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Showing posts from November, 2010

Back to Kindergarten for the Lot of You

Whatever else the merits of the Wikileaks expose may be, one thing is for sure: it is a DISASTER for some of Pakistan's media. The huge information dump has resulted, annoyingly for our journos, in having to actually read things properly and double check facts, and far, far too much temptation to make laughing stocks of themselves.

Thanks to @sohaibgulbadan who pointed this out, here is The News' version of one on the released cables. Breathlessly, The News' reporter Umar Cheema tells us on the paper's front page:

Pakistan, a private nightmare for ObamaTuesday, November 30, 2010By Umar Cheema
"ISLAMABAD: US President Barack Obama considers Pakistan as his “private nightmare”, a front-line ally in the war against terrorism that could surprise the whole world waking up one morning to hear that the country had been taken over by the extremists.
A diplomatic cable leaked by Wikileaks reveals that Pakistan is one of the major causes behind the US decision of not attacking …

Screen Grab of the Day

Hmmmm. Does the Guardian know something we don't?

A screen-grab off the Guardian's Wikileaks database... Thanks to Missing Romance for sending it on to us:

Ayatollah Ali Zardari?!?

First it was the New York Timesand BBC Urdu Service leading the world (and the gullible Pakistani media) to believe Saudi King Abdullah said Asif Zardari was "the biggest obstacle to Pakistan's progress", when he actually only said that Zardari was "the primary obstacle to the government's ability to move unequivocally to end terrorist safe havens" in Pakistan (okay, so the actual phrasing is far more baffling than the misquote). Now we have the Guardian trying to imply stronger links with Iran than anyone knew. Just doesn't pay to be Zardari does it? Oh wait, that came out all wrong...

Going for a Wikileak

Isn't is quite remarkable that almost none of the major newspapers in Pakistan thought that the 'leader of the Muslim Ummah' King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, and the 'brotherly Muslim countries' of UAE and Qatar egging on the United States to bomb their supposed sibling in faith, the Islamic Republic of Iran - as revealed by Wikileaks - was worthy of any major headline?

Without fail, all of them buried that bit in the secondary 'catch-lines', if at all, with possibly only the Express Tribune and Nawai Waqt attaching it some real significance. Most focused on Abdullah's views on Asif Ali Zardari, while Dawn and the Urdu Express decided that the American plan to take enriched uranium fuel out of Pakistan was the most newsworthy.

Here's how some of the main newspapers' front pages looked today:



The News:

The Nation:

Nawai Waqt:


Express Tribune:

Pakistan Today:

(Apologies for not having The Daily Times up here but they still don't seem t…

Connecting the Dots

So, after quite a while, I was once again checking out the website of The Dawn because somebody asked me about it. And no, I don't mean Dawn as in the newspaper; in fact, I think the Dawn Media Group once even threatened, or at least contemplated threatening, them with legal action (I have no idea what became of it). And suddenly, something caught my eye that made bells go off in my mind. It was quite a Eureka! moment.

"The prophetic Sunrise in the East"?

But before I tell you what my Eureka! moment was, let's all just take a moment to understand what The Dawn really is.

Its flowery tagline proclaims it as a "News digest of the prophetic Sunrise in the East." If that's not enough to impress you, in its 'Why The Dawn News?' section, it clearly implies that the Quaid-e-AzamMohammad Ali Jinnah was somehow involved in its founding (even though it exists only as a web-paper and the web didn't actually come into being until about 46 years after the f…

Headline of the Day

Enough of such onanistic celebrations! (Thanks for @jhaque_ for pointing this out.)

Original story in all its glory, here.

Was Ansar Abbasi Spotted at Kinnaird College?

A notice posted on a door in the all-women Kinnaird College Lahore (via @BushraS on Twitpic):

Um...I don't think I will actually translate this.

Fashioning Moral Outrage

Oh wow. We've all become so used to the hyperbole of the Western and local language English press around Pakistan Fashion Weeks, that it is sometimes easy to forget how a significant section of society in Pakistan views them. And who better to represent that view than our intrepid Khalifa-ul-Waqt, Ansar Abbasi, who can and will hold forth on anything.

The guardian of Pakistan's values: Ansar Abbasi

Below is a translation of his Urdu op-ed piece published in today's Jang (thanks to @tazeen for drawing my attention to it). It is worth a read, not only because it provides a window to the mindset of Abbasi and possibly many, many others. But also because it draws attention, once again, to the linguistic divide that separates the English reading public and non-English reading public, a divide that is not only tolerated but pandered to. (It is extremely unlikely you would ever read anything like this article in the Jang group's English paper The News or any other English-langu…

Unfit Dressing

First off, a BIG congratulations to the Pakistan Women's Cricket Team for bringing in Pakistan's first (and perhaps only) gold in the ongoing Asian games. One hopes the stuffed shirts at the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and the Sports Ministry will understand the irony of this achievement and finally begin to give sportswomen  their due.

Nida Rashid scored 51 not out and took 4 wickets (Photo: AP/Dawn)

In lean times such as these for the Pakistani media, I had to scrounge around for unread material from old newspapers. It is, after all, Eid ul Azha and the only news reports these last two days seem to be about how people are 'enjoying' themselves, which apparently involves women being chained to kitchen stoves, men eating like pigs and children bawling their eyes out because mummy was cooking their favourite pet and daddy was eating it.

In any case, came across this unintentionally funny piece from Dawn's sports pages on November 17, about how our squash players arriv…

Facebook Administrative Issues

This is just a short post about administrative matters.

Apologies to all those complaining about our Facebook page not being updated regularly. We had put the Facebook page up to automatically aggregate our posts and twitter feeds and had hoped we wouldn't need to do more on a regular basis.

The newer, hopefully better, Cafe Pyala Facebook page

It turns out that the issue was with Facebook itself and some new required permissions it put in place in November, pending which our blog's RSS feeds stopped being updated under the 'News' tab. We have made some changes to the page so that our blog posts will now arrive directly on the 'Wall.' There is no longer a 'News' tab though Twitter feeds can still be seen under the Twitter tab. Hopefully this should also mean that new posts should also automatically turn up in the 'NewsFeed' of those people who are 'Fans' of the page.

Please do let us know if this is working out all right. You can reply eithe…

Money Talks

Guess who was spotted on November 9 in Washington D.C. at a reception for American and Pakistani media personnel thrown by US AfPak ambassador Richard Holbrooke's media assistant Ashley Bommer? Mir Ibrahim Rehman, scion of the house of Jang and CEO of the Geo TV Network. He walked in with The Friday Times editor and Dunya TV's Najam Sethi but stayed long after Sethi left the party.

Mir Ibrahim Rehman (c) at his master's convocation earlier this year

Mir Ibrahim (MIR) apparently jetted in for a mysterious three-day visit to the US, during which, our sources say, the main objective was to convince the US administration that Geo was neither anti-US nor anti-democracy, the line being peddled by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government. MIR also wished to gather official American support for the Jang Group against the PPP boycott of the group as an instance of an assault on freedom of the media.

Our sources claim that MIR did not find too much traction among US officials agains…

Save The Words!

As if to prove that the folks at the cynicocratical Café Pyala are also perfectly capable of jumping up and down and screaming Like, OMG! Like, how exciting!, the discovery of the day award goes to Save the Words, a site devoted to the preservation of some of English’s most eccentric children. Its raison d’être is summarized thus:

"Each year hundreds of words are dropped from the English Language.
Old words, wise words, hard-working words. Words that once led meaningful lives but now lie unused, unloved and unwanted.
Today, 90% of everything we write is communicated by only 7000 words.
You can change all that. Help save the words!
If not for yourself, then for generations yet to come. Now, you may ask, “What have future generations done for us lately?”
Well, not much. But one day they’ll be grateful. You never know, one day they might even have a word or two to say about you.
Help spread the word."

Some of you writers/reporters/journalists out there might wonder whether embracing fl…

New Editor, Old Perspective

This past week seems to have been a Nizami-obsessed week. Might as well share a final bit of news about the goings on at The Nation.

So, Salim Bokhari has been tipped to take over as editor at The Nation in place of the recently departed Shireen Mazari. Bokhari has been a journalist for almost four decades though most people will recognize him most from appearances as an analyst on various television channels and his recent co-hosting with Orya Maqbool Jan of Aaj TV's reconfigured Bolta Pakistan programme (the team was cobbled together after the departure of Nusrat Javed and Mushtaq Minhas for Dunya TV). Previously, Mr Bokhari's most high profile stint was as the Resident Editor of The News in Lahore. He had left The News to start up the Abu Dhabi-owned The National's Pakistan operations but the Pakistani version was quietly shelved.

Salim Bokhari (right) with Orya Maqbool Jan

Now you might be wondering what would draw The Nation owner Majid Nizami to Mr Bokhari (after all, y…

Bathroom Reading Chronicles

Also, since we're on the topic of the Daily Times, here's something that I've been itching to write a short post about since I flipped through it's Sunday magazinethis past week.

Look at the following photographs from its Eye Spy section, which focuses on the social elite. The photographs depict a Halloween party thrown by Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer's son and daughter-in-law (in leading photograph):

Another world is possible?

Now, I am no prude or killjoy, I enjoy a good party as much as the next person and I really don't have a problem with people enjoying themselves (something this country could really stand to have more of). But I kept wondering about two things while looking at these photographs. The first was, who ARE these people who expend such effort and time on dressing up and take Halloween parties so seriously. I mean, one knows who some of them are, but you know what I mean.

The second thing I kept wondering about was the mindset of such exhibitioni…

The Level of Political Discourse

Apologies for the long absence from blogging. Much to write about.

But first, a clip: the latest example of the degeneration of political discourse in this country. Had heard about this yesterday. The channel is Business Plus, the programme The Pulse. The participants are (from left) former information secretary PPP and Bilawal House spokesperson and current adviser to Sindh Chief Minister, Jamil Soomro, former Citizens Police Liaison Committee head Jamil Yusuf, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's Sindh President Naeemul Haq. See it and wonder.

Here's the Daily Times report on this (The Daily Times being, of course, Business Plus' sister concern.) I wonder if their owner Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer thinks: some excitement at last on Business Plus!

More Sackings at The Nation

As if almost on cue to khabardrama's long-delayed review of Arif Nizami's Pakistan Today (see previous post), comes news from chachaMajid Nizami's The Nation of large-scale layoffs at the paper there (no, we don't think there's any connection).

More than 30 staffers have been summarily dismissed today without any advance warning from the Lahore office alone and several from Islamabad as well. The Peshawar and Karachi bureaus fear that the axe will next fall on them. Economic difficulties are being cited as the only reason. It's not entirely clear yet whether the personnel sacked were the same ones who had recently received long-delayed raises or whether these layoffs had anything to do with the very recent departure of editor Shireen Mazari.

It should be kept in mind that Majid Nizami can be a vengeful proprietor. We heard about a peon who was recently summarily sacked after more than 20 years of service, simply because the management suspected that his loyalties…

Solid Staid

First of all an apology and an excuse. I have been meaning to write about Arif Nizami's long-awaited Pakistan Today ever since it hit the newstands but have found myself contracting a severe case of writer's block every time I sat down to do just that.

Front page, Berliner-style

The reason is simple. Maybe it's just me, but I need to either love something passionately to feel motivated enough to gush about it in print or to feel it's so bad that I can't wait to tear it to pieces. In the present case, I felt no such overpowering emotion. No adulation or loathing or anything so strong. Just a vague grey reaction. Competent, I thought. Pretty decent. Promising. Not too bad really. A solid, worthy venture. But nothing exciting. Or too awful.
The paper certainly looks different though. Mainly because it doesn't look like your average broadsheet Pakistani daily due to its 'Berliner' (not tabloid, they insist) format. Now I do realise that most upmarket Brit…

Reko Diqheads (Updated)

Remember this story in The News on November 3 by its Group Editor, Shaheen Sehbai? The front page 'expose' of an allegedly massive corruption scandal around the Reko Diq copper and gold mining project in Balochistan set tongues wagging all over Pakistan and among Pakistani expatriates abroad. The scale of the scandal was said to dwarf all previous scandals. The headline screamed:

"$260 billion gold mines going for a song, behind closed doors"
Front page of The News on November 3, 2010

Now, in case you didn't follow the story or do not remember the exact words Mr. Sehbai used in his typically convoluted but bombastic style, let me briefly remind you what the investigative story said. Mr Sehbai begins by building conspiratorial suspense, clearly implying that President Zardari and his partymen are on the take to sell national wealth down the river to line their own pockets:

"Quietly, and below the media radar, some 20 top corporate bosses and lobbyists of two of t…