Tag Archives: Pakistan

Imran Khan’s tsunami is flooding Pakistan!

By: Agha Haider Raza

Pakistan’s media airwaves have gone haywire over the spectacle that has emerged since renowned journalist, Hamid Mir, was shot at multiple times in Karachi a few weeks ago. In response to the audacious attack, Mir’s employer, GEO News openly hinted that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was responsible for the attempt on Mir’s life.  As expected, the ISI sprung into action; flexing their muscles through the “independent” media and “civil society” by protesting against the allegations leveled by GEO News.  Rather than using the unfortunate attack on Hamid Mir as an opportunity to engage in a frank discussion on the safety of journalists in Pakistan (deemed one of the world’s least safe place for journalists), this incident has opened a debate on the credibility of Pakistan’s first democratic transition and reignited long-standing tensions between the incumbent government and the country’s most powerful institution, the Pakistan Army.  Using the bold attack on Hamid Mir as a springboard, Imran Khan is boycotting GEO News and has resorted to street protests to declare the sham of a democracy we have at present. Khan and his party claim that the general elections of 2013 were stolen from them via alleged rigging committed by the PML-N and GEO News and after exhausting all appropriate avenues have decided to utilize there street power.  This is not the time. What the country really needs are its politicians to embolden and strengthen Pakistan’s fragile Parliament by passing electoral reform and acting on the discrepancies in the last election to avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future.

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To Use or Not to Use Religion

By: Agha Haider Raza

With the first ever democratically elected Parliament nearly passing the baton to another parliament via general elections in the midst of our reach, we may just be witnessing history.  History is in the making because over the 66-year roller coaster ride, Pakistan has never observed such a transition.  Numerous military interventions, lack of assertive civilian leadership along with the involvement of non-state and foreign actors has made Pakistan suffer deeply.

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The Narrative Needs to Change

This morning, Pakistani’s found themselves standing in lines, shoulder to shoulder behind the coffins of a Shia doctor and his eleven year-old son.  Reason for death; bullet wounds.  The real cause for death however, was not the bullets that pierced through their bodies but rather the sect of Islam they believed in.  While the twitterverse and other social media outlets have openly expressed their disgust and shock towards the ease by which minorities and citizens are being hunted and slaughtered, the government seems to have their head in the sand, oblivious to reality.

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Pakistan Media Woes

By: Agha Haider Raza

During his near-decade of power, Pervez Musharraf introduced many different pieces of legislation.  The public at large admonished some laws, while few regulations were applauded.  However, one ordinance in particular, Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA), signed in to law by 2002 is (should be) praised by all.  The said ordinance not only capsized Musharraf’s regime, but has also brought a vibrant and dynamic media sector to Pakistan. The beauty of an independent media, free from the ownership of the state, provides room for an accountability mechanism in a democratic setup.  Unfortunately the power players in Pakistan have not been able to understand and utilize this powerful domain.

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New Year, New Tasks

By: Agha Haider Raza

2011 has been a rather tumultuous year for Pakistan. There have been too many incidents to highlight and ponder over.  With the assassination of Salmaan Taseer in January to the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in November, the land of the pure has taken a lot of bruising. Despite suffering at the hands of homegrown and natural disasters, Pakistan continues to point fingers at the United States and other foreign intelligence agencies.  Now don’t get me wrong, the US has done its fair share to ruffle things up in the region, but I have to ask– how long can the country blame foreign powers for our own misery? Pakistan has failed to create a cohesive narrative at a time when it is most necessary.

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Narrator vs Narrative

By: Agha Haider Raza

Journalists across Pakistan have continuously stressed the importance
of protecting the freedom of speech as way of ensuring the media’s
role as one of the country’s most crucial accountability mechanisms.
However as of late the media seems to have overstepped the very
function they speak so highly of.

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Silence is Not Always Golden

By: Agha Haider Raza

It’s not every day that you are woken up by the statement “oi jaago, Bin Laden ko khatam kur diya hai” (wake up, Bin Laden has been finished).

As soon as I heard the rumor, I did exactly what millions of others around the world must have done, and swiftly turned on the television. Indeed, blaring upfront was the breaking news that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been shot dead.  Tickers were already running below the screen on all news channels, as they anticipated President Obama’s remarks that would turn the rumor into reality. The President of the United States soon came on the air and with a straight face announced the death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.  All eyes now turned to Pakistan.

In order to understand the audacity of Osama Bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad, eager news junkies waited for a statement from the Government of Pakistan.  After all, it had been hours since the Operation to eliminate Bin Laden had been carried out on Pakistani soil. President Obama had already made his statement acknowledging the role of Pakistan’s intelligentsia at 8.35AM PST.  “It [is] important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding”.  With pride, I awaited the response from a government I am rarely proud of.  Pakistan had suffered tremendous losses over the past decade because of 19 hijackers on 9/11 and an uncomfortable policy in Afghanistan known as ‘strategic depth’ carried out by the ISI.  But here was our shining moment.  To silence those who consistently called on Pakistan to “do more”.

As the day progressed, the conventional and social media exploded.  Fox News had their stories while MSNBC captured live images of Americans celebrating in the streets in the wee hours of the night.  With little information in regards to the Operation, information released from various media outlets started portraying their own stories.  Questions arose about the extravagant compound Bin Laden was residing in with such close proximity to the PMA, while many inquired about the sincerity of the Pakistan Military.  Sohaib Athar who happened to be tweeting about a low-flying helicopter announced that he heard a loud explosion during the night, became an instant celebrity.  CNN published the news about his tweets and instantly @ReallyVirtual found himself as the most sought out tweeter.  The poor man was bombarded for media interviews from around the world.  I guess that explains how he was able to garner over 90,000 followers (and counting) within a matter of hours.

While the world dissected and deciphered any news story about Osama Bin Laden, the Pakistan Government chose to remain silent.  Soon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a rather awkward but amusing statement.  “This operation was conducted by the US forces in accordance with declared US policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the US forces, wherever found in the world”.  The press release was truly mesmerizing.  It implied that the United States unilaterally undertook the Operation to root out Bin Laden – in stark contrast to what President Obama had announced earlier.  I tried to find President Zardari’s schedule, to see if there was any slot for a public announcement.  Luckily, via http://www.president.gov.pk I was able to understand Zardari’s absence from a public announcement in regards to Bin Laden’s capture only a 100 kilometers from the Presidency.  Asif Zardari was accepting credentials from newly inducted Ambassadors at Diplomatic Enclave along with presiding over the Oath-taking ceremony for 18 new Ministers (which in itself is shrouded in mystery).

While the international media openly criticized the Government of Pakistan (GoP) and the Pakistan Military for allowing Bin Laden to reside so closely to Islamabad and the PMA, our civilian leader chose to remain away from the mic and camera.  Assuming that the GoP may have let the Military handle such a worldwide story due to the sensitivity of the issue, I scanned the ISPR (Pakistan Military Press Dept.) but found nothing.  Here we were, at the core of the biggest news story of the century and beyond the 243 words of the press released issued by MoFA, nothing.

The entire day has passed by and world leaders have spoken on the death of Osama Bin Laden. Yet, our Government and Military have remained silent.  With hundreds of unanswered questions, the GoP and the Military have lost the opportunity to tackle the bull by the horns. when it missed an occasion to discuss the Operation in the morning.  Rather than acknowledging the role of Pakistan and her military, the Foreign Office snubbed the United States by hinting they operated unilaterally.  I find it rather hard to believe that US Helicopters were in Pakistani Airspace, conducted a 40 minute “solo” mission, and escaped with the body of Osama Bin Laden –without the knowledge of the GoP or Pakistan Military.

By choosing to remain quiet, the GoP and the Pakistan Military have allowed the conspiracy theorists (found in abundance) and international media to construe their own stories and draw their own conclusions.  I cannot fathom the fact that on such a monumental news story, the GoP and the Military would revert to silence. However, this morning President Zardari deemed it necessary to publish an Opinion piece in the Washington Post.  Yet again, President Zardari assumed it was a better approach in reaching out to the American public rather than quashing the fears and queries of Pakistani’s.  Sending out bland statements (by PM Gilani and MoFA) should have been done once the President or Prime Minister addressed the citizens of Pakistan and the world.  It has been more than 24 hours since Bin Laden was shot dead and we are still awaiting a public statement by the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister or Senior Military Officials.

In a globalized day and age, where social media has brought down dictatorships and reinforced democratic ideals, the sheer recklessness of those in power is mind-boggling.  The tranquility of the Government has only garnered more suspiciousness and resentment towards a fledgling and weak leadership.  At a time when the whole world is eyeing Pakistan for a statement on the death of its most notorious terrorist, it is shocking that Zardari or Prime Minister Gilani would remain silent.  With plenty of damage done to Pakistan’s reputation over the course of 24 hours, I sure hope Firdous Awan has her talking points ready for a media and country that still needs answers to many questions.