing down which belittles me and how can a petty police constable belittle me?

Same is what is happening between the Ghairat Brigade and the west. An American politician or general says that some elements are supporting militants and this should stop. Ghairate Brigade’s reaction is to pretend that it is an insult to suggest that there are elements supporting the militants or making excuses and pretending that militants are only attacking because of Americans in Afghanistan. Or they will even say that there are not militants and that suicide bombings are ‘false flag’ attacks by CIA.

Till date, we have seen so much fabrication in the name of religion and culture that we have ended up looking too emotional and sentimental as if we cannot handle issues with reason. It’s a shame because today’s ghairatmand doesn’t feel the need to improve our education because westerners have a hold on subjects like Sciences and English. He is keen however on having a translator translate all these books and accruing all the advantages from these “Gora” subjects. These “ghairatmands” follow none of the virtues ordained by Islam (patience, peace, love) and are keen to point out conspirators, traitors and “agents”.

Where is the Ghairat in keeping an underpaid servant who can barely feed his family or shooing away the little kid selling flowers or newspapers at the traffic signal? It is this egotistical self-loving attitude that we need to say goodbye to. We need to focus on education and modern skills and try to find honor dignity and respect by constructive means.

The true Pakistaniat is shown not by individuals complaining and whining but by the ones silently toiling away in the forms of engineers, government salaried doctors, community members and social workers etc to strengthen the infrastructure of our country. Maybe they can tell us the true meaning of Ghairat.

Maleeha Lodhi’s Economy

Dr Maleeha LodhiWatching the way some of our more prominent thinkers have treated the RGST in their columns has been an eye opening experience. For several, the tax bill was a PPP plot to punish the poor while protecting the rich…until it was set aside. Then not passing the bill was a PPP plot to punish the poor while protecting the rich! While these were quite obviously promoting a political agenda, I was more disappointed in the more subtle ways that some people put criticising the government ahead of moving the nation forward.

A perfect example of this is Maleeha Lodhi’s article from last week that accuses the PPP of sacrificing the economy to save the government, a most cynical suggestion that frankly defies all reason.

Please, let’s not forget so quickly what was happening only a few weeks ago: MQM quit the coalition in protest of the economic reforms and threatened to sit on opposition benches. Anti-government voices in the media were falling over themselves in hopes that a no-confidence vote would finally grant their wishes and unseat the PPP government. So, even if the PPP wanted to push through these economic reforms, which by all accounts they did (in fact, they seemed to be the only ones), they didn’t have the votes to do so.

But for the sake of argument, let’s consider the alternative. What if the PPP had thrown caution to the wind and stood firm. Any reforms would have been put off while a new government was formed. If the opposition parties managed to cobble together a coalition, it would have most certainly been led by the PML-N…who opposed the economic reforms.

So tell us, please, Dr Lodhi, in what alternate universe was it possible for Zardari to pass the economic reforms that he asked for? Also, if these reforms are as important as you now claim, why did you not use your status and influence to help the government when it was trying to bring other parties on board with the package?

This is what really frustrates me: When Dr Lodhi had the opportunity to pressurize the opposition parties that were standing in the way of the reform package, she chose rather to attack the government, even though it was the only group that was trying to get the reforms through.

If Dr Lodhi was really so concerned, why didn’t she use her very public voice to chastise Chaudhry Parvez Elahi when he said PML-Q would force a showdown rather than allow RGST to pass? No, rather she attacked the PPP who was supporting the measure.

What’s worst, this theme of Dr Lodhi’s has been picked up by the international media, most specifically in The Economist. Dr Lodhi’s spin on the topic could very well result in economists unnecessarily doubting the government’s commitment and further jeopardizing the nation’s economy even though the government has been very clear of its support for the reforms and is only trying to convince the opposition parties of its necessity.

Maleeha Lodhi concludes her latest column with the following paragraph:

In today’s strained political environment evolving consensus on a minimum reform agenda may seem a vain hope but the alternative – a descent into economic chaos – should serve as a reminder of what might happen if no policy correctives are implemented. This ought to urge different stakeholders to review their stance of putting short-term expediency before the country’s economic security. After all without such stability their political gamesmanship will be in vain.

I agree 100 percent. It remains to be seen, however, if Dr Lodhi will follow her own advice and work with President Zardari and PM Gilani to bring Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Altaf Hussain, and Nawaz Sharif to understand the importance of the government’s reform package. I understand that she has taken a job with Jang/Geo, but I would hate to think that someone of her stature would be “putting short-term expediency before the country’s economic security”.

Restore Pakistan’s Credibility – Investigate Jang Group

Sometimes you really have to wonder ‘what are they thinking!?!’ Of course, the obvious answer is that they are not. I had this face-slapping moment today when I read the headlines in The Guardian, ‘Pakistani media publish fake WikiLeaks cables attacking India’ and Dawn, ‘India needs to cooperate more with Pakistan: FO’. The inevitable conspiracy theory explanation from Zaid Hamid notwithstanding, this is inexcusable. The courts should begin an inquiry into Jang Group for sabotaging national security.

This isn’t just about whether or not the media is reliable – it’s about whether or not the media is intentionally or unintentionally sabotaging our national security. In any other country that claims to view journalism as a serious institution, a scandal of this magnitude would result in massive sackings. It will be instructive to see whether or not Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman has the courage and the principles to clean house.

Because let’s face it. Jang Group is humiliated today, as is the entire nation. But if Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman doesn’t care about how his company and his nation look in the eyes of the rest of the world, he doesn’t have to do a thing. The people who read and believe this crap don’t read The Guardian, even if they do read English, so they likely don’t even know about the situation.

No matter what Jang decides to do internally, though, the courts should immediately begin an inquiry into this mess. Seriously, if there was ever a cause worthy of suo moto notice, is this not it? How can the FO expect India to be cooperative while Jang is running defamatory articles about them? We want the Americans to treat us with respect while Ansar Abbasi is on TV telling Moeed Pirzada that all this WikiLeaks stuff is a big American conspiracy and saying that there are no boundaries to the ruthlessness and carelessness of Americans. Where is Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman while all of this is happening?

If Jang Group wants to be a joke, that’s fine. They can continue selling all the fictions they want. But when they start publishing crap that undercuts the ability of government and military officials to do their jobs, that is where we need to draw the line. I strongly believe in a free media. And I strongly defend the right – even the responsibility – of the media to hold the government accountable. But I do NOT support the right for anyone in the media to SABOTAGE the government.

And this problem needs to be solved now because this is not an isolated incident. A similar problem occurred during the floods, didn’t it? How often did we see people complaining about how inept our government is, not missing any opportunity to take a pot shot at Asif Zardari, and then turning around and complaining that nobody will give us any money! Oh, it is because the government is so corrupt! They loved to shout from the rooftops. “This is why other countries were so quick to give to Haiti but not to Pakistan!” As if Haiti is a corruption-free-zone of the world. Here’s an inconvenient fact for these jokers – even if Pakistan was number 143 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index…HAITI WAS NUMBER 146. Please do tell me how many poor innocent people suffered because somebody in the media really hates Zardari that much?

Now we are humiliated on the headlines of a foreign newspaper because our own media is running false stories against India. And it’s not even a good lie because it’s so easily proven to be false. All The Guardian had to do was check the facts! How could these fools not know that they would be caught immediately at their cheap tricks? But the truth never really mattered, probably. It was all simply a gamble for a short-term victory in domestic politics. The consequences were not considered.

There’s a thing called credibility. Once you lose it, it’s really hard to get back. Perhaps Jang Group does not care about their own credibility. But we need to be very concerned about how Jang Group is ruining our national credibility. It’s time for an inquiry. Let the courts expose Jang Group’s intentions as Wikileaks has exposed the intentions of so many other clever souls. If Jang Group is filled with innocents and angels, let them prove it in a court. Otherwise, let them be held accountable for their actions. That would go a long way to getting our own credibility back.

You Say You Want A Revolution

“Revolution” seems to have re-entered the public debate lately. But recent events once again raise the question – who is the “public” in this debate?

Last year it was “the Bangladesh option” that was on the tongues of all of the chattering class. Lately, Altaf Bhai’s talk about “patriotic generals” and the French revolution has re-inspired the dreams of the talking heads. But these people exist in climate controlled studios and expansive flats with all the modern conveniences. In a nation of 160 Million people with a Gross National Income per captia of under Rs.85,000 (US $1,000) and a literacy rate of about 55 percent – what do the common people think?

In a way, it’s hard to know what the common people think because usually nobody cares to ask them. Sure, there are a lot of people who claim to speak for the masses, but when was the last time Shahid Masood had a hawker or a farmer or someone’s driver on his show to discuss their “Views on the News”?

The only time the common people are asked what they think is when they are asked to select the person they want to represent their interests and opinions in the assemblies. So if we want to find the best measurement of the popular opinion, we should’t be looking to the media elites talking “live from satellite”, we should be looking at who people are actually voting for.

Judging by the results of yesterday’s by-poll in NA-184, the people are not clamoring for a revolution.

Khadija Waran, wife of Amir Yar Waran and candidate of Pakistan People’s Party has won by-elections in Bahawalpur’s constituency NA-184, according to unofficial results.

The unofficial results disclosed that Khadija Waran bagged 75507 votes and leading by 27362 votes. Her closest rival was Pakistan Muslim League-N’s Najeebuddin Awaisi with 48,145 votes.

Polling for by-elections in NA-184 was held today from 8 AM to 5 PM without any interruption. Reports of minor clashes were received from different parts of the constituency during the vote.

So, despite the chattering classes predictions of the demise of PPP, it seems that ruling party has at least one constituency that still supports it – the voters.

But what’s even more telling about this recent by-poll election is that it not only undermines the claims that the people want (or need) a “revolution” or that the PPP has overplayed its hand is unpopular with the masses. It also exposes the media elites for being completely out of touch with the people about what issues matter most.

For months now we’ve been hearing all manner of funeral speeches for the government because a handful of people had “fake degrees”. This was an issue that was created and cared for only by the media – and even some of those darlings were unimpressed.

But the NA-184 by-poll proves that outside of the comfort of Geo’s studios, nobody really cares. The newly elected MNA, Khadija Waran, is wife of Amir Yar Waran – the outgoing MNA – who had a degree declared fake. If the people really thought fake degrees was important and that PPP was discredited, wouldn’t they have voted for someone else? Certainly so.

But the voters did no such thing. Rather, they spoke clearly with their ballots: We don’t care about fake degrees issue. We don’t want “revolution”. We want the government to be given the opportunity to work.

Salman Tarik Kureshi makes a perfect point yesterday:

For a nation like Pakistan, with no monarchs to behead and an already extant constitutional democracy to run, the concept of revolution is irrelevant. We would only add a few million more violent deaths to the numbers already generated by the Partition massacres, the East Pakistan civil war, the military actions against the rebels in Balochistan and the MRD (Movement for Restoration of Democracy) movement in Sindh, the sectarian killings in Punjab, the ethnic killings in Karachi, the continuing terrorist atrocities and so on and so forth.

We are fortunate to have already established an independent republic, a democratic system, popular sovereignty and a constitution. It is these we need to cherish and nurture.

The decision to change the government lies not with carefully coiffed media talking heads and wannabe revolutionaries. The decision lies with the people only. If they want a revolution, they will make it at the ballot box. Judging by the actual votes of the people, they’re not interested.