Category Archives: journalism

Liberal Pakistani Websites and Indian Right Wingers

By Raza Habib Raja

 Liberalism as a philosophy is more inward looking and therefore does not try to blame others for the follies of one’s own nation. Thus it takes a stark divergence from the conservative and ultranationalist philosophies who assume that identity cultivated on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or geographical location is always under threat from outside forces. Therefore liberalism’s natural thrust is towards self introspection and on fostering cooperation with the different ethnicities and nations. This orientation  always bring it into conflict with the ultranationalists who often accuse liberals of being “unpatriotic”, soft and even traitor!

Pak Tea House is one of the liberal website in Pakistan and let me assure you such websites are rare. We are committed to cultivating a spirit of self introspection and are doing our bit to cultivate an atmosphere of tolerance and plurality. Another major objective of Pak Tea House is to promote goodwill towards the foreign countries and particularly those against whom the ultranationalists right-wingers have been whipping hatred and what we believe misunderstanding. India is our neighbour and is also an important stakeholder in this region. But more importantly India and Pakistan share a troublesome history (of course Pakistan is also partly guilty) starting from a violent partition and subsequent wars and proxy wars.

We at Pak Tea House firmly believe that the two neighbours should bury the hatchet and move forward. There are so many issues which are our common issues and we admit that our side has also been guilty of rumor mongering and a state sponsored cultivation of institutionalized hatred of India which was primarily done to ensure integrity of the state and to carve out justification of a large army. For these reasons we are constantly striving to cultivate a favourable image of India.

 However, I regret to say that the behaviour of few (not all) of the Indian commentators is proving to be completely detrimental to our aim. These commentators are just spewing hatred and coming up with various ways to humiliate Pakistanis, which  at least on this site as well as other liberal sites, are largely moderate. The liberal theme of self introspection actually becomes a counterproductive weapon as some of the Indian commentators use the self critical articles by liberal Pakistani authors as an opportunity to mock and ridicule.

 Constant derogatory references to religion are being made. Personally I am not a religious guy but I understand that mocking someone’s religion is not a prudent thing to do. Religion is a part of everyone’s identity. Even Einstein, an atheist, started to proclaim himself as a Jew, when his coreligionists were hounded and prosecuted by the Nazi regime. Mocking Islam will only reinforce conservatism and religious fervour particularly when it is being mocked by those who do not share it.

Apart from this, constant and needless references to “failures” of Pakistan are made and “successes” of India are being touted. Articles about peace are mocked by touting about strength of India’s GDP. I vividly remember some comments boasting of 1.3 trillion dollar economy and being dismissive of any “peace” as India does not need Pakistan for economic purposes.

 This kind of behaviour mirrors the Pakistani rightwing nonsense and in a twisted way strengthens it. After seeing the comments the Pakistani right wingers are often in a position to “justify” their nonsensical hate mongering against India.

Moreover just like Pakistani rightwing brigade which generally spins everything under the sun to levy the blame on RAW and CIA, these Indian right wingers also blame ISI for everything from Mao rebels to Mumbai attacks. Literally each one of them tries to project himself as a foreign policy expert and like a true arm chair theorist comes up with mind boggling spins.

 This behaviour, while being obviously bigoted, also seriously undermines the efforts of Pakistani liberals and successfully paints them as “unpatriotic” in the eyes of normal Pakistanis. Obviously when articles about peace are being mocked in a humiliating tone, the peace makers end up appearing as weak and unpatriotic. The mocking comments become a weapon in the hands of Pakistani right wingers who end up having a citable evidence of Indian hatred.

 Of course one can argue with the “freedom of speech” angle and say that since it is an open forum therefore anything should go. However, every privilege in this world comes with a responsibility. Freedom of speech is a privilege and comes up with a responsibility that it will be used with care and not for mocking as well as insulting others.

 Yes freedom of speech has to prevail and it will prevail. But I can only request that it should be used in a mature manner. Those Indians who are desperate to settle scores of Mumbai attack, frankly Pak Tea House and for that matter any liberal website is not the place or the forum to do so!! If you think that Pakistanis are bigoted and deserve rebuke frankly there are so many Pakistani rightwing sites and your responses will be well placed there.

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Filed under India, journalism, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, liberal Pakistan, Pak Tea House

Fatima Bhutto: please focus on fiction

Nasima Zehra Awan

Pakistan may have lost a talented fiction writer when Fatima Bhutto went into journalism. Clearly, she is adept at spinning a tale, fudging facts and re-defining reality in a manner that is the exclusive domain of talented story tellers. Throw in her photogenic looks and her propensity to endear herself with the security establishment and she is the poster child for them. This poor author does not share the same connections as Fatima Bhutto, so she will clearly not pass of (Fatima’s) alleged ISI links as established fact. Clearly, my humble perception was reinforced when I read her recent article, “Why my uncle Asif Ali Zardari’s rule in Pakistan cannot be trusted“.

The most outlandish spin in her article was that it was President Zardari who had banned facebook in Pakistan:”banned 500 websites — including YouTube, Facebook and Google — under the pretence of protesting against anti-Islamic material on the web” Two months ago, in their zeal to accommodate their political benefactors, Pakistan’s compromised Judiciary allowed for petitions that called for the banning of facebook and all the sites alluded to by Fatima. In their Islamist zeal, the Lahore High Court passed a judicial order that called for closing internet access to facebook. Zardari’s coalition government, already being lynched by the Judiciary had no choice but to comply. It is extremely disingenuous of Fatima to completely remove the context and the major instigators of internet censorship in Pakistan and place the blame on the President. The latter had already limited his role in governance by initiating and guiding the parliament to pass the 18th Amendment that gave back most executive powers to the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers! What Fatima completely fails to mention is that the temporary facebook banning in Pakistan had nothing to do with Zardari and everything to do a politicized Judiciary that was returning favours to its Jamaat Islami backers. Continue reading

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Filed under Benazir Bhutto, journalism, Liberal Democratic Pakistan, Politics

Impoverished Journalism and Impious Mullahs

Amaad Ahmad’s exclusive piece for PTH.

On June 16th 2010, Ulema of different religious parties appeared on the popular show Point Blank hosted by Mubashir Lucman of Express News for a discussion on the case of Ahmadis. The ‘scholarly’ panel launched unwarranted and slanderous attacks on the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian and his followers. Compromising all journalistic ethos, no hearing was given by Mr. Lucman to those being denounced as the infidels. Image the reaction if Sunni beliefs were analyzed by Shia Ayatollahs on Point Blank instead.

This was not a discussion between two points of view since no Ahmadi scholar was invited to rebut or reply to the pronouncements of the Ulema. Rather it was only an affirmation of the alleged heresy of Ahmadis. Contrast this with when the Ahmadiyya Jamaat’s spokesperson was brought on the same show only days earlier for expressing his community’s reaction to May 28th atrocity. The spokesman’s limited airtime was generously gifted by Mr. Lucman to the ideological opponents of the movement. So much for the notion of fair and balanced discussion.

Given a free run by their host, the panelists competed for uttering the uglier and professing the more profane. Telling half-truths and full lies, they distorted facts and abused history in a way only Mullahs know best. Given their background, they did not fail in portraying a false and misleading picture of the claims of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. The only disappointment was the unbecoming conduct of Mubashir Lucman who joined in the chorus with vulgar laughs, cheap appeasement and suggestion of the divine punishment awaiting Ahmadis. It was troubling to see the depth to which Mr. Lucman has fallen. Continue reading

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Filed under journalism, Media, Taliban

Half Muslims and Non Muslims

By Farzana Versey

Born in the Ismaili faith, I have been quite accustomed to the ‘aadha Mussalman’ (half Muslim) tag. Members of the community are none the worse for it. However, I cannot understand the attitude towards Ahmadis in Pakistan. Ismailis have a living Imam, yet they are not considered a minority.

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Filed under Democracy, human rights, Islamism, journalism, Media, minorities, Religion, Rights, state

Chinese whispers of the press

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Filed under culture, Islam, journalism, Media, Music, Pakistan, Religion

The More Things Change…

…the more they remain the same

The ISI – a proxy for the Army, since Z.A.Bhutto’s creation of ISI’s infamous Political Cell – seems to be making it clear that it (too) is beyond accountability. After Malik Qayyum tried to show he still had some nuisance value by declaring to Hamid Mir that ‘a former head of a powerful intelligence agency had confirmed to him that (the missing person) Mr Janjua was dead’, there were news items about the police (possibly) investigating a handful of former and serving intelligence and army officers in relation to missing persons. Mrs Amina Janjua promptly responded to the possible muddying of the intelligence agency’s name by writing to The News.

She declares in this letter that she does not seek investigation against any ‘valuable’ national agency and does not wish their ‘good name’ to be called into question. She still considers her quest for justice for her missing husband to be noble, just as noble it would seem as she considers our national agencies to be. She declares that she holds the US responsible for her family’s woes and only seeks justice against the US… in a Pakistani court, one must add.

Both the petitioner and the court had a very different view of the same state and its agencies under the dictator Gen Musharraf. The tone and tenor with which this view was expressed was very different too. Indeed, one of Musharraf’s (completely fake) complaints against the SC was that it ‘had been setting free suspected terrorists’.

Mrs Janjua need not have bothered writing the letter. The 3-member SC bench had already declared, back in February, that the court “will not examine evidence against intelligence agencies in the missing persons’ case.” I guess she just wanted to make sure. Continue reading

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Filed under Activism, Al Qaeda, Army, baluchistan, Citizens, Democracy, human rights, journalism, Judiciary, Justice, Pakistan, Taliban, USA, War On Terror

Khuda Hafiz Pakistan

by Nirupama Subramanian

Cross Post from http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/article258515.ece

“There is a Pakistani in every Indian; and an Indian in every Pakistani,” President Asif Ali Zardari famously said two years ago. Those words rang in my head with new resonance as I packed my bags and left Pakistan recently after a nearly four-year-long assignment as this newspaper’s Islamabad-based correspondent.

It should have been easy to leave a country that is by word and deed hostile to India, and where the state machinery treats every Indian as a “RAW agent”, spending considerable human and material resources on the surveillance of the only two Indian journalists — from The Hindu and Press Trust India — that are permitted to be based there.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Army, culture, Democracy, India, Islamabad, journalism, liberal Pakistan, Media, Pakistan, Society, Terrorism, Yusuf Raza Gillani, Zardari