Media


Shaheryar Ali

It’s a very sorry state of affairs. For more than 2 years now I have been writing about the dangers of “intellectual hegemony”, “selective radicalism” and “double discourse on Rights” being prevalent in Pakistani corporate media as well in Pakistani blogging community.  The Pakistani blogging community though is generally better than the media corporations but unfortunately is plagued by the same myopic intolerance when it comes to any dissenting views regarding the myths about Pakistan, its origin, its democracy and its national interests as defined by Right-of center media guru or a section of ex-Stalinists now turned liberals or centrists intellectuals.

 

The freedom of expression always is the freedom to express views which are deemed controversial. The demand for freedom of expression always arises for the marginalized opinion, one which is not acceptable to the state, rulers, moral vanguard of the society etc. It’s precisely this very right to differ, to challenge the dominant views that creates the issue of freedom of expression in the first place. Its so because, any other opinion one which operates within the realms of what is “acceptable” to the society or state in never in danger of suppression. Noam Chomsky for example points out that if we conceive freedom of expression as something for opinions which are acceptable than even Hitler was in favor of such freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is explicitly the freedom to be able to differ; to express opinions deems offensive, those which challenge the “fashionable conformities” weather political, nation or social in origins.

 

hamid-mir-media-bullyFew days back we saw one of the most heinous witch hunts in intellectual history of Pakistan. It started with attacks on the section of Pakistani columnist who have a Left wing background and who took a stand in support of democratic transition in Pakistan and tried to put forward a different perspective on Judicial Movement, war on terror and media activism. These people are a very tiny minority within Pakistan’s booming media business. Their view by no stretching of imagination can be called a dominant view in Pakistani media. The friction between these intellectuals and their opponents on the right side of political spectrum are ideological tracing its roots in the right-left polarization in Pakistan during 60s and 70s. The few left wing intellectuals who have survived the McCarthyist witch hunts by state and owners of media houses are now being put on media show trials by Pro-Taliban and Pro-Army TV anchors and columnists. Every abuse and every allegation from being an alcoholic to being a traitor have been put on them.

 

What these people themselves have been doing in media is nothing but shameless propaganda in name of news coverage. Mr Haroon Rashid who is on the forefront of this witch hunt against the tiny progressive element in Pakistani media , has been distorting facts and history in his columns but with a shameless face gives lectures about “modesty” and “tolerance’ to the victims of these witch hunts. I can go on and on about his academic honesty but I find it waste of my time. Simple two things can expose his dishonesty. In one of his Mccathry inspired columns against the socialist/ex-socialists intellectuals he shamelessly wrote that “Reds opposed Pakistan, once it came into being they never get out of shock”. It’s a shameless blatant lie. Communist Party of India and the Progressive Writers Association supported the demand of Pakistan. They even collaborated with Jinnah, the election manifesto of ALIML in 1946 elections was written by a communist Danial Latifi and many communists joined Muslim League as policy. Ironically it was the mother party of Mr Haroon Rashid Jamate Islami opposed Pakistan and Maudaudi compared it to “cooking of Pork” but Pakistani right forgets these historical details. After that I remember reading one of his columns against the great Urdu poets Ahmad Faraz. Every abuse and every label that Mr Rashid could think on was put on the great poet who recently died. In order declare Faraz infidel and traitor Mr Rashid quoted a verse which questioned the validity of divine revelation. Taking on the verse Mr Rashid went on and on to condemn Ahmad Faraz to great extant. What was ironic was the simple fact that the verse was not of Ahmad Faraz but of another progressive poet Mr Zaheer Kashmiri. Mr Aser Chohan wrote a column to clear the facts but Mr Haroon Rashid never had the decency to either apologies or retract the defamatory remarks.

 

Hamid Mir, who sadly has become a stain on the name of his great father, Prof. Warris Mir who was himself a victim of Jamate islami sponsored witch hunt in the 80s has taken this witch hunt to new heights. On his popular programme The Capital Talk he and Mr Ansar Abbasi , the pope of pro-Taliban media establishment  took on the blog “Let US Build Pakistan” and put baseless allegation on it without any evidence. The language they used rings bells of alarm to anyone who is familiar with these crooks and their methods. It was said that the “blog is trying to create misunderstandings between Army and Media”. This is an open threat. It was said the blog is being run from presidential palace .etc etc. This is the most absurd thing which I have ever heard. Who has given these people the right to put baseless allegations without giving any proof? Let US Build Pakistan for the whole period of Lawyers Movement kept supporting the deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan, even when the PPP government was using delaying tactics. The photograph of his lordship the most honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Chuadhry was prominently and permanently on display on side bar of the web site with explicit declaration: “This blog supports the restoration of deposed judges”. I bet this also came from the presidential palace?

 

Will Mr Chief Justice take any interest in the law of Press council and rules of engagement by the media barons? Or every ones name, reputation and character is at the will of this anchrocracy? The Pakistani blogging community had previously suffered the attack by state during the 3rd November emergency rule by General Pervez Musharaf . No one knows better about “right to dissent” than the lordship who himself exercised it in front of General Pervez Musharraf. Let Us Build Pakistan is a blog which openly supports Pakistan Peoples Party; it has never claimed to be an “independent news source”. They have explicitly mentioned their ideological ties with the largest and the only federal party of Pakistan. Last time I checked right to support Pakistan Peoples Party was not declared a crime in Pakistan. Anyone has the right to disagree with “Let US Build Pakistan” and “Pakistan Peoples Party” but no one has the right to spread disinformation. What was done on Geo TV was libelous defamation. People of Pakistan have a constitutional right to support and join any political party and to express views in its support. I would appeal to all people of conscience to support right of Let US Build Pakistan blog to express their opinion in a threat free environment

 

What was most insensitive was the reaction of the Pakistani blogging community. Nothing of solidarity was observed. Pakistan Peoples Party and its support many be “out of fashion” in the class which blogs but let me tell my community that if right to have an opinion became focus of media witch-hunting none will be spared, not even the self proclaimed secular nationalists of Pakistan who are rabidly anti PPP and anti Left. The right may be busy focusing on PPP and a wider anti-PPP ideological alliance appears to be in place but as PPP govt goes many of you will be the target as well. Let US Build Pakistan is remarkable blog in many respects. It has shown remarkable strength on issues on which many of us shy away

1)      This blog has took a early and bold stand against Talibanization and sectarianism

2)      This Blog has took a conscientious stand on rights of Pakistani Miniorities

3)      This blog showed a remarkable strength of conviction and conscience when it supported the restoration of judiciary against wishes of many in the Party whom they support. [I for example who is writing this article to support Let Us Build Pakistan was and is critical of lawyers movement and judiciary but this never came in way of either me or Let Us Build Pakistan]

4)      This blog is pioneer in “Media Criticism” and has frequently demonstrated the “ideological biases” of Pakistani media hence upheld the fundamental right of people of Pakistan to un biased and/or alternative news and opinions

5)      This blog has taken a democratic stand in support of marginalized groups and nationalities of Pakistan

6)      This blog has covered the silent anti-Shia genocide taking place in Pakistan which finds no coverage any where,

I want to tell that I am proud of Abdul Nishapuri and the team of Let Us Build Pakistan, for being brave and for writing what they believe in. I also congratulate them for openly declaring them to be supporters of Pakistan Peoples Party unlike their detractors the Hamid Mirs, Shahid Masoods and Ansar Abasais who don’t have the moral courage to openly declare their political allegiance and wear the masks of being “independent” analysts and doing overtly political propaganda. I will only say to them what has been declared “greatest punch line in history of America”, it was in one of the “anti-communist hearings during McCarthy’s witch hunt. “Have you no decency Sir—-”

I would like to salute the bloggers who raised their voice in support of Let Us Build Pakistan,  Rabia Shakoor, Umair Wasi and Pakistan Media Watch.

To my fellow bloggers who are indifferent and silent at plight of a blog which they don’t like because it supports PPP and Zardari and is critical of Army and agencies etc I will just say dear friends, today it is Nazir Naji and Lets Us Build Pakistan, who will be next think about it——–

Ode to Pakistani Bloggers, the poem by Pastor Martin Niemöller the poem which has become the greatest indictment of inactivity of German Intellectuals during Nazi regime

 

“First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me”

The links to various articles on this issue can be reached here, here and here. here

Geo TV and Selective Freedom of Expression.

To what extant these Media Jihadis can Go and scale of abuse read this article in Saudi Gazette.

Shaheryar Ali

091028125531_mast_fm226Today is the third day of censorship being imposed on the BBC in Pakistan BBC news goes on air throughout Pakistan via a series of privately owned FM networks. With the explosion of private TV channels in Pakistan, the standards of journalism have a suffered a great deal. An ideological media fuelled by militant Islamism and Pakistani nationalism is on an ideological crusade in Pakistan whose first victim has been “objective reporting”.

Pluralism and democracy has been completely lacking in the local free media of Pakistan. All the news papers and TV channels have exactly same editorial policy. One gets the feeling he or she is reading sameBBC-Urdu news again and again. Most of it is objectively incorrect. Most of this media has been fiercely loyal to the policies of Pakistan’s ruling oligarchy. It may take sides on different issues which represent the interests of different factions of oligarchy depending on the Right wing and Pakistani Nationalist dominated press’s opinion of whose “patriot” and whose not but when it comes to broad general interest of the oligarchy inform of the ideological boundaries of state, the media is wholly partisan without any significant exception. The mania against India, denial on state involvement in nuclear proliferation and Islamic fascism, denial of existence of anti colonial struggles like those in Balochistan and Pakistani occupied Kashmir [written and Azad Kashmir or Free Kashmir in all Pakistani media] are to quote few examples where all Pakistani media has exactly same opinion to express, the opinion of Pakistani ruling elite and its state institution

Censorship_Press_Obey2Pakistani authorities always had a problem with the BBC. From the day BBC had collaborated with the local FM radios to increase its coverage in Pakistan; it is being opposed by Pakistani authorities in one way or another. There is usual bureaucratic red tape which always comes in handy when Pakistan wants to censor the BBC. This contract is incomplete and this rule has been violated bla bla bla. The real reason is that Pakistani authorities are fearful of objective reporting. Being a Lefti I am no fan of BBC, but unfortunately the standards of journalism have been deteriorated to such an extant in Pakistan that BBC appears to be the most objective news source in Pakistan. That’s a pity but that’s a fact!

The real crime of BBC is not what is officially being cited, i.e. violations of laws and procedures because if “Rule of Law” was such an important issue in Pakistan, it would have checked the local news channels as well. According to the society for Alternative Media in Pakistan, all news channels in Pakistan are in violence of PEMRA law through which they were granted licenses. None of them have deposited amount fixed in law of their annual income in treasury which they were bound to do so. These news channels do not go off air because they are doing state propaganda to a vulgar extant. BBC does that too, but it tries to maintain at least an illusion of objectivity, even that is not acceptable to Pakistan. The crimes of BBC are:

 

Reporting on Balochistan:  The coverage of BBC Urdu service on Balochistan cannot be called pro-people or pro-Bloch by any means, its crime is that its “reports” about Balochistan: Which no one else does in Pakistan. It tells that people are dying, some people are demanding freedom. Its will give opinion of the resistance as well that of government.

Coverage of Divergent views on Judiciary, Army, Nuclear Issues and Taliban: This along with the views of state institutions and other parties

 

Like laws apply differently to two chief justices who broke the law and took oaths of loyalty to same military dictator, depending on whom Jamate Islami and the Right supports, Laws apply differently to BBC and Geo in Pakistan. What’s going on Pakistan against BBC is a hideous press censorship. Even more hideous is the role of Pakistani media which cries foul every time it’s touched but is silent on the continuous censorship of Baloch press and the BBC. Same goes to most Pakistani bloggers, the stalwarts of secularism and Jinnah’s vision who also don’t see anything which is on the wrong side of this Post-colonial state. None wrote any thing against continuous harassment, closure and censorship of Baloch press and now of BBC.

We have not learned anything

3533542872_4f7b8b27cf

Guest Post From: Dawn Blog with thanks

The intensity of communal clashes in Gojra left a reporter fearing for his life.

‘I’ve never seen such mindboggling violence in my life,’ says Tariq Saeed, Dawn’s reporter from Toba Tek Singh. He was referring to the incident in Gojra, where several people were killed and scores were injured over the alleged desecration of the Quran earlier this month.

There has been considerable debate in the media about whether to describe the incident as a ‘riot’ between the Muslim majority and Christian minority communities. But Saeed clearly saw large groups of people out on the streets, thirsty for revenge and retribution.

‘When I reached Gojra on the night the incident took place, I found smoke billowing from several houses of the Christian community, though the fire had been put out in most places by then. There weren’t any Christian families in any of the houses as almost all of them had run away to nearby towns to stay with their friends and relatives,’ Saeed remembers.

‘But I did come across a large group of Muslim men, around 500 in number, who insisted, angrily I may add, that the desecration [of the holy Quran] did take place and that they had not made up the incident. They alleged that some members of the Christian community had torn pages and thrown them on the ground during a mehndi ceremony. They even showed copies of such pages to me which were indeed covered in mud. But when I suggested that these pages could also have been planted by a third person to stoke tension between the two communities, they reacted as if I had offended them and rudely asked me what kind of questions I was asking. In fact, at one point, their sentiments were so volatile that I felt threatened and feared that they might physically harm me if I continued with my probing questions.’

This was all very surprising to Saeed since he had been to Gojra several times before and had never felt unsafe there. In fact, it was also strange to him that there was strife between the two communities, when in the past they had lived peacefully side by side. ‘I’ve been to Gojra several times before this incident took place and never did I see such hostility between the Muslims and Christians living there.’ What was even more alarming to him was that the group of men he came across were not typical ‘mullah types,’ which one might expect given their extreme views. They were mostly clean-shaven young men between the ages of 15 and 35.

Despite the longstanding communal harmony in Gojra, Saeed acknowledges that the violent flare-up there was not entirely unexpected. Gojra has some of the most beautiful and historic churches in Pakistan with around 10,000 to 20,000 Christian inhabitants in the area. The importance of the town for the Christian community can be gauged from the fact that a bishop is also in residence. But, Saeed points out, Gojra has also always had a strong presence of the banned militant group, the Sipah-i-Sahaba, in the area. Indeed, one of the group’s leaders, Maulana Ahmed Ludhwani, hails from Toba Tek Singh.

The SS is suspected of being involved in the attack and is accused of instigating the local people against the Christian population. ‘Police sources say that members of the group had thrown chemicals on houses to spread the fire,’ says Saeed, adding that one of the local leaders, Qari Abdul Khaliq, has been held by authorities and reportedly tortured.

Saeed adds that the situation in Gojra is returning to normalcy, with both communities looking towards reconciliation. But for a reporter who has spent much time in this historic time, something has changed forever in the wake of violence. ‘The situation could deteriorate any time if the authorities don’t take appropriate steps to prevent such an occurrence in the future,’ he says.

Footnotes offers a weekly, behind-the-scenes look at the Dawn Media Group’s reporters on the job.

The views expressed in the following comments do not reflect the views of the Dawn Media Group.

On April 22, 2009 i wrote an article in my blog on the “thuggery” which was being declared a revolution. “The Black Revolution” a clown called it. Ignorant of the movement of history and the socio-cultural compulsions, many people in Pakistan adopted a dogmatic stand citing ideology and principle in supporting the lawyers movement. They completely disregarded the “evolution” which took place in lawyers movement , from a liberal movement, it became an instrument in hands of Jamate Islami and the reactionary retired generals. In the article, “Delirium: My name is Black” i tried to relate fate of such “movements” in a societies which are in grip of anarchy. In such situations, are the rhetoric of “order” results in “disorder”, i utilized the example of “black shirts” of Italian Fascist movement which also took control in name of “order”, “law” , constitution and “national honour”. Today Nadeem Farooq Paracha has taken a similar line. I am really glad that some people in Pakistan are aware of the dangers

Shaheryar Ali

Nadeem F. Paracha
Sunday, 09 Aug, 2009. With Thanks: Dawn

Recent incidents remind one of the antics of Mussolini’s notorious gangs of rampaging thugs. — File Photo

Recent incidents remind one of the antics of Mussolini’s notorious gangs of rampaging thugs. — File Photo

Thanks to the entirely lopsided media coverage in favour of the lawyers’ movement and the somewhat nauseating superlatives used to decorate the stand of the deposed CJP and his merry band of lawyers, there was always a danger of the lawyers’ community at large seeing themselves as gallant heroes who were above the law — a law which, to them, now meant nothing more than an ugly ogre to be constantly attacked, insulted and spat upon.

Harsh words indeed for a community which played its part in making the country’s last dictator announce his resignation. But the truth is that the lawyers would have remained nothing more than a loud little tassel if not for the overwhelming help they got from an adoring media and mainstream political parties such as the PML (N), and earlier, the late Benazir Bhutto’s PPP.

The recent spat of incidents in which groups of lawyers unabashedly abused and physically attacked former ministers, police officers, journalists, low-grade bureaucrats and civil judges while still in their black coats reminds one of the antics of Mussolini’s notorious gangs of rampaging thugs called the ‘Black Shirts,’ who, too, after tasting populist applause, started considering themselves above the law, eventually becoming one of classic fascism’s most animated expressions.

Isn’t this not what has happened to a movement that (unlike Mussolini’s fascist spurring) actually stood for the rule of law, democracy, constitutionalism and justice?

Well, did it really?

To begin with, there is absolutely no doubt that in spite of the fact that the CJP had agreed to take the oath in 2001 under Musharraf’s controversial PCO, his decision to stand up against what he considered were unconstitutional moves by the General was a laudable act. But a democratic and progressive protest movement by the lawyers bemoaning the CJP’s removal by the dictatorship started to change colour the moment it was turned into an anti-Musharraf bandwagon by the PML (N) and the PPP.

Now, there is certainly nothing condemnable about this, because active mainstream political parties are supposed to make full use of such openings. However, this did turn the movement into becoming a lot more political in nature which in itself created another window, this time for fringe parties such as the Jamat-i-Islami and Tehreek-i-Insaaf and parties from the peripheries of Sindhi and Pukhtun nationalism to tumble in with all of their political myopia and cornered, reactive attitudes.

Add to this mix the overwhelming coverage and praise the movement got from the media, and you have in your hand an explosive breed of highly politicised lawyers with cringing delusions of grandeur that have now emerged in full flow months after the movement officially came to an end with the restoration of the honourable CJP.

The saddest part in this respect is the way even the sanest and most democratic

instruments of the movement have largely tried to simply mumble out their reaction to the acts of violence and harassment perpetrated by some of their colleagues.

They are more than clear and ear-splitting in their condemnation of Musharraf and Zardari, but even after the many acts of violence involving lawyers have been captured on camera and repeatedly run on mainstream TV channels, these once glorified harbingers of justice and rights have at best sounded sheepish or simply decided to ‘vanish’ from the radar of the media.

The leading lights of the culminated Lawyers’ Movement must realise that their movement without the participation of mainstream political parties and the media would have amounted to nothing more than a fly-like nuisance for the dictatorship.

And the (electronic) media, much of which is now rightly questioning the many shameful post-Movement acts of the lawyers, should learn a vital lesson from these episodes. Its over-enthusiasm for sensational coverage and the space that it gives to cranks whose ‘analysis’ are nothing short of hateful fatwas against those they dislike and superlative praises for those they adore, has merely created monsters.

These include certain religious extremists in the NWFP, the Lal Masjid terrorists, and now a big, bad batch of lawyers whose delusions of grandeur — that the media helped create — seem to have made them lose all contact with democratic decency and maybe even reality itself.

This is according to BBC Urdu’s New York’s correspondent Mr Hassan Mujtaba , that the spokesman of United Nation’s secretary general in his press briefing expressed “great concern” on the recent killing of the 3 Baloch leaders. United Nations demanded from the government of Pakistan that an impartial inquiry be conducted into these murders.  It should be noted that Chief minister of Balochistan Mir Aslam Khan Raisani has already ordered a judicial investigation.

090410073444_baloch_protest_283Today the 3 day mourning period started in Balochistan. A complete general strike was observed in the provinces. All the educational institutions were closed and traffic on the roads was minimal.

What is happening in Balochistan the Pakistani corporate media is maintaining its usual silence. Largest Urdu news paper Daily Jang censored the press conference by Mir Hasil Bazinjo an act of complete professional dishonesty. It was ironic to read the statement of Pakistan Army’s spokesman denying the charges but “charges” being denied were no where to be seen. Once again Pakistanis are forced to listen to BBC like old times to get news.

Please watch this chilling video from BBC Urdu on the events in Balochistan. The video contains the clips from Mir Hasil Bezinjo’s press conference demanding registering the FIR against chiefs of Pakistani agencies. You can also watch the scenes from Karachi where slogans of Azadi are being chanted [This is not Indian occupied Kashmir, its Balochis demanding freedom in front of Karachi Press Club]

http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/multimedia/2009/04/090409_baloch_protest.shtml

Use the link to watch the Video. Please copy paste the link in your browser and watch the video.  Most of the “news” about Balochistan was censored by Pakistani free media.   Many educated middle class Pakistanis must be wondering [it can be yet another of my wishful thinking they still retain this ability] that what has happened since our great leader  Nawaz Sharif, our great intellectuals, and ofcourse our great Leftists Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmad Kurd etc proclaimed “revolution”. The claim of Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan was that after the restoration “state” of our beloved “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” will assume the character of a loving mother. [Riyasat ho gi maa’n ki jesi].

He was not their but his comrade-in-arms Ali Ahmad Kurd was present in the ceremonial and symbolic last rites of this case of “infanticide” by our mother state. I wished any one could have asked Mr Kurd about “free judiciary” will the free judiciary order the registration of FIR against Intellegence chiefs??

For more than a year these criminals, these ISI sponsered stooges created the most effective smoke screen of our times to discredit the democratic transition, paralysing them to stop their initiative against ISI , Islamic fascism and Balochistan. PPP and ANP themselves are responsible for their reckless compromises with their existential enemies USA and Pakistani establishment. There refusal to take stand on their own issues has resulted in this day. Its time to resign and take the battle to the streets or everything will end. Asif Ali Zardari will have to break his jail of presidential palace , he has to fit in shoes of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

Chief of Sarawan , Mir Aslam Raisani is a great man , he is son of a great man, time has come that he realizes that the puppet regime he is chairing in Quetta has become a threat to the prestige of whole of Sarawan. We dont want to remember him as a traitor. When its certain that PPP has no power. Its time to resign .

How bad the situation really is in Balochistan. As most of the middle class was in grip of the ISI sponsered rotten radicalism of “free” media and “free” judiciary , they couldnt know the facts. One such fact was today exoposed by Ansar Abbasi , a journalist who himself his suspected of strong links with the “islamist” section of Pakistani eastablishment who today “confirmed” how General Kiyani called our great democrat Aitzaz Ahsan and informed him about restoration of Chief Justice. What we always were saying that it was Army doing all this. I can only say Aitzaz Ahsan shame on you. These poor Balochs cant pay your fee so they cant buy justice from this “free-as-a-farce” judiciary of yours.

The following video is of 2008 and its shows activists putting flag of free Balochistan on a busy square of Balochistan. Now it is 2009—– Riyasat Ho Gi Maa’n ki jesi—-Adal bina jamhoor na ho ga——-.


Context of the Article: Portrayal of Women in Pakistani Media: Another Jab at Pakistani Liberal Thought by Freethinker

Shaheryar Ali

“The sex Industry sells clothes and the fashion Industry sells prostitution and pornography”

Beauty and Misogyny, Sheila Jeffreys

After reading a wonderful post by a friend and fellow blogger I am forced to write on the issues of Objectification of women, the developed of a hegemonizing and selectively politicized discourse on “emancipation of women” and its highly inaccurate linkage with commercial fashion Industry which has nothing to do with “women lib”. The only relationship it had with political and social movements of women liberation had been extremely hostile one. One often encounter’s mediocrity in disguise of advance intellect but the way “intellectually challenged” have been hegemonizing Pakistani intellectual scene is a real tragedy. This painful awareness disturbed me a lot after reading a lot of responses to Freethinker’s excellent post which objected to objectification of women by Fashion Industry and Corporate media in Pakistan and their ideological mimickers masquerading as anti-commercial “alternative media”. While freethinker was objecting to the “representational discourse and imagery”, trying to demonstrate the fakeness of hypereality [Jean Baudrillard] , one which has nothing to do with “reality” but rather is nothing but an image created, circulated , authenticated, idolized and incorporated into perceptual consciousness of humans by capitalist mass media , fashion industry and other such hegemonizing entities , the intellectually challenged media monkeys perceived it as an attack on personal choices , on liberalism and cultural pluralism etc etc. ”]Thesis[war of Pakistani Identity]The general ignorance which plagues English speaking Pakistani elite and its allied intellectual class is ironic in this sense, that their dogmatism is similar to those who it usually attack ie primitive Taliban. They are ignorant about the advance theoretical positions and philosophies which have emerged as “emancipatory critiques” of established knowledge ie Western Rationalism, Marxism/Stalinism, Logic and Analysis. Freethinker’s critique was not on the dress choice of a famous Pakistani model but rather on it being the “representative” of women. This was an attack on “Simulation”. The ground breaking critique on Mass Media and Visual Arts by French philosopher Jean Baudrillard revolves around three key concepts

1) Simulation

2) Simulacrum

3) Hyperreality.

In his philosophical cosmos a simulation is a process in which representation of things replace the “things being represented”. This is a very problematic notion because it causes “de-humanization”; the main concern of intellectuals like freethinkers. With the tremendous power that Visual media holds in late capitalism, this process of the representation becomes more important than the “real-thing”. Signs are thought of as representing reality, Signs than mask the reality, Signs than mask the “absence of reality”. With this we enter a simulacrum, a state where Signs have no relation with Reality what so ever. With Global mass media invasion, copies of copies are created and bombarded on Human Retina. No longer has the simulation reflected an original but simulation is reflecting a simulation. With the mass media and fashion Industry’s portrayals of women as beauty and sex objects, freethinker was calling for appearance of “real woman”. One which works in a cotton field goes to college, dances on a shrine, a typical lahori house wife wandering in bazaar, slightly over weight not much self conscious. The real woman which we never see on mass media or Fashion Empire which portrays a certain image of women based on male chauvinism.

”]Anti-thesis [War on women bodies]The second aspect of Freethinker’s critique was “problematization” of practice of “politicizing women’s bodies”. The ignorance about more advanced techniques of critical pedagogical dialogues led to further “misrepresentation” of Freethinker’s critique as favoring one side of the war being played on women bodies. To contextulize it let me give you an example. When General Musharaff sided with United States in War on Terror, state adopted a policy of “Enlightened Moderation”. Women’s bodies became the arena of war on terror. General Musharraff’s state sponsored the fashion industry of Pakistan and also the mass media which mushroomed in Pakistan. The commercial interests of media empires, fashion and cosmetic industries led to “objectification of women” on mass and visual media. The Ramp-show models were being represented in London and Paris as “other face” of Pakistan. [Just as the offending post against which Freethinker protested]. These simulations were being politicized as representative of a “secular progressive Jinnah’s Pakistan”. The result of this politicization of women bodies resulted in a barbaric attack on Women’s bodies from the Right Wing. “Burqa” emerged as a “resisting symbol” of Musharraff’s enlightened moderation. Whilst Mush’s were simulations existing only on media, Taliban threaded the “real women” on streets, with Acid. The ultimate anti-thesis of this politicization of simulations was Burqa clad suicidal militants of Red Mosque.

The war which was hyperreal [where reality is replaced by simulacrum] resulted in worse crimes against real women who never were being represented. Why hyperreality is dangerous, the whole violent debate in Musharraff era revolved around “obscenity of fashion shows”, “western cultural invasion” in name of “emancipation of women”. All NGO’s and modernists kept debating this useless notion , war against “co-marathon” in Lahore . All this was in name of “women rights”. Despite the marathons, and establishment of a vibrant fashion industry the “plight of real woman” is same. No serious debate took place on domestic and sexual slavery of women in Pakistan, All anti women laws remain, no debate on reproductive and abortion right, this despite the war in name of “women rights”. This is hyperreality. 8 years nation was polarized on women emancipation, liberalism, secularism and nothing has changed on ground. Because every thing was fictitious a simulacrum of mass media. The real women is paying the price now her safety is under threat.

Iqbal Hussein's paiting

Iqbal Hussein's paiting

The politicization of women bodies is one of the most important causes of mass crimes against women. Dr Robina Saigol has done an excellent study on how Pakistani Nation State politicizes women’s bodies and its consequences. Its is called Militarization, Nation and Gender : Women’s bodies as Arenas of Violent conflicts. Just as a critique on media portrayals of women was considered an attack on Pakistan Patriotism, a patriotism which revolves around either converting women into a “Barbie doll” of a “burqa clad sub human”. The inherent insecurity of Pakistani nationalists lead them to slogan mongering like Long Live Barbie Doll without realizing the amount of exploitation which goes on in such Industries.

Why we are so concerned about how women are portrayed on media for commercial interests, because overwhelming evidence exists on the harmful effects it causes on “real women”.

“Extensive research has demonstrated the negative results of female beautifulobjectification in the media. Depression, appearance anxiety, body shame, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders are only a few among the growing list of repercussions (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). In addition to the objectification of women, the media commits another assault on the dignity of women. This assault is the dismemberment of women, and it has not received the attention it deserves (Kilbourne, 2002). Kilbourne (2002) pointed out that advertising is a 100 billion dollar a year industry. Each day we are exposed to more than 2000 ads. Advertising can be one of the most powerful sources of education in our society. Many women feel pressured to conform to the beauty standards of our culture and are willing to go to great lengths to manipulate and change their faces and bodies. Kilbourne suggests that women are conditioned to view their faces as masks and their bodies as objects. Through the mass media, women discover that their bodies and faces are in need of alteration, augmentation, and disguise. In addition, women are taught to internalize an observer’s perspective of their own bodies. This phenomenon is called objectification (Fredrickson & Noll, 1997). Advertisements are loaded with objectified women, and only recently have the effects of objectification been explored. However, the effects of the dismemberment of women in advertising have been neglected. Dismemberment advertisements highlight one part of a woman’s body while ignoring all the other parts of her body. Dismemberment ads portray women with missing appendages or substitute appendages. Of course the ads are only symbolic of dismemberment, but the symbolic imagery creates nearly the same effect.” The Objectification and Dismemberment of Women in Media , Kacey D Greening.

47503ca290403_1130b1use1What was truly condemnable that the images which were posted in retaliation of Freethinker’s criticism included what have been called “dismemberment of women”. The images highlight one part of women’s body neglect others, like in this case face and breasts. One should note that one never comes across image of male model showing just his crotch! With these images bombarding the mass media, it alters the reality and consciousness. This results in viewing women just as pleasure objects and toys; this is the first step in converting women into prostitute. Pleasure and sex which can be bought apart from woman’s soul: conditioning men into thinking of women as objects and pressurizing women to “conform” to sex-beauty protocols this de-humanizing continues. It is not about what dress some one is wearing, its hyperreality and politicization of women’s bodies which we are objecting. I am concluding this article by giving position of a radical feminist to add another perspective to the issue

“Yet fashion is still misogynist. It commodifies women, encourages them to believe that they must endure pain in order to be sexually appealing. Designers advertise clothes by picturing them on clear-skinned, breastless cadavers, in so-called “women’s magazines”; these magazines run articles that discuss how fashion can help you — an averagely fat, slightly be-zitted woman — come close to this standard of beauty. Fashion invites every woman to make the old trade of sex for money and happiness.”

Anti-Fashion: Patriarchy necessitates prostitution necessitates fashion, Chase Olivarius McAllister

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

PAKISTAN: Fingers point towards the armed forces for the murder of journalist Musa Khankhel

The world was reminded of the tragic paradoxes that take place daily in Pakistan, when a young journalist was kidnapped and executed last month while covering a march for peace. Mr. Musa Khankhel, journalist and correspondent of Geo Television disappeared on February 18, while covering a procession led by Maulana Sufi Mohammad, a religious leader in Swat, in the NWF province. The procession was to celebrate a peace agreement with the government which would see Islamic Sharia laws implemented in the valley. He was 28 years old and had been threatened several times by government security forces for his steadfast independent reporting. He had also been kidnapped and tortured twice before by security forces. As a journalist he was not popular among militant groups either, including the Taliban and the group lead by Maulana Soofi Mohammad, Tehrik Nifa-1Shariat Mohammadi (TNSM).

After his body had turned up in the Matta sub district, the government, TNSM and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ) announced the formation of probe committees into his death. No one laid claim to the murder. The government assigned the Inspector General of police in the province to investigate the incident, but neither he nor Maulana’s committee has reported any findings so far. Only the probe committee of PFUJ appears to have started a concrete investigation, and Mr. Mohammad Riaz, the chief of the PFUJ committee, has visited the area. He reports that the atmosphere there is tense and few civilians are willing to discuss Khankhel’s death; they are scared of harassment from both the sides, the militants and the security forces. The latter are known to brutally and often arbitrarily mete out punishment in the more remote parts of the country, and disappearances here are not uncommon. There are also no police in the area. Without committed government intervention – a high judicial commission – to probe the killings, Riaz says, it will not be possible to unearth the ‘truth’. Information gathered by the AHRC points, increasingly, at Pakistan’s wayward security forces for the murder.

On the day he was murdered, friends and relatives say that Khankhel mentioned hearing that ‘today one journalist may be killed’, through sources in the security agencies stationed in the war zone. Because of this he told prominent senior journalist and anchor person, Mr. Hamid Mir, to be extremely careful, should he choose to visit the area. Mir remembers Khankel telling him: ‘you will watch the scenes of destruction in civilian residential areas of Kabal. You will show live destroyed homes and mosques, and people will equate your coverage with the bombing of Gaza by Israelis. You will become a security risk and they will kill you in the name of national interest. And the blame will be placed at Taliban’s door.’ Tragically, Khankel had not realised that he was the journalist in question.

Khankhel had survived two assassination attempts last year, both times, he said, by the security forces. In November he was kidnapped and tortured for two days in custody, and was told that should he continue his investigations, his family members would be killed. He later told Mir, his colleague, that ‘some elements in the security forces want to eliminate me physically, due to my reporting’. The journalist’s younger brother, Essa Khankhel, also a journalist, told the AHRC that his brother had managed to record a death threat from one security officer in the past.

The AHRC has learned that the day before his assassination, Khankhel was stopped and threatened by security persons at a press conference held by Mr. Bashir Bilour, the senior minister of the NWF Province. Bilour was giving a briefing on the peace pact between the provincial government and TNSM. One Major Farooq, of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), exchanged harsh words with Khankhel, and he was told to be careful when dealing with the armed forces.

Reports from eye witnesses in the area, particularly shopkeepers from Matta (the sub-district in Swat from where he was abducted) have pointed out that there were a good number of security personnel around when Khankhel was taken. In Matta, Musa had visited a few shops and proceeded to a spot along the route of the procession. He was trying to hail a taxi when three persons carried him forcefully away.

Provincial government ministers, including the spokespersons of Taliban Pakistan and TNSM, are all denying responsibility, and claiming that a ‘third force’ was involved. This ‘third force’, ministers concede quietly, means the armed forces. A top office bearer of the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists has observed that when the Taliban kills, they claim it openly. Hamid Mir has written several articles suggesting that his colleague was the target of the army.

In the past year four journalists have been reportedly killed by the security forces in the Swat, twenty over the last two year period. Journalists, particularly reporting in the war torn NWFP on its destroyed houses, schools and hospitals, observe that security forces are generally hostile toward them, and each reporter has experiencing problems during investigations, some receiving death threats. The motive, as explained by the journalists, is to keep the reporters out of the area. Journalist Mr. Hameedullah’s house was bombed on his return to his village on 5 January, 2009. They and other residents had been forced to evacuate the area on 28 December, when the army launched an offensive against the Taliban.

Although there are conflicting reports about Khankhel’s killing; most of the reports point in the same direction. After the ‘war on terror’, the impunity enjoyed by security agencies saw a dramatic rise in cases of torture, abduction, disappearance and the murder of government opponents. There are more than 4000 persons disappeared for their resistance to military operations in different part in the country, and the AHRC last year determined the existence of 52 clandestine detention centres. Still, ‘unknown’ actors are publicly blamed for many of the area’s most violent crimes.

To specify a ‘third force’ and name it only in private, pays no tribute to the memory of Musa Khankhel, and to his family. Investigations into the torture and deaths of other journalists have sputtered and failed. Courage and an iron political will is needed from the government to tackle this blight in Pakistan: a corrupt, wayward and arbitrarily violent security force that has only been encouraged, rather than reined in, over the years. A high powered judicial commission must be formed to probe the murder, uncover the truth about the involvement of security agencies in the death of journalists, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. It must be shown that no one in Pakistan is above the law, in any part of the country.

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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

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Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

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