Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Story of Complicity: Statistical Relationship between a Newspaper and a Politician

* The writer supports freedom of thought, freedom of expression and freedom of press as sort of absolute values.

* This analysis by him is in good faith and may not be construed as intrusion in anyone’s privacy and freedom.

* Since newspapers are public entities (though they are privately owned), and politicians public personalities, the writer as a reader and as a citizen may use his freedom to question and criticize both.

* The writer is a keen reader of the newspapers. In the month of May 2014 he noticed unusual news coverage given to one politician “P” in the newspaper “N.”

* When the month of May completed, the writer took a stock of that coverage.

* Here is the table that shows the detail of the news coverage which emerged out of this exercise:

Serial no.
Page no.
Photo / Sketch
Brief statement
Detailed statement



* Here are the results that this table generates:

1. The number of days in the month of May 2014 on which the Newspaper “N” was published = 31

2. The number of days on which news coverage was given to the Politician “P” = 10

3. The number of times Photo / Sketch of the Politician “P” was published = 10

4. The number of times Brief Statement of the Politician “P” was published = 10

5. The number of times Detailed Statement of the Politician “P” was published = 3

6. The number of times Photo / Sketch, Brief Statement, and Detailed Statement of the Politician “P” was published = 10 + 10 + 3 = 23

* In sum, out of 31 days of the month of May 2014, the number of times 3 type of coverage was given to the Politician “P” in the Newspaper “N” Lahore Edition = 23.

* Here is the news coverage in terms of percentages:

* As mentioned above, in case all 3 types of coverage the Politician “P” was given is added together, it turns out to be 23 times out of 31 days.

* Thus, out of 31 days of the month of May, the percentage of coverage given by the Newspaper “N” Lahore Edition to the Politician “P” reaches to 74.19 %.

* How come that a politician of the stature of P, who may not be considered a national level political leader, is given coverage for 10 days and 23 times in a month by one of the top national English dailies, i.e. the Newspaper “N”!

* No doubt, the newspaper under consideration, in exercise of its freedom of press, has all the right to give any type of coverage to any type of politician or otherwise. No questioning on that!

* However, as a reader and as a citizen, the writer has the right to object why such an enormous coverage was given to the Politician “P”!

* He may criticize such coverage as noticeable and abnormal!

* He may ask: Doesn’t coverage of such abnormality raise questions which may bear on the nature of transparency the newspaper observes? And, he may ask: What’s the deal? Or what’s the package?

* Also, the writer is curious to know how the decision to give such enormous coverage to anyone is reached and put into effect.

* In short, what the writer as a reader and as a citizen would like to know is: Does the newspaper under consideration (the Newspaper “N”) operate on the basis of a transparent policy and an open criteria which it follows in deciding what and how much coverage this or that public personality deserves, and which it shares with its readers especially and Pakistani citizens generally? Or it just operates arbitrarily?

* As a matter of principle, this question applies to all the newspapers, magazines, and TV and Radio channels, and raises the issue of accountability in the eyes of the citizenry.

* Hence the issue this piece really wants to bring to the fore is: Do Pakistani print and electronic media operate arbitrarily? Or, does it believe it is accountable to the citizens of Pakistan, and in line with that belief, it operates in accordance with a transparent policy and open criterion which it shares both with its readers and the citizens?

* In the end, it needs to be admitted that this piece tries to exhort Pakistani media to be transparent and accountable to the public it claims it is there to serve!

* So finally the issue is: Has Pakistani media any internal code of conduct to follow in its operations? Has it a transparent policy and an open criterion to share with its readers? And, lastly, do Pakistani media behave morally? Or not?

This was carried by Pakistan Today on February 14, 2015.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Paki philosophers and politics

The two noblest professions are teaching and politics. [Aristotle]

Back in 2002 when the 35th Annual Session of Pakistan Philosophical Congress held in the Bukhari Auditorium, Government College (now G. C. University), Lahore. Dr. Naeem Ahmad was Secretary of the PPC (Dr. Naeem had been Chairman Department of Philosophy, University of the Punjab, Lahore),  and well before the start of the proceedings I had time and time again requested him to allow me to present a Resolution in its General Body meeting. He was positive. On March 16, while the proceedings ended, late in the evening meeting of the General Body of the Congress was in progress. When all the items on the agenda, such as issues relating to the next Congress, elections of the office-bearers, stood settled, Dr. Naeem announced the closing of the Congress.

I was dumbstruck; yet in a second I decided: it’s now or never. Based on the past experience, nobody knew when the next Congress would be held. I went up on the stage, occupied the rostrum and expressed myself thus: ‘Dr. Naeem sahib promised me and I had requested him to allow me to move a Resolution here.’ Meanwhile, Dr. Ghazal Irfan intervened and assured to give me time to speak. After a while she invited me; I read out the Resolution making the following demands:

“I) Since its inception, Pakistani State has been repeatedly failing in protecting the life, liberty and property of its citizens. It has suppressed even the liberties ensured to them in the various constitutions of the country, too. II) Likewise, it has usurped its citizens’ right to Education of their liking. From the first grade to the intermediate level, the State has monopolized the development and implementation of curricula which it uses for whole-scale Indoctrination. III) With the provincial text-book boards working as its tentacles, the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education has been instrumental in strengthening the cause of Propaganda and Indoctrination. IV) For instance, according to the 1994 Curriculum Wing Document for Social Studies (5th class), children were to be taught “Hindu-Muslim differences”, “India’s evil designs on Pakistan”, “India’s wars of aggression against Pakistan”, and to learn to make speeches on Jehad and Shahadat.

V) That is like supplying the content of Education right from the State’s inventory in the form of finished goods. Same is the case with the aims and objectives of Education. Under the yoke of national and collective objectives, there is no room for the individual citizen, his rights and his freedoms. VI) By denying Education, the State has denied its citizens their rights to free inquiry, free thinking and free speech; and, thus, has dehumanized them. VII) With the help of Indoctrination, the State has tried to become intellectual progenitor of every mind. It has resorted to the science of cloning to beget intellectual and ideological Dollies.

To restore their humanity and individuality back to its citizens: a) the State should stop telling the citizens what to think and what not to think, and what to do and what not to do; b) the State should ensure its citizens their individual rights and freedoms, and should abstain from interfering in their private lives; c) the State should divert its resources and energies to the fulfillment of its basic duties, i.e. protecting the life, liberty, and property of its citizens; d) the State should focus upon establishing and maintaining the Rule of Law in the country.

In view of the above considerations, it is demanded that 1) Indoctrination be eliminated from Education; 2) Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education be abolished; 3) Provincial text-book boards be dismantled; 4) Academic Freedom be restored to educational institutions; 5) Electronic and Print Media be freed from State’s control; 6) Protection of life, liberty and property along with freedom of religion, press, assembly and association be assured to every citizen.”

The moment I finished, there was uproar in the hall. I tried to make sense of it, and saw one old lady standing and arguing haughtily; she was Jocelyn Ort Saeed, an Australian poet settled in Pakistan. Her argument ran like this: ‘How come that you want the Curriculum Wing abolished! What would we teach our children, then? What are you up to?’ As she concluded, another lady stood up: ‘We are philosophers, and we have nothing to do with politics? You want us to be embroiled in politics; why?’ She was Dr. Arifa Farid from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi.

It was quite noiseful in the hall. I was unable to see what had I done which caused such an outrage. Then, Dr. Iqbal Amiri, another fellow from the Department of Philosophy, University of Karachi, came up and grabbed the microphone. He was counter-arguing in favor of the demands made in the Resolution. I remember the gist: ‘How could you say that Philosophers have nothing to do with politics; it’s everything is politics. What the state is doing, how come that it has got any right to do that? Philosophers need to stand up against it.’

By now, there emerged two groups: one favoring and the other opposing the Resolution. It was quite an intellectual commotion there. In the midst of that, Dr. Ashraf Adeel, who became the new President of the PPC the same evening, tried to hush up the matter. He wanted the discussion on the Resolution be put off now and take it up again when the 36th Congress was held. That was like killing it. However, the group in favor of the Resolution demanded a Vote, which was conceded by way of raising hands.

As the 35th Congress was hosted by the Department of Philosophy, G. C. Lahore, a good many number of students present there belonged to the same Department, which Mirza Athar Baig, now a well-known Urdu novelist, was the Chairman of. The Resolution was defeated by one vote; 19 votes polled in its favor; 20 against. Mirza Athar Baing voted against the Resolution. The President of the Congress, Dr. Ashraf Adeel, did not cast his vote; I reminded him, but he shrugged off. At the dinner, Mirza Athar Baig came to me and said: ‘Why didn’t you tell me about it earlier?’ I explained: ‘What was there to tell beforehand? It was all happening before you!’

The Resolution could not be carried through; but it succeeded in view of the fact that most of the demands made in it were raised first time in the history of Pakistan, especially about the abolition of the Curriculum Wing and dismantling of the provincial text-book boards. It proved to be the first step towards disseminating a spate of ideas in Pakistan bringing the fundamental rights of the citizens to the fore! Note: The facts narrated above are for the sake of putting the record straight!

This article was carried by Pakistan Today on February 7, 2015.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

No. 1 enemy of the people of Pakistan

پاکستان کے سیاست دانوں نے، خواہ وہ جمہوریت کا لبادہ اوڑھے ہوئے ہیں یا مذہب کا، قریباً ستر برس سے یہاں کے شہریوں کو ٹرک کی بتی کے پیچھے لگایا ہوا ہے!

This Urdu saying means: Paki politicians, whether they are clad in the garb of Democracy or Religion, have got the citizens running after the back-lights of a Truck! In other words, the citizens of Pakistan have been made to run after a mirage so that they are never going to reach any destination.

Recently, there was a book-launching in Lahore. The book’s title is: NauAbaadiyati Taaleemi Dhaancahy Ka Tasalsul (The Continuation of Neo-Colonial Educational Structure) and it’s written by a Marxist. All the talk there focused on castigating the British for their doing everything in their own interest. Two or three sane voices, speaking common-sense, tried to make other commentators realize not all that is bad had been done by the British; we did a lot of bad things ourselves.

It’s simple arithmetic: the Indian Sub-Continent was taken over by the British Crown after the revolt of 1857; they left us with two states of India and Pakistan to be shaped by our own genius in 1947. That makes about 90 years. Last August, Pakistan attained the age of 67 years. So what did we achieve in quite more than half a century needs to be compared what the British achieved for us in less than a century! But we are still obsessed with our own pseudo-identity, sort of puritan spirit, which we believe and claim the British distorted and admixed; otherwise, probably we were the Shining Star of the World!

In effect, most of the Far Left in Pakistan is still beating the Anti-British drum. They have other Drums too to beat. They are Anti-America; Anti-Imperialism; Anti-West; Anti-Globalization; Anti-Trans-National-Corporations; Anti-Multi-National-Corporations; Anti-Corporatism; Anti-WTO; Anti-WB; Anti-IMF; Anti-ADB; so on. That’s the international side of their ideology and politics. They have certain local indigenous enemies also. Thus, at home, they are: Anti-Feudalism; Anti-Capitalism; Anti-Big-Business; Anti-Bourgeoisie, i.e. Anti-Ultra-Rich; and in a Marxian sense, they are Anti-State also, i.e. they want to make the state wither away by annihilating the classes which is in their view an instrument of exploitation of the poor at the hands of capitalists; so on.

Presently, there are a good many number of Leftist, Marxist, Socialist groups working in Pakistan. In 2012, three parties, Workers Party Pakistan, Labor Party Pakistan, and Awami Party Pakistan, merged to form a ‘united party of the Left’: it’s Awami Workers Party. That above-mentioned list is as true for this Party as it is for almost all the other Leftist groups.

As far as the Far Right is concerned, its enemies are no different from those of the Far Left. To this day, most of the Rightist parties and groups denounce the British for their disservice to the Muslims of the Sub-Continent, especially Lord Macaulay for “modernizing” the Muslim education. For the Rightists, there is another eternal enemy, the West. The USA fulfills all the criteria to act as a perfect enemy, so it is. In its Imperialistic role, it becomes more of a complex enemy, which dictates everything which happens in Pakistan; it makes use of UN, The World Bank, ADB, IMF, etc, to the extent of fixing prices of commodities and various utilities in Pakistan. One thing that distinguishes the Far Right from the Far Left is the way they present these enemies of the people of Pakistan: the Right dubs them as the enemy of Pakistan and Islam; whereas the Left hates them as the enemy of the poor!

The mainstream political parties in Pakistan differentiated as falling on the Right or Left have got the same list of enemies; though they make use of it mostly only when needed, or when they are in the opposition. For instance, PPP-P is understood to be a party on the Left; PML-N on the Right; both are open to opt for such uses. More often, they make use of these enemies in a circumlocutory way: they promise to break the Begging Bowl!

Never ever anyone questioned this wisdom of the Right and the Left which declares the West, Colonialism, Neo-Colonialism, Europe, America, and Imperialism on the one hand, and Feudalism and Capitalism on the other as the enemy of the people. Either they mislead the people deliberately; Or they do not know the Pakistani social and economic reality! In the second case, they or their thinking is totally Ashraafist. Whoever lives through the social and economic reality of Pakistan cannot help realizing that the number one enemy of the people of Pakistan is the State of Pakistan!

Mainly it is on two counts that the state proves to be an enemy: First, it completely neglects its foremost function of ensuring protection of life and property to each and every citizen. Contrary to that, it lets various groups form and flourish and dictate the citizens what to believe and how to live and then kill them if they don’t do their bidding. The state doesn’t protect and does not provide justice requires no proof; it’s in the air. That means the state completely breached the trust of the people they put in it; rather it turned criminal.

Second, the state misuses the money taken from the citizens as taxes. Not only does it allow other groups extort from the citizens, the state itself robs the citizens also on this or that pretext. As far as electricity, gas and petroleum products’ supply is concerned, it is exacting billions of rupees from the citizens’ pockets. Add to it, the corruption-money in trillions of rupees. It’s the state’s machinery that sucks citizens’ blood in this or that government department regardless of its nature, whether it is a service or a collector. The writer has demonstrated in his Pakistan Mein Riyasati Ashraify Ka Urooj how Riyasati Ashrafiya has captured both the state and the market and lives off the resources that the state accrues. In a nutshell, it’s the state which exploits the citizens it is supposed to serve; not the feudals and capitalists, who can never in case the state decides so! That makes the state of Pakistan a Robber-Criminal state! 

This article was carried by Pakistan Observer on January 22, 2015 with a different title "The real enemy."