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Showing posts from December, 2010

An Alternative Tour of the 6th Karachi International Book Fair

The 6th Karachi International Book Fairwas held in Karachi this week. More than 300 publishers/ booksellers, more than a quarter million visitors over five days. You might have read about the importance of such events, you might have heard about the achievements of the fair and you might have been told about the diversity on offer. But since more than 70 percent of the stalls were trying to make money by making the readers better Muslims, we concentrated on the free goodies on offer.

6th Karachi International Book Fair (Photo: Suhail Yusuf /

Things We Got For Free

A DVD of the first-ever documentary about Maulana Maududi’s life, produced by Al Khidmat, Jamaat Islami’s charity wing.

A CD of the Jamaat’s current ameer Maulana Munawar Hassan’s speeches. We accepted it under extreme duress.

Four pamphlets:

1. Sins of the Tongue (the Urdu version is called Zaban ka Gunah)
Not what you think. It’s all about Islamic punishments for gossiping and backbiting.

2. Music: Quran aur Sunnat Mein …

Changing Course?

I had been contemplating writing an update on Geo for over a week but the latest news has forced my hand. According to our very credible informer @Mehmal, former Daily Times editor Najam Sethi has resigned from Dunya TV and signed up with Geo, though the official announcement has yet to be made. According to our various sources, his last show with Dunya will be on January 6 and he will be hosting a show three times a week on Geo thereafter.

Najam Sethi: moving from Dunya to Geo

Now this news is rather big news, not only in and of itself - after all, Sethi is a big hitter for Dunya to lose and Geo to nab - but also because of what it indicates about the direction of Geo. You may recall our post in November about Geo CEO Mir Ibrahim Rahman's (MIR's) mysterious trip to the US, wherein we had expressed our assessment that you may soon see a decidedly less antagonistic-to-the-Americans line from the Jang Group (read the earlier post to understand why). In that post we had also pointe…

Loco in Motion, Again?

So, Dr S&M sent us an email this morning asking us to place his statement on our website. At first we weren't quite sure whether it was the real McCoy or someone just putting us on though it did sound like him. But since the same statement is also to be found on his own official website (as well as featured on the pkpolitics website and on the presspakistan email group), and since there has been no denial all day from him or from ARY, we assume that it is. Most of you have probably read the statement by now but in case you haven't, and to honour his request, we are reproducing it here, typos, banalities and all. It's a bit long-winded and self-promoting but hey, that's Dr S&M for you, what do you expect?

Dr S&M in his latest avatar

We do have a couple or four observations about it, but will come to them after the statement itself:

"December 24, 2010

A Decade of Distinction

Dear fellows, colleagues, well-wishers,

This year is important to me as a personal mi…

Where Sensitivity Is Needed and Where It Isn't

The gang-rape case in Karachi's upmarket Defence area - where two women were driven off the road by men in another car and one of them was abducted and then raped - has already received plenty of media and blog attention, unfortunately for all the wrong reasons.

In particular, some parts of the media and the Sindh government adviser Sharmila Farooqui have been quite rightly castigated by many for their criminally cavalier attitude in commenting on the serious crime. It seems there is still a long way to go for some to understand that nothing, and we mean nothing, justifies rape: not the 'character' of a woman, not the clothes she wears, not her past, not her 'activities', not anything she says or does, not anything. A lit bit of sensitivity to the trauma of a rape survivor may be too much to ask from some people but what is shocking is that parts of the media - which had voluntarily stopped naming victims many years ago in a positive move - seem to have unlearnt yea…

Storm in ARY's Teacup (Updated)

The journo bulletin boards are abuzz about confusing goings-on within ARY.

According to the reports (among them, this one from JournalismPakistan), the ARY's longtime Lahore Bureau Chief Nasrullah Malik has either resigned or been sacked, along with at least four other staffers. An email letter circulated among staff by CEO ARY Network Salman Iqbal warns them about Mr Malik calling up staffers in other bureaus to urge them to resign in his support and says Mr Malik's claims that he had resigned over delays in salary payments and other work-related issues are not true. The letter calls upon the staff to pay no heed to the attempts to tarnish ARY's reputation. There are unconfirmed reports also of ARY's Director News Mohsin Raza having also submitted his resignation. Earlier rumours of Dr S&M having similarly turned in his papers seem to have been, unfortunately, untrue.

According to unverified sources, Mr Malik was either forced to resign or sacked for allegedly misa…

What's Billions of Dollars Between Friends?

Kudos to Pakistan Today for increasing the potential GDP of Pakistan by US$10 Billion. Alternatively, shame on the Express Media Group for causing a loss to the national exchequer of over US$10 Billion.

Seriously, though, if you look at the differing valuations of the accords signed during the visit to Islamabad of Chinese premier Wen Jiabao in the various papers, you are likely to be scratching your head.

Chinese PM Jiabao with PM Gilani at Pak-China Business Summit (Photo: AFP / Dawn)

Here is the differing monetary worth of the Pakistan-China accords as papers across Pakistan quoted them:

Express Tribune: Up to US$30bnExpress: Up to US$30bnJang: US$30bnThe News: US$30bnDaily Times: US$35bnNawai Waqt: US$35bnThe Nation: US$35bnDawn: US$36bnPakistan Today: US$40bn
I guess when you're playing around with tens of billions of dollars, what's ten here or there. But consider for a moment what even one billion dollars means for Pakistan at this stage. I mean, is it really so insignifican…

So You Want To Be A Pakistani Talk Show Host?

So, taking the cue from that previous video I posted and the pointing out by a reader that, in fact, one could make one's own videos on that site, here is my tentative first offering... Basically just fooling around and testing the software, so to speak. It took me a grand total of less than an hour to get this out. Next time, will work more on the script.

The Matrix?

Remember, it's a whole system!

Road to protective custody? (Photo: Adnan Ahmad)

Open Letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan

Dear Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry,

I am writing this open letter to you because the righting of wrongs is avowedly a part of your movement for judicial reform, and the matter in question must be particularly close to your heart, being as it is close to your first and last names too.

I read in the news today that a doctor in Hyderabad was arrested, and a case registered against him under the Blasphemy Act, when he threw the business card of a medical representative with the first name of Muhammad into the dustbin. Now I know that some people are thinking well that’s one small step back for all Pakistani Muslims, and one giant leap forward for all Pakistani Medical Representatives, but I for one wept with joy at the news.

You see, your exalted lordship, if indeed this report is true, I see in this ingenious application of a tragically misunderstood law…the Blasphemy Act is meant to protect the Quran and the Holy Prophet (PBUH) from ridicule, not expose the…

You Can Plug A Leak, But Can You Plug A Plant? (Updated)

Thanks to Nadeem Farooq Paracha's blog in Dawn, we have the first acknowledgement from a Pakistani news organization about our role in exposing the fake Wikileaks (FakiLeaks?) story carried by many publications in the country.

As of this writing, The News and the Express Tribune have both published retractions, though the far more widely circulated Jang and the Majeed Nizami mouthpieces, The Nation and Nawai Waqt have not (The Nation even went ahead and wrote an editorial basing itself on the Fakileaks, which has now been altered by apparently Indian hackers.) I am not sure if the Urdu daily Express and the Business Recorder, which also published the stories, have published retractions.

A screen grab of the apparently hacked The Nation editorial

Of the television channels, I am also not sure if Dunya TV, which carried news reports based on the same planted stories, issued an apology. But even more dismally, long after the alleged cables were exposed as fake, Absar Alam on his evening…

Leaking Away (Updated)

Reading through the top story in today's The News and Jang, my eyes grew progressively wider and wider. Not so much from the latest Wikileaks revelations about India as from sheer incredulity.

The News Karachi's front page today

Titled "Enough evidence of Indian involvement in Waziristan, Balochistan" (aside: how much is 'enough'?) in The News, the main story deals with a slew of information allegedly from US diplomatic cables sent from Delhi as well as other missions around the world about India. They confirm everything Pakistanis (or at least certain types of Pakistanis) always said about India: it's direct involvement of India in the anti-state activities in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Balochistan, the weakness of the Indian dossier on Ajmal Kassab, the manipulated nature of Indian evidence about the ISI's involvement in the Mumbai attacks, the sissyness of India's generals who do things out of personal ego and petulance…

A Challenge To Tut-Tut

So here's the deal Syed Tut-Tut Hussain. I might have simply ignored your live interview on CityFM 89 tonight (which I happened to catch completely coincidentally) with its mealy-mouthed self promotional bits ('I could never have been in the armed forces because I hate hierarchy and checkposts...but I am the only civilian to have flown in an F-16'). I might even have let go without a comment the fact that the interviewer, Wasim (or whatever his name really is) Wes Malik, actually referred to you as "the great Talat Hussain." After all, can't really hold it against a radio presenter and a FM channel for trying to do a promo for an employee of the parent company (Dawn Media Group). Yes, I might have disregarded it all, had you displayed even a wee bit of contrition or even embarrassment when a questioner asked you about that Jolie article.


But see, when you blithely claimed that the entire controversy was caused "by the [incorrect] translation" …

Video of the Day

Sometimes we like to share things that are actually brilliant...

From the BBC's documentary series "The Joy of Stats", featuring Professor Hans Rosling, described as a "superstar boffin" whose "eye-opening, mind-expanding and funny online lectures have made him an international internet legend." This is what the description of this particular clip says:

"Hans Rosling's famous lectures combine enormous quantities of public data with a sport's commentator's style to reveal the story of the world's past, present and future development. Now he explores stats in a way he has never done before - using augmented reality animation. In this spectacular section of 'The Joy of Stats' he tells the story of the world in 200 countries over 200 years using 120,000 numbers - in just four minutes. Plotting life expectancy against income for every country since 1810, Hans shows how the world we live in is radically different from the world mo…

Have Cake, Will Eat Too

Much can be said - and is being said - about the latest Wikileaks saga. Around the world, the two biggest issues being grappled with are the future of diplomacy - would interlocutors be open and frank with each other if they fear that what they say in private is going to find its way to the web - and the repercussions on sensitive regions such as the Middle East of some of the explosive confirmations of what people sort of suspected anyway about their leaders and American designs on the world.

Unfortunately, most of what is being said in Pakistan is terribly uninformed, and swings from one extreme of 'it's all a big CIA conspiracy to undermine the Muslim world' on the one hand to 'how can you argue with this gospel truth?' on the the other. The former position does not understand the phenomenon of Wikileaks in the first place and conveniently ignores the fact that, so far, only some 500 of the more than 250,000 confidential cables have been released in the media. …