Showing posts from February, 2014

Democracy and terrorism

“Liberal newspaper Express Tribune cowed into silence by Pakistani Taliban,” reads a headline of The Guardian. Those of us in the media had of course heard about a policy shift after a second attack on Express’s Karachi offices last year and now it is out in the open as well. It is tragic that a liberal newspaper had to take such measures because they feel they are on their own and no one is willing to protect them.

Senior journalist Imtiaz Alam, who hosts two weekly programmes on state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV) and two weekly programmes on private TV channel Express News, says that everyone in the media should put up a united front to counter these threats. “Express Tribune is under serious threat because of its consistent radical position. They have been terrorised into silence because of the last attack in Karachi, which was a clear message. Similarly, other media persons who are vocal against militants also feel this threat. Media groups should not be silent on the plight of…

To talk or not to talk...

Talks, no talks…operation, half-hearted operation, no operation…end result: confusion. Despite the federal cabinet’s approval of a national security policy and air strikes against suspected TTP hideouts in the tribal areas, there is still confusion regarding the question of talks with the TTP and/or a military operation in North Waziristan.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz says the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is not serious about peace talks while Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan says the government would still prefer the route of peace talks with the TTP.

There are those who argue that the military wants an operation in North Waziristan but is waiting for a nod from the government while the government is still waiting for a parliamentary consensus on the issue. In a strong democratic country, this argument would have been valid but in a country where the military is the most powerful institution, this should be taken with a pinch of s…

One step at a time

On Thursday, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility for an explosion targeting a police bus in Karachi. Thirteen people lost their lives and 47 were wounded in the attack. The TTP spokesman said their “defensive war will continue until an agreement is reached on a ceasefire” between the government and the Taliban.

Instead of condemning the TTP, their apologists in politics, media and society continue to lay the blame elsewhere. They always come up with an excuse: some ‘third force’ is responsible for these attacks; the Taliban are innocent.

Paranoia and schizophrenia: two words that best describe the current frame of mind of many Pakistanis. We think the world is out to get us while we turn a blind eye to the enemy within: i.e. the Taliban and their affiliates. The government is hell-bent on talking to the Taliban; the same Taliban who continue to bomb our civilians and security forces alike. With each passing day, we cement the path for self-destruction.

The opt…

Politics or culture

A political event, a cultural extravaganza, an attempt to seize back the mantle of secularism, a platform to recast the past, a private party or all of it together

“I hereby declare emergency” are words that have terrorised millions of democracy-loving Pakistanis in the past. But, the way Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) patron-in-chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari played on these words was witty and profound at the same time.

In a promotional video for the Sindh Festival, Bilawal addressed the nation in a televised address in the same vein as that of Pakistani military dictators. But, unlike the generals, he declared a ‘cultural coup’ instead of a military coup d’├ętat.

It was refreshing to see this humorous take on coups by a civilian leader.

Those who think such festivals are not promoting our culture need to brush up on their history. From paying tribute to the Indus Valley Civilisation through a tableau to a fashion show with songs and dance routines, from a laser show to pop songs, Mohenj…

my interview with ADH on Sindh Fest

Ali Dayan Hasan, Human Rights Watch Pakistan Director and human rights activist, talks about the Sindh Festival, its purpose, and how it reflects on Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari

The News on Sunday: Is the Sindh Festival about politics or culture?

Ali Dayan Hasan: The Sindh Festival is primarily a celebration of history, culture and heritage. It aims to preserve and advance the same.
In the face of an armed onslaught, such a statement of cultural assertion is of course, political. Extremists want to define who we are and to take away the power from us to do so. The Taliban and affiliates are adept at using cultural destruction as a means of asserting ideological control.
If Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is using his political capital to fight this, it can only be for the better. Other politicians should do so too and one hopes they will. Political support and ownership of such initiatives across Pakistan would be welcome.

TNS: Do you think a cultural celebration or propagation can have meaningful impa…