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  • A view from Pakistan

    by Sunny
    21st November, 2007 at 3:38 pm    

    (This is by journalist friend currently in Karachi)

    These are strange times in Pakistan. For those of us who have ferociously supported the right for free speech, this is perhaps the worst place to be alive at the moment. Yet the forces which are standing by carrying flickers of hope are also unparalleled.

    On Tuesday, Police baton charged journalists from Karachi Press club in Sadar. The journalists were holding a peaceful demonstration against ban on Geo Television Network and curbs on media in Pakistan. According to Geo officials, the police have arrested 200 journalists including five women. An eyewitness said the journalists were brutally beaten and most of them were bleeding after the brutal attack. After seeing the situation, senior journalists including Owais Tohid, head of Geo English offered their arrests.*

    After the incident, the journalists observed protest sit-in against police violence and arrests and announced to offer collective arrests in protest. According to reports several injured journalists have been transferred to hospitals for medical aid. Meanwhile, the number of police and Rangers has been increased outside Karachi office of Geo Television.

    Since the emergency declared by President Musharraf, things have been getting increasingly difficult for the media in Pakistan. With the emergency, the General banned all the media channels in Pakistan, including the BBC, Al Jazeera and CNN.

    According to senior analysts this is the worst news black out in the history of Pakistan.

    In his speech to the nation, President Musharraf cirticised Pakistani media for lacking responsibility. All the channels initially resisted the new government guidelines but later gave in after negotiations. Last week a few channels went back on air including Aaj TV but only after axing its current affairs programme on the government’s demand.

    Geo TV was also asked to take off their current affairs programmes Capital Talk and Meray Mutabiq, hosted alternatively by Hamid Mir and Shahid Masood both hold a celebrity status in Pakistan. The new guidelines further demanded that no current affairs programme could go on air without approval from the representatives from the government.

    “We were dead either way,” said Nasir Baig Chughtai, a senior and popular figure among the journalists in Pakistan also known as NBC.

    While Dawn News, the first English channel in Pakistan has been de-barred, Geo TV and Ary One world’s transmissions were taken off air from their head quarters in Dubai. Both these two channels are now completely off air. Geo News can still be watched on internet and news is being spread through SMS along with the channel’s rallying slogan: ‘emergency main bhi geo‘ (it is a pun since ‘Geo’ means live in Urdu).

    On Monday, journalists outside Geo’s office in Karachi held a candle-lit protest, mostly dressed in black emergency T-shirts. They vowed to fight for democracy till their last breaths.

    “We have been asked to pay a heavy price for keeping people informed, but we will not give up,” said Sana Bucha, producer on Geo English. Geo English is a yet to be launched venture by Geo Networks.

    In an email sent to staff of more than 5000, the CEO of Geo network Mir Ibrahim Rehman, said: “Already we were the only network whose entertainment based channels were banned in Pakistan through cable. This is a dark time for all of us and also for Pakistan…….this group (Geo and Jang) is known to take pressure and does not give in to threats and intimidation.”

    The government has put Imran Khan, chairman of Tehreek-e-Insaaf in prison. Imran Khan, the former Pakistan cricket captain turned politician, began a hunger strike on Monday in jail in protest against the emergency rule. Even though Mr Khan is the only member of his party to be selected in the last election, he holds immense popularity in Pakistan due to his cricket days and for creating the first cancer hospital in Lahore, Pakistan.

    Musharraf has also made a quick amendment to the constitution according to which the power to “lift” the emergency has been transferred from the ‘Chief of the Army Staff’ to the ‘President of the state’.

    The future seems uncertain at the moment with the little flicker of candles, which burned on Monday outside Geo office now seemingly dimmed.

    Today, journalists gain planned to protest with a music concert outside the Geo office. On Thursday the new court will give a final ruling. Only then can it authorise the election commission to announce Gen Musharraf as the winner of the vote.

    However, will this victory come at a price? Of course it would. All victories do. But what will be the extent of this price, nobody can dare predict.

    * Those arrested by the police included Geo News journalists Afzal Nadeem Doggar, Abdul Rahman, Tariq Abul Hassan, Tariq Moin, Fahim Siddiqui, Raja Kamran, Najeeb Ahmed, Akhtar Minhas, Faisal Shakeel, Waseem Ahmed, Faisal Aziz, Ghulam Mustafa, Nizam Siddiqui, Mujeed-ur-Rahman, Musa Kaleem, Raja Tariq, Fayyaz Mangi,Muhammad Nazeer, Yaqub Haroon, Dodo Chandio, Asif Mehmood, Akhdar Awan, Ahmed Khan, Qazi Hassan, Naseem Rajpur, Junaid Mumtaz Awan, Amir Ahmed Khan, Shoaib Ahmed, Shoaib Khan Baloch, Javed Mehmend, Muhammad Nazeer, Faizan, Tanveer, Irfan-ul-Haq, Zarrar Khan, Mehboob Akhtar Rind, Bilquis Jehan, Shakeel Salawat, Lalarukh, President Karachi Press Club Sabeehuddin Ghausi, Secretary Imtiaz Faran, President KUJ Shamim-ur-Rahman, treasurer Amir Latif, A.H. Khanzada, Shakeel Khan, Arbab Chandio, Raza Hassan, Arif Kazmi, Hassan Rana, Muhammad Suleman, Khawar Khan, Nawab Ali Shah, Asif Alam, Liaquat Mughal, Shams Imran, Kashif Hussain, Asghar Umar, Ali Shah, Imtiaz Chandio, Zulfiqar Sanwal Shaikh, Yousuf Khan, Mukarram Kaleem, Huma Imtiaz, Faizan Lakhani, Idris Bakhtiar and other leaders of Karachi journalists.

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    Filed in: Media,Pakistan

    19 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. Sports Illustrated

      Sports Illustrated…

      I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…

    1. Sofi — on 21st November, 2007 at 4:52 pm  

      a family member is deeply distressed since GEO was taken off air. bring it back, you stupid people!

      although i wasnt staunchly anti musharaff, news of this kind, and especially reports of brute force being used against journalists whove only been doing their job, really doesnt instil much confidence.

    2. Naila Khan — on 22nd November, 2007 at 7:07 am  

      This way you are even tarnishing the good things that you have done as well. We are thankful for your time, but now is the time to pack your bags and LEAVE!

    3. Syed Omar Razaz — on 22nd November, 2007 at 7:25 am  

      Maybe Pakistanis do not deserve freedom of speech, because we belong to the third world. Maybe that’s why there is an uncanny silence over the issue in the west.

    4. Rahim Shah — on 22nd November, 2007 at 7:44 am  

      Sofi, my grandmother cries all the time since Geo has been barred. She says she has been deprived of her best friend in her old age. My grand dad is retired “Army” guy by the way.

    5. Rahim Shah — on 22nd November, 2007 at 8:06 am  

      Geo News can still be watched on internet and news is being spread through SMS along with the channel’s rallying slogan: ‘emergency main bhi geo‘ (it is a pun since ‘Geo’ means live in Urdu).

      I like this!

    6. Junaid Mumtaz — on 22nd November, 2007 at 8:33 am  

      i think whats important for people to understand that how negative geo has always been , people like dr massod , kamran khan and some of the other jokers hired by geo dont have any crediable journalist background , i think geo should stop preching this whole BS about ” we were only telling the truth ” they never put Pakistan first , the current sitution and the future of Pakistan surronded by internal and external problems , Its simple to explain , the minute you started watching geo , it scared you , it put you off pakistan , it gave you a negative image , so i think its good riddance to bad rubbish , besides there need to rules and regulations which need to be implemented , immature jornalistic organziantions ( geo is till under 8 years old ) need to be given a legal frame work , i think mushraf was to good to them by beleiving them , control os imporant and there is censor ship in almost every journalistic body in the world at various levels so dont pretend its only Pakistan Pakistan comes first , not geo and its negative news about pakistan .

      I dont think anybody is happy about emergencey in Pakistan , Including musharaf , but it had to be done , when judjes start acting like revolutionaries, its funny the other day a taxi driver here in cardiff said to me ” i am going to pakistan because supreme court is taking suo motos action ” which he thaught was the solution to all problems , religious fundos , retarded molvis , way to many problems which needed extreme action and curbing the media for the time being was one of them , well done mushy u da man

      oh yeah what can say about imran khan , i think its good that he was in the slammer for a few days , may be get some more votes this time around , consdering in 14 years of politics he has only one seat to show , that also his own . Imran khan absolutley has no political importance in Pakistan , he is just there Tv channels interview him coz they need to fill up air time , and he gets about 200 people to protest here about his impriosment , and people come just to see Jemima , as jemima now can only attract 200 people now , Coz her white celebratiy friend would never show up coz its got do some thing with Pakistan , brown people ,scary thaught for Jemimas mates

      anyways Pakistan first , protect it other wise we might not have one

    7. Sofia — on 22nd November, 2007 at 8:58 am  

      Junaid, you think rounding people up and arresting them on jumped up charges, shutting down free press and incarcerating political opponents is good for pakistan? So imran khan has only one seat in parliament and he’s now some kind of terrorist threat to musharraf??? where’s the logic in that? You sound like some bitter old pakistani bloke who is stuck in the past..as for your comment on jemima khan..jeez..where did that come from? She wasn’t the only person there, and if you maybe, just maybe had a look around, you might see that the anti musharraf movement is slightly bigger than one person or even the 200 you mention.

    8. Sulaiman S Lalani — on 22nd November, 2007 at 9:24 am  

      Restricting the freedom of speech is like attempting to silence the Voice of God!

      Obviously, those who think they can silence the Voice of God are wrong!

      Those who think they can kill GEO by silencing us are wrong. GEO is not just a TV channel or a media group. It is literally the Voice of Pakistan, voice of people; and that cannot be silenced

    9. asma — on 22nd November, 2007 at 10:56 am  

      Geo news is not only a channel but life style of Pakistanis. You cant kill culture and habbits.

    10. Wahishi – The Wild One — on 22nd November, 2007 at 11:38 am  

      Imran Khan himself is not a terrorist, but if you actually do some research into his party and his speeches, you will see that he and his party has a soft spot for Islamic fundamentalism and general backwardness (eg: he wants to leave the tribal areas as they are and cement feudalism in Pakistan).

      He is a nutter.

      No wonder he only polled 0.8% last time around - did anyone not related to him vote for him?

      Sofia, I don’t know if you have phoned your relatives in Pakistan recently; I think you should.

      They will tell you a different story than what is being presented on your TV screens. Ordinary Pakistanis are not effected one iota by the emergency - namely because the constitution was meaningless in the first place; it exercised no power over them.

      The only people getting pent up are political activists and opportunists who see a glimmer of hope to get power.

      Every day Paks will continue to puff on hooka, chew paan, go to a Mujra show and watch fat birds prat about on Lollywood.

    11. junaid mumtaz — on 22nd November, 2007 at 12:33 pm  


      i think sitting in the Uk , you are far away from the reality , i am assuming you are like a little kiddy widdy running arounf trying to leave in the perfect world . My point is simple things have to changed and moulded according to the enviorment , If the UK and The US are so pro democrocy and this whole crap of freedom of speech , then tell them to ask saudi arabia to do it as well , there is no democracy there , and no media ever , the west only talks about things when it pleases them , there is no talk about ever freedom of speech in Saudia Arabai , coz The Uk needs the defence contract and the americans need the oil , when was the last time the west said anything to saudi arabia about the same .

      In regards to Jemima comments it was simple , the little time she had away from hugh grant she comes out chantting anti Mushraf slogans, not realsing what actually Pakistan was heading for if this was not done ,

      iMRAN KHAN i repeat and i say it LOUd has absolute no importance in the political scanario of Pakistan ,

      Pakistan needs people like musharaf , who can save Pakistan from the internal and external threats

      and yeah if u want to know my age do check out my my space page ,


    12. Yousuf — on 22nd November, 2007 at 12:35 pm  

      Free media and free judiciary is not in the interest of GENERALS or BUREAUCRATES then why we expecting this from a DICTATOR.

    13. Fizzah Hussain Rizvi — on 22nd November, 2007 at 1:39 pm  

      This is what Pakistan’s famous journalist Nadeem farooq paracha wrote in his column on sunday.Everyone knows his views about dictatorship and military regimes but this coming from him should open the eyes of all those crying and screaming in favour of these so called chanpions of free speech and all that jazz!!!!the news channels!!!!!read carefully!!!

      By Nadeem Farooq Paracha.

      I’m amused the way the press these days is using the term ‘civil society’. When they say something like, ‘the lawyers were joined by members of the civil society in their protest against emergency,’ are they suggesting that those who stayed home, or rather, had to put in their daily eight hours of work are uncivil?

      If there is a civil society, then there must also be an uncivil society, right? Now what can that be? Maybe it is a society of people who actually go out and vote during elections, but prefer watching a cricket match on the telly when members of civil society give a call to come out on the streets to defend democracy. The irony is not lost on the uncouth members of the uncivil society, though. Those barbarians.

      Mind my barbaric, uncivil sense of the comic, but I just couldn’t help stumble into a short, sharp burst of manic laughter after watching a photo in an English-language daily of a decked up lady standing outside a posh supermarket in Karachi, carrying a placard denouncing Musharraf’s emergency. Of course, the dreadful emergency did not stop the famous supermarket to stack up its usual stock of imported goodies.

      Had that been the case here, the lady would have flown out to Dubai by now. To hell with democracy. After all, as most uncivil beings will tell you, it’s easy to defend democracy on a full stomach. If so, then does this mean that civil society’s recent revolutionary antics and chants are nothing more than a loud burp?

      I mean, actually putting a photo of a ‘demonstration’ held by one civil woman is rather stunning. How about putting a picture of a busy shopping area in Lahore, or a busier business district in Karachi ? That’s a demonstration as well, isn’t it? A demonstration of life as usual. It certainly has a lot more people than the one standing outside the supermarket, and the 14 gathered outside, say, the press club.

      I am no lover of dictatorship nor was I so hunky-dory when emergency was imposed. But I am not one to miss out on the ironies and the contradictions in the ways of people decrying the emergency. Many in civil society reek of hypocrisy and pretension, and don’t even get me started on news channels. From newscasters some became news creators. Democracy and jihad became brands targeted at a market of a bored audience who now looked to these channels as new entertainment avenues.

      Speaking live to terrorists and extremists and talk shows mutating into political versions of the Jerry Springer show certainly beat the mundane ways of a soap opera or a music video. No wonder these channels started getting more advertising than entertainment channels. Where is the hue and cry when terrorists take over mosques, explode bombs, burn down CD shops, et al?

      This protest movement being splashed so dramatically across newspapers and websites these days is now deeply rooted and emerging from a rather tyrannical middle class morality. That’s why you can now actually hear fanatics like Hamid Gul, conservatives like Nawaz Sharif, the so-called objective anchormen and the likes of that decked up supermarket aunty singing along the same tune.

      The aunty also makes me understand why one can now see some editors of frivolous fashion pages suddenly delivering passionate tirades against the powers that be and why all of a sudden we see the unleashing of similar tirades by the young daughter of the late Murtaza Bhutto and, lo and behold, Jamima Goldsmith!

      The common thread among them all is that they hate Benazir Bhutto because she largely attracts the uncouth, uncivil society, those who had come from far and wide to greet her on that fateful day in Karachi.A couple of days ago, a group of students from a prestigious university in Lahore arrived at my office to meet me. They said they were angered that that a progressive man like me has decided not to join the “movement” against emergency.

      I sympathse with them. I do. I admire their sudden awakening. But I despise the way they are unknowingly all set to be used by failed politicians and ideological delusions. If they cannot see this and are still prepared to take one on the head or the hip, they can find me showing the finger to the brutal society that lies like an anarchic predator between civil society and the uncivil one.

      The truth is, had civil society reacted the same way against all the Fazaluulahs and Abdur Rashids, the Hamid Guls and the Shahid Masoods as it is does against Benazir Bhutto or Musharraf, I would have been more than glad to join their great crusade against this dictator and their movement for democracy.

      But it can’t. Because this crusade, in which I see the lawyers, democrats, extremists and liberals hurled desperately together on the same boat, is a boat being captained by a skewed bourgeois mentality concocted from pieces of religious confusion, splinters of paranoia, chunks of hypocrisy, twists of naiveté and most of all, a happily full stomach.
      God help Pakistan.

    14. Junaid Mumtaz — on 22nd November, 2007 at 2:36 pm  

      nadeem farooq piracha the legend has spoken

      well done buddy

      freeha this one was just for you

    15. Sehrish Dar — on 25th November, 2007 at 3:56 am  

      Jornalist are really not the ‘civil society.’ Pakistan needs real journalists that protray good & bad in a balance like all journalists do for their country. The untiring and lamenting tirad of anti-Pakistanism and self-condemnation by these so-called journalists that can’t find anything good about the country are the demoralizing force and should be beaten on their head till they change their ways. Make way for the real journalists who help strenghten a country and down with sham journalist. All they are going to do is bitch to outside world to bring more condemenation for their nation… do I hear the word ‘traitors’ ?

      Sehrish Dar
      Karachi - DCW College

    16. Fizzah Hussain Rizvi — on 26th November, 2007 at 12:21 pm  

      You’re right sehrish and i hope you’ve read the above column i shared by nadeem farooq paracha coz thats what he’s saying and that’s why i’ve shared it here coz nadeem is considered to be a bitter critic but in this situation he is not siding with the stupid lawyers and those doomsday prophets siting on geo and other news channels.He has severly condemned them and that says a lot about the current circus going on which is lead by the jang group newspapers and channels.

    17. safdar — on 3rd December, 2007 at 5:04 pm  


    18. Fizzah Hussain Rizvi — on 12th December, 2007 at 1:25 pm  

      Laanat aap jaisay logon per bheji jati hai so here I go!!! Lakh laanat hai aap per mr Safdar!!!

      Now read this everyone, once again Nadeem Farooq Paracha presents it like it is. read the last paragraph and the last line carefully as THAT is the real TRUTH!

      By: Nadeem Farooq Paracha

      A leader’s true legacy tends to be more accurately deciphered when studied through the effects his ideas and policies have had on the cultural mindset of the people. When the late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto took over the reins of power in 1972, he presided over a country disillusioned by the defeat of the Pakistan Army in the former East Pakistan. Society stood quivering from a collective case of low self-esteem and widespread melancholy.

      Thus, one of the Bhutto regime’s most important contributions to Pakistan were its cultural policies that helped revive the people’s dwindling esteem and energy, eventually giving them a new-found self-belief. Inventively borrowing bits of cultural ideas from various socialist regimes of the time, especially from Mao’s China, the Bhutto regime used commercial cinema, state-owned media and government-funded folk melas to hit home slogans and concepts that were conceived to help construct a new Pakistani mindset.

      Though Bhutto’s political legacy is controversial, his regime’s cultural legacy is ripe with glowing examples of great leaps made in various forms of art, enough to (for the first time in Pakistan) culturally engage the common man and oversee a great revival of his spirit. But heroic politics can be viciously ironic too. As a stressful global economic meltdown brought on by the oil crisis of the 1970s had an impact on Pakistans economy, it also left the country’s elite and middle-classes pointing an accusing finger at Bhutto’s populist economic policies. Soon, the new-found political and cultural consciousness inspired by the Bhutto regime made an ironic u-turn to play a decisive role in its designer’s tragic downfall.

      Using the slogan of ‘Nizam-i-Mustafa’, the opposition successfully used the new-found consciousness of the masses to turn it against its own architect. After Bhutto’s toppling, the country’s cultural scene lay barren like a wasteland of moral myopia for eleven years under the infamous Zia dictatorship. 1999 saw Pervez Musharraf assume the role of the country’s new dictator, overseeing a country not only suffering from severe political factionalism and economic disarray, but still carrying the agony of the inertia-laden Ziaist mindset that seemed to have got worse during the country’s “decade of democracy” in the 1990s.

      Perhaps due to being busy playing politics of bare survivalism, Benazir and Nawaz Sharif both had little time to invest in the sort of cultural policies that actually affect mindsets. To his credit, Musharraf aggressively addressed the deepening trend of negative conservatism that had gripped the Pakistani frame of mind, putting an impressive amount of personal effort to revive Pakistan’s evaporating cultural polity.

      In an environment in which the reactionary mindset had hit a peak, Musharraf led the charge in giving state patronage to various modern art forms, going a step further by adding to his agenda the proliferation of private TV channels allowed to interpret politics, society and entertainment on their own terms. Like the Z.A. Bhutto regime, the Musharraf regime’s cultural policies too were closely intertwined with his politics, managing to have an altering impact on the mindset of the country.

      Thanks to the patronage given by the Musharraf regime to mostly youth-oriented art forms and activities, and owing to the relationship that developed between this and the open media policies of the government, cultural policies of the regime eventually gave birth to an interesting phenomenon. However, just as Z.A. Bhutto’s cultural policies had managed to attract widespread engagement from the masses, only for this new consciousness to ironically play itself into the hands of those wanting to pull Bhutto down, Musharraf today is faced with a similar quandary.

      Though Musharraf’s cultural strategy may not have engaged the common man the way Bhutto’s policies did, however, it did have a deep impact on urban, middle-class Pakistan. This happened in two stages. The first was the proliferation of a new-found sense of creative freedom among the urban middle-class youth, and the next stage was when this astute sense eventually evolved into a political awakening of sorts.

      As one section of the middle-class youth responded with newborn religiosity, the other part blossomed in their new-found freedom, with gradual economic growth witnessed by the economy making the experience that much sweeter. Then arrived the political awakening. Very much an evolutionary outcome of Musharraf’s positive cultural and economic policies, this outcome, however, released its political energy against the very man that had initiated it as a cultural initiative.

      But this ironic phenomenon is not as damaging to its architect’s well being as were the paradoxical consequences of Bhutto’s cultural regime. On the contrary, it is likely that in the long run, this phenomenon will see young people now grow up to look for social, economic and political solutions in concepts like democracy, freedom of speech and a more secular form of politics rather than, unlike their predecessors, turn inwards in times of crisis by clinging to military dictators, obscurantism, myopic morality and political inertia.

      It is a fascinating irony, and a realisation that such a hopeful thought about the future has been triggered by cultural initiatives of a man who ruled Pakistan as a military dictator. However, today, as the lawyers, the media and sections of the youth get busy exercising their new-found political energies in shouting him down, Musharraf will have to wait for history to finally deliver its verdict, which will likely read as follows: A military dictator’s cultural impositions actually gave birth to a newborn sense of democracy. Weird, but true.

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