Archive for the ‘Pakistan’ Category
This evening I met with some friends from highschool that I haven’t seen or heard from in five years. We used to wander aimlessly, picking fights, playing hookie and what not. Times have changed. People have changed. And that too, for the better.
I was very impressed to see my friends develop intellectual depth and the enterprise of knowledge: They demonstrated free-thinking. Since most of them are related to the media industry, and one of them politics, the conversation that stirred was inevitably one that was interesting.
With all that has happened in Pakistan for the past year, including Black Saturday, November the 3rd, and so on, one must take a step back and ask the question, “what is really going on here?” Who is steering this nation? Is it the media that had been given such free reign (In my opinion, Geo television was a major element in steering our country into the abyss)? It is agreed upon that these media conglomerates have certain agendas and are of certain political leanings (which was evident on the 23rd of June, 2008 when the pro-MQM interview was aired on Geo Television). And with political affinities and backing which “control” the masses, the question arises: Really, what is a democratic, free media? One that is not restricted by the government but still swayed by political affinities and funding? What is the definition of democracy, of free media?
It is my opinion that while people either back Musharraf or the Chief Justice, Mohammad Iftikhar Chaudhry, or Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), or MQM, choosing one side without analysing the opportunity cost (for a lack of a better term) of that decision will inevitably lead to serious narrow mindedness. For example, while many Pakistanis agree that the CJ should be restored and all that jazz, the adverse effects have been felt on the media: the use of resources including fuel to conduct a nationwide rally, the shutting down of businesses for a few days leading to a reduced velocity of money circulation, effects on the stock market due to sentiments, and global repercussions of the actions taken by institutions covered in the media.
So, essentially, my muse leads me to the following: Who controls the media? Is one control over the other a better form? And with punch lines such as “shaping the views and opinions of today,” are you really presenting a democratic electronic media? Are you really giving people free-reign over their intellectual thought patterns? Here’s hoping someone will say something.
Thanks to Asma Ansari who works at BBCL for arranging the reunion, you’re awesome!
I do not know how many of the people in North America (and the wider world for that matter) are aware of the fact that Pakistan had banned YouTube from being accessed in the country. Other than reasons that have been mentioned on various online news syndicates, there remains speculation as to what happened.
Some claim the ban was initiated due to very offensive motion images against Islam. Pakistan, being an Islamic state, may have proceeded to enforce the ban to protect the image of Islam. On the other side of the coin, the ban may have been enforced to protect the Pakistani Muslims from being angered by the video clip and therefore rioting. Maybe this was done to protect the Dutch from causing another worldwide scene of hate and anger.
Some say the government banned YouTube because it had videos which were against the government, making parodies of many. There is a particular video of Musharraf and Bhutto which shows them in bad light. It is morally incorrect according to myself and many like-minded individuals to show a deceased person in bad light. But here’s the video:
What I want to focus on, however, is the former reason and incorporate the notion of democracy. Pakistan is an independant, democratic nation and as such, free speech is encouraged so long as it does not cause harm or terrorism and hatred. The video, along with the blasphemous cartoons of the Holy Prophet did stir worldwide controversy in which the muslim nation went through a considerable amount of suffering. Many as well as this blog here claim that this was just freedom of speech. We need to understand that our understanding of freedom may differ from people in the east, in the middle east, and even down south. How can we then discount this notion of range of meanings in a world which is increasingly becoming more globalized? Have we all forgotten tolerance? And when was Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Bhuddism shown in bad light? Christians may be called sinners as they knowingly sent the Prophet Jesus Christ to the cross. Yet not all of us would think this way. Even the Papal institution runs a city completely under its eccentric law. Do we then call this Christianization? Like Islamization? What do these words even mean?
Please do not get me wrong. This is not a controversy I am trying to stir up, I would merely like people to understand the duality of meanings of words and notions.
What do we do now?
Haven’t we been over this? President Pervez Musharraf is officially the president of the country, there had to be media reforms and the foreign governments support the Pakistani president due to his key role in the war on terror.
First, we need a gentle reminder: Pakistan was a country founded amidst war, and since then, has been at war with itself. It is a young, struggling country. Reforms happen. For the greater good of the country, sacrifices need to be made. Changes need to be made. Lets take a hint from India, who took a hint from us and warned its judiciary to not try to run the country. A free and independent judiciary is key in strengthening the ideology of human and free speech independence and rights, however, when a judicial system starts crossing it’s boundaries, there’s bound to be chaos. The ex CJ has been disposed of and that’s that (The article by Ayeshah Alam may be found here).
As for the media, it is still free and independent. I need not remind anyone that Musharraf was the one who allowed media to flourish, requiring more expertise (in turn raising the importance of education), making more jobs available, bringing Pakistani analysts in all fields at par with foreign ones and advocating free speech and expression. However, to show extremely gory content, constantly blaming the government and being a major source of uproar and chaos is not something that needs to be taken lightly. Free speech is still a problem domain, the boundaries not being clearly defined. Then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz mentioned that constructive criticism is always appreciated. This is also something that needs to be defined. These words have a range of meanings and they need to be understood in order to reduce communication problems. The PEMRA ordinance has been and will be modified as has been the case in even western countries such as Canada with regards to media policy (Canada has an exceptionally rich history with regards to media politics and policy). This is not a violation of free speech or human rights (the words we Pakistanis speak as if we fully understand their meanings). This is evolution. Just so Ms. Jemima Khan knows, Geo is now free to operate in Pakistan again, just like the rest of the media giants.
Let’s move on. Let’s look forward to the elections, make sure they’re safe for all of us, do our part as citizens and voters and take it from there. This is about the future of Pakistan, not it’s past. We cannot change it, as cliched as it sounds.
What do we need to do? Look at the manifestos of the parties, cast our votes, and then if there is any proof (beyond just a doubt or feeling) of rigging, take action. For now, lets look forward to a booming economy, promising media and exposure of Pakistan for what it is: A sovereign, peace-loving nation which has its own set of problems and distinctive features.