Getting Registered As A Voter!


The most important political office is that of the private citizen.  ~Louis Brandeis

The most important political office is indeed, that of the private citizen and I add, his authority lies with the power of his vote.

The Election Commission of Pakistan recently its campaign for the door-to-door verification of voter-lists.

It began on the 22nd of August and will end on the 30th of September 2011.

Many wish to vote in the next elections but either do not have themselves included/verified in the voter lists or haven’t registered for them yet.

To sort this out, I’ve Googled and gathered the instructions from here to get one’s vote registered:

 

REGISTRATION PROCESS :

Go to your nearest Office of Assistant Election Commissioner / Registration Officer located in your area.
If you do NOT know where your closest office is located, you can find out by contacting the Election Commission of Pakistan at  (051) 920 1975  or  (051) 920 6062  and asking them the address and phone number of the closest office to you.

You can also contact 1217 to get the same information or log onto http://www.ecp.gov.pk/Contactus.aspx.

Once at the office, collect a “Voter Registration Form” and fill it out in full.
Basic information will be required as well as a Photocopy of National Identity Card as well as Proof of Residence – this includes any kind of utility bill (electricity, gas, water or telephone).

Once complete, submit the form and you’re DONE!

PLEASE NOTE: Your vote will be registered to the address written on the National Identity Card.
For example if you are registering in Karachi and your home address is in Lahore, you will have to vote in Lahore.


For Overseas Pakistanis :

Overseas Pakistanis are allowed to be registered by their family, friends or relatives who live in the area of your residence in Pakistan. The process is simple roughly the same however please note! Any Citizen of Pakistan can get registered as voter anywhere in Pakistan and can cast their vote if he or she is in Pakistan during the time of elections. You must be IN PAKISTAN to cast your vote!


AFTER REGISTRATION :

After you have submitted your registration form, in a few days confirm to make sure YOU ARE ON THE VOTER LIST!
This can be confirmed;

You can obtain the “Voter List” from the Assistant Election Commissioner/Registration Officer. Check to see whether your name is on the list.

You will also be able to see the “Voter List” on the Election Commission’s website, but it’s currently unavailable.

Once you have confirmed you are registered, you will be able to vote in the Federal and Provincial Elections.

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As far as the Voter-Verification Drive is – I, although am someone who is vehemently Anti-Imran Khan lend my full appreciation and admiration to the PTI-Supporters and workers for their efforts in trying to help people register and mobilize them to vote.
The following is from their site page:

The Verification Process:

The ECP representative will bring the Electorol Lists with them. If your name is present in the list and the address and information is correct, you will just verify it and will not be required to fill a new form.

If your name is missing in the list, or you are registering your vote for the first time, then you will FILL THIS FORM.


Which Documents Are Required? 

1. Copy of Computerized National Identity Card (CNIC).

2. If your current address is different than your CNIC address, you will be required to provide a proof of residence in the form of a Utility bill (Electricity, Gas, Water or Telephone) or rental agreement.


Who is eligible to register as a voter? 

As per ECP: I am entitled to be registered as a voter, if:

  1. I am a Pakistani citizen
  2. I am not less than eighteen (18) years of age
  3. I have not been convicted by any court of law
  4. I am a resident of the area/ owner of, or in possession of immovable property in Pakistan.


Election Commission did not visit my house, my vote is still not registered!

In case no representative from ECP visits your house till 30th sept, you must contact ECP or your local PTI organizer.


Contacting Election Commission Contact:

Address:      

ECP Secretariat, Election House,

Constitution Avenue G-5/2 ,

Islamabad.


Secretary Office Telephone:   
 (+92)(51)(9201975) (+92)(51) (9206062)

For ECP Provincial Offices: CLICK HERE:

           

How Can I Help In This Campaign:

Help out to register the vote:

1. You can take a printout of this FORM (A) 

2. Make as many photocopies as you can and distribute it among your family and friends.

3. Make sure you encourage and help to register.

Spread the Word:

1. Discuss the importance of registration of votes at your educational institutions.

2. Start youth mobilization campaigns at your educational institutions.

3. Write about it in newspapers, magazines, notice boards.

4. Make awareness on social media – Twitter, Facebook, Forums, Youtube etc.

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For a nation that seems to have a natural propensity to whine about the situations in the country and is defined by inaction, voting should be the start for them in contributing for a change in Pakistan.

One who does NOT bother to fulfill his duty to vote does NOT have the right to cry and crib about the state of Pakistan, what is happening in the country or call himself a concerned and responsible citizen.

Better to make an effort than whining for the rest of the 1825 days after the elections.

So spread the word. Get all those eligible in your family to verify their information in the voter lists by co-operating with the ECP Officials and taking them to register their names for it if they haven’t before. Engage people in discussions relating to this matter and spur them into action.

Convince and help them to get enrolled as voters. Prompt the people in your educational institutions, area, among friends, relatives. Make posters, prinoutouts with catchy slogans. Propogate the significance of voting. Use internet activism. Print out the registeration forms and hand them out.

Democracy can only function properly in Pakistan if its people have a democratic mindset and wish it to work by availing what it involves and believing in its effectiveness; voting, protesting etc.

If one by one, the individuals in Pakistan come to make almost 200 Million people. Vote by vote, change can come to Pakistan.

You owe your vote to your country.

So please, Get Yourself Registered. Vote Your Voice For The Revolution of The Polling Station. Create the Change!

~ Hafsa Khawaja

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Tackling The Disease of Desensitization and Its Effects by Activism in Pakistan


The Arab Spring, a Christian terrorist overturning notions of associating extremism to a single race and religion and last if not the least, the London riots [ that should be finally putting to rest the practice of describing particular cultures and people of possessing a ‘special traditional proclivity’ to behave in such a manner thus deeming them inherently uncivilized ] – 2011 has been more or less, a year defined by change.

But for Pakistan, it has represented nothing but a painful aggravation of political, economic and social instability.

From Salman Taseer’s cold-blooded assassination, the ‘Raymond Davis Saga’, Operation in Abbotabad for Osama Bin Laden to the paroxysms of violence in Karachi exploding to become a siege of a  reign of terror in the city.

Incidents of brutalities have now merged into the routines of the Pakistani, developing a great sense of vulnerability.

 

Also, the budding yet professionally weak media has caused an over-exposure of barbarities to people of all age groups, to the extent of imbuing [ albeit unintentionally one might suppose, in regard to how frequent such happenings take place in Pakistan; making their inclusion in the daily news  permanent] dispassion and insouciance in them towards occurrences that should naturally elicit responses of shock and leave one in a jarring spell.

Coupled with these, the contagion of being stung by the helplessness of not being able to stop this savagery has contributed immensely to the epidemic of hopelessness in the country.
The convergence of all these has affected the country, inevitably, with the disease of desensitization.

Joseph Stalin is to have allegedly said:

‘The death of one man is a tragedy; the death of millions is a statistic.’

Nothing better illustrates the human propensity of desensitization. The human mind perceives a single death or loss with genuine compassion and sympathy but when it comes to a loss of more lives, it simply can not grasp it with the same rush of emotions.
The grip of those emotions loosens with the loss being bigger.

Keith Payne, a social psychologist, excellently notes in an article of his ‘Why is the death of one million a statistic; Why we feel the least when we are needed the most.’ :

‘Joseph Stalin is reputed to have said that the death of one person is a tragedy; the death of one million is a statistic. And Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass I will never act.”
When Stalin and Mother Teresa agree on a point, I sit up and pay attention. It turns out that the human tendency to turn away from mass suffering is well documented. Deborah Small and Paul Slovic have termed this phenomenon the collapse of compassion.
It’s not simply that as the number of victims goes up, people’s sympathy levels off. No, when the numbers go up, the amount of sympathy people feel goes perversely down..’

One witnesses the very ‘Collapse of compassion’ in Pakistanis as the state of Karachi  deteriorates and corpses over corpses pile up as the result of being caught up in the crossfire between the thugs, goons of different political parties fighting for the hegemony of the city.

‘The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 800 people have been killed in Karachi so far this year, compared with 748 in 2010’. With some reporting the number to be 1450 on social networking sites. 

Changing channels, shifting the topic of conversation and blocking all confabulations related to Karachi are the new trends for coping with the reality of the ‘City of Lights’ having been made into nothing but a graveyard where some of the living reside. This also applies to the killings in Balochistan, murders of Hazaras and suicide attacks.

This desensitization has also given birth to the ‘Bystander Effect’ becoming widespread in Pakistan of which beastialities such as that which took place in Sialkot are a consequence.

At  TEDxPSU, Sam Richards says in ‘A Radical Experiment in Empathy’:

‘Step outside of your tiny little world. Step inside the tiny little world of somebody else. And then do it again, and do it again and do it again. And suddenly all of these tiny little worlds they come together in this complex world and they build this big complex world…Attend to other lives, other visions’.

By turning away from the cruelties in Karach or elsewhere in this manner, one insults the humanity that is within all since birth. Pakistanis need to abandon this desensitization and find the empathy that they have lost.

If people are affected adveresly in any place in Pakistan, nonchalance towards them is nonchalance towards the whole of the country because those people and that place too, is a part of the country.

The inferno that has set ablaze different areas of Pakistan will eventually devour all of the country if the pathetic numbness towards it is maintained by the rest of the nation while it chars countless Pakistanis mentally, physically and emotionally.

Tahmina Durrani wrote in the last pages of ‘My Feudal Lord’ :

‘Silence condones injustice, breeds subservience and fosters malignant hypocrisy’

 This silence, fathered by despair arising from the feeling that the people are powerless, needs to be torn too.

It wouldn’t be fallacious to say that it is Pakistan’s mortifyingly obscene acclimation and acquiescence with the exacerbation of the state of affairs around them that has quite generously contributed to their greater intensification and added to the confidence of the perpetrators and miscreants.

Condemnable compliance with the worsening environment has been once again, been jumbled with heroic grit and resilience.

The Quran states:

‘Verily Allah Will Not Change The Conditions of Those Who Do Not Wish To Change Their Conditions Themselves.’ [13:11]

This isn’t a mere message for only Muslims but for all mankind, keeping in mind that it is a fact.

Unless and until the people themselves transform their wish to change their conditions into action, all will remain static and stagnant.

An invitation to a colloquium ‘Public Action in Pakistan: Vacillating between Apathy and Anger’ faultlessly elucidated the problem in Pakistan:

‘While noticing the non-presence of robust movements of social action in Pakistan, the academic wisdom identifies the supposedly widespread ‘apathy’ towards public action in Pakistani society as one of the major reasons.
Dubbed at times as social malady, many observers claim that apathy is a commonly observed phenomenon in developing countries. Its symptoms include lack of participation and social responsibility resulting in meek public actions, allowing either the status quo or worsening of individual rights and civil liberties.

It is indeed true that the pattern of public reaction in Pakistan is sewn on its oscillation between anger and apathy, eventually halting at inaction and so, there is a striking void left by the nonexistence of dynamic social movements/activism. Social malady at its best.

One may attribute this to six factors;

1. Economic Conditions: most Pakistanis are engrossed in earning enough to put a four-square meal on the tables for their children and affording the basic necessities of life.

2. Discouraging situations in the country, desensitization and lack of trust in the elected representatives in regard to the possibility of their demands being fulfilled even if social movements are initiated or of a change occurring.

3. Disinterest and apathy: Many merely believe that the country is already in an abyss of disaster and the chances of bringing a change have dispersed into nothingness. This despondency lures them into adopting and accepting inertia.

4. Lack of appropriate knowledge pertaining to social actions: Majority in Pakistan wants to contribute in making a difference but they seek a set of guidelines, information and a direction for this [ Ways in which they could participate in social movements/groups/NGOs etc] which none have thought of providing them even now.

5. Limited vision and objectives of existing activist organizations that either do not strive to involve more people with them or are not determined enough to bring their organization or cause into peoples’ attention.

6. Political idealism: The general perception in Pakistan is that a change can only be brought through political means and figures even in matters of the society and community that they are well-capable of changing themselves.

Anyhow, what must be realized is that the public reaction in Pakistan must stop swinging and swaying between anger and apathy and must be converted into social activism and public action.

Be it in the form of peaceful protests, strikes, boycotts, demonstrations or internet activism. People must learn to register their dissent, initiate plans to make their demands met and must not be desensitized into inaction which has paralyzed the country.

Can one expect the politicians elected from the people to lend the mayhem, that has cloaked this country, some consideration if the people themselves do not seem to be burdened with the distress for it?

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” — Edmund Burke.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Pakistan’s Image Insecurity and The ‘Aal Iz Well’ Syndrome


As written before:

‘Since the onset of Pakistan’s engagement in the War on Terror, the country nosedived in its entirety; politically, socially and economically. Not only was this unfortunate plunge a harbinger of possibly, the worst of times for it but heralded the introduction of a gamut of negative stereotypes in relation to Pakistan and its citizens.

Largely owing to the almost-routinely involvement of Pakistan or any individual with even a faint connection to it in incidents or reports of terrorism, the spread of these stereotypes fixed its image as ‘The most dangerous place on Earth’’

This particular instance had consequential effects on both sides; of the Pakistanis and the rest of the world.

Concerning the latter, [ for most of them ] Pakistan’s picture became what was a hodge-podge of stereotypes and words such ranging from terrorism, terrorists to poverty, illiteracy and bloodshed.

For the Pakistanis, grivieances were nurtured of being portrayed in the single shade of negativity in international media, an obejction or grouse justifed at times, while many ventured and are venturing to show the ‘real’ image [ As said in the Pakistani lingo ] and positive angle of their country.

With each passing day, as the worsening of Pakistan’s state ensured its quick descent into chaos with degeneration in every quarter of the country – certain approaches developed amongst the people – one of them associated with ‘insecurity of image’, after being swung onto a somewhat defensive edge by the quick spin of events involving the country.

This evolved into an attitude relating to ‘Hear no evil, Speak no evil, See no Evil’ [ Which in some interpretations, ‘is used to refer to those who deal with impropriety by looking the other way, refusing to acknowledge it, or feigning ignorance.’ ]. Many Pakistanis chose to shut their ears, close their eyes and sew their lips to silence when it came to the ills in the society and country. This has eventually lead to a self-concoted national ignorance, that has inevitably given birth to a sociteal conspiracy of silence.


As the numbers who chose to immerse themselves in this practise grew, a culture of shame, conspiracy theories, denialism and dogmatism flourished with it due to which any pinching incidents or facts that proffered chances for clamant introspection were tossed away by the dismissive wave of a hand after much nugatory tub-thumping and dramatic statements on the media by individuals.

With the PTA reporting over 22 million Pakistani internet users, which is about 12% of the total 180 million population, this concept and societal mindset slid onto the virtual world.

Plenty of these Pakistanis have been vociferating their opinion that no news regarding the country should be posted or discussed on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter [ where many have friends from other countries ] that sharpens the features of the poor picture that lots hold globally of Pakistan. This is the extent of the ‘image insecurity’.

One wonders how would the prevention of posting unfavourable Pakistanis news [ Say, cases of the treatment of minorities here, rape victims etc ] on these sites from reaching a handful of foreign people help in this digital age and era of electronic media where even a minor happenings are broadcasted or published through hundreds of channels and sites to millions all around the world within split seconds of their occurance.

Also, as of yet Pakistan has, in fact – no image at all. And it is food for thought, that if social networking sites could be tools for revolution, can’t they be instruments to stir a societal change? It is defined, that societies are the footing for nations that inhabit countries. Any change within the society will affect the nation which will inevitably reform/rebuild Pakistan’s perception positively that will come in its ripple effect.

But for that, the bizarre approach needs to abandoned. Pakistanis must shed the guise of ignorance and keeping mum while being cognizant about plagues and cultural malaises.

The people must be made aware of the innumberable and untold stories and issues stinging the core of Pakistan’s culture, society, politics and nation. They must be awakened from this sleep of dormancy that has been prolonged for too long a time, 64 years.

Debate should be initiated about them at all forums [ The internet, the streets, national media or at homes ] after this.
One of the reasons for the palpable and glaringly low tolerance in Pakistan is the absence of debate and arguments among people, which has helped to foster and instill a proclivity in each person for sheer insularity and unwillingness to hear opposing views – that if heard, are answered by profiling [ labelling someone as a RAW/MOSSAD/CIA Agent or a ‘liberal facist’ ] , judgements and fatwas rather than refuted by facts.

The stimulation of discussions will so, instill gradually a sense of open-mindedness along with stirring people to comprehend the situations, think, measure their words and then freely express their opinions.

Debates might also commence into finding solutions for the problems they are based on and individual efforts may be encouraged to apply those. Joint efforts may also be made. And the more the pandemonium and clamor of the people is, the more it is bound to reach the corridors of power and ensure decisive action.

There is an idiom in Urdu; Kabotar ka billi ko dekh kar ankhein band kar lena.
‘The shutting of eyes by the pigeon as he spots the cat’.

Some expound it as one’s turning away after seeing a difficulty. This might just be what the aforementioned Pakistanis are doing.

By averting one’s gaze from a problem [ Not accepting the existence of or talking about it ], it does not dissolve it. It needs to be faced. Pakistanis need to yield the need to identify conundrums, national dilemmas and social contaminations for only when they are recognized as problems, does one seek a remedy to be extricated from them.

The lean line separating resilience from indifference also needs to be accentuated and compreheneded. Pakistanis have begun to dwell more into the realm of the latter than the former. To be struck by bomb attacks, blasts and natural calamities and again get back and continue life with the same vigour is resilience but to see myriad cases of rape, discrimination against minorities, a selective genocide against the Baloch and yet remain silent – is shameful apathy.

Being lulled into a state of false security and satisfaction by not raising your voice against wrongdoings, thus they are not brought into the light of scrutiny and attention as they derserve to be, will only stoke the fire of such perversions and injustices for those committing it would certainly be basking in the knowledge of the nation’s propensity to remain indifferent towards them.

And as Sana Saleem wrote in one of her ever-brilliant articles;

‘The mindset that believes that acknowledging our issues is threatening to our ‘image’. What good is an image, other than deceiving ourselves, is another question altogether.’

Pakistanis have acquiesced with whatever has swept the country for too long and it has cost them too much.

Or as Ayaz Amir penned in his thought-provoking and must-read ‘Woes of an Ostrich Republic’;

‘Islam is not the state religion of Pakistan, denial is. And our national emblem should be the ostrich, given our proclivity to bury our heads in the sand and not see the landscape around us as it is.’

It will be nugatory to tart up Pakistan’s image for the world and act for them and for ourselves [ in betrayal of reality and as an ode to denialism ] as if everything is ‘Aal Iz Well’ while succumbing to the death-knell of destruction in the country due to national apathetic torpor that binds us in bondage of inertia relating to the situations in the country.

~ Hafsa Khawaja

Pakistan’s Fatal Revolution Viral


Having been dragged by the horses ridden by politicians and military despots through the mud for 63 years, the notion of a revolution has not failed to enter the mind of Pakistanis as a saw to cut and break free from this chain of humiliation manacling them.

Recently this feeling and thought has become stronger in Pakistan by the intensity of its pervasiveness fueled by the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt. Pakistanis reason the absolute and dire need of a revolution in their country by stating how either they’re in the same or worser conditions than that of the two Arab nations.

 

 

One might question them, have they followed the events or studied the situations in both the aforementioned countries? Egypt is under the tyrannical rule of an obstinate dictator since he assumed power on October 14, 1981.

With an already-imposed Emergency Rule since 1967, Mubarak exercised his totalitarian muscle a great deal by depriving Egyptians of their basic human rights, suspending their civil liberties, stunting their social growth, curbing any freedom especially freedom of expression by strict and savage means   with an era that ensued of fraudulent elections, inflation, poverty, political persecutions, unemployment, corruption and illegal arrests. Om id Dunya has been survivng under a brute.

Reflecting was the case in Tunisia under the grip of Ben Ali.

While inflation and poverty et al maybe the similarities between Pakistan and Egypt, there’s a visible contrast in between which includes the chiefly important political landscape and the Civilian-Military imbalance of power.

People in Pakistan demand a revolution but a revolution against what? A Government they themselves elected in 2008? What a farce!

 

 

If its to remove the ‘American Puppets’ that ‘have sold the nation’s dignity’, who elects them again and again after getting carried away in the flow of emotionally-charged election speeches of the puppets? The very Pakistani nation now rallying for an uprising!

Pakistan suffers and continues to do so but largely because of the nation itself (minus the years of the forcibly saddled authoritarian rulers to our backs).

With an attitude of placing petty allegiances to parties over the country, dangerous divisions into sects, ethnic separations, indifference towards the erosion of Pakistan’s heritage, abandonment of culture due to sweeping shame felt in owning it and a despicable and damaging ‘conspiracy mindset’ that is developing which ascribes anything that happens in the land of 796,095 kmof area as a work of ‘vile foreign forces’ – to rife dishonesty from the farmer to the Parliament and a frazzled moral and social fabric – Pakistan in no way can afford or requires a revolution with these  inadequacies.

The entire world has witnessed the surreal, perfect religious harmony amongst the Egyptian Muslims and Coptics during the January 25 revolt. While Muslims prayed, Christians formed a human ring around them for protection.

When the Muslim Brotherhood members raised Pro-Muslim slogans at Tahrir Square which implied that Egypt was for Muslims only, they were stopped by Egyptian Muslims who declared Muslim and Christians are all Egyptians and a new shout:

“Egyptian people here we stand,

Muslim Christian hand in hand!”

During the prayers at the Square, priests and imams prayed for Egypt together. When the Imam was leading the prayers, Christians’ repeated after him in louder voices so that all Muslims could hear.

Even gender boundaries transcended as women and men prayed together.

Can this ever be the case in Pakistan where there is a stark wave of subliminal intolerance being infused into even the minds of the educated? Had it been that Muslims and Christians had stood together to pray, the Mullahs would’ve raised the cry of blasphemy and a deluge of fatwas would’ve swept the country. Had they seen women praying with men, threats would’ve tumbled down upon all those who participated in it.

Egyptians showed their awe-inspiring sense of nationhood by forming committees to clear the areas where they protested every morning after millions had gathered there the night before.

Groups were organized to guard the museums and properties and possessions of people, while all those who were skilled in their professions came running to provide help and assistance to their fellow countrymen – such as the doctors who aided the injured freely.
Does Pakistan need a revolution to adopt this spirit?

Did not this nation pull down Musharraf?

We’re not worthy of a change with our stagnant ways which smell of stench.
And thats where and what we have to change.

With the nation sunk in disagreements and tiffs,  wide possibilities of religious exploitation leading to extremism, some insisting the system of democracy should continue and the others pressing on Khilafat to be installed, even if a revolution takes place – anarchy, looting, killing would envelop the country and all hell would break loose with the advent of a civil war.

Pakistan would fall apart if a revolution takes place.

The solution is to let the democratic system go on, no matter how defected it seems to be currently. It will naturally strengthen the vital organs of the state (Judiciary, Media etcetra) to an extent that they start ironing out the loopholes in the institution of democracy itself in Pakistan, clearing the path for it to operate as it should.

 The failure of individuals in the system to deliver should not make one ascribe those to the system.

Too many times in Pakistan’s history have democratic governments been overthrown and at the end, such a mess had been carefully crafted that it proved to be the perfect excuse for the boots to come marching in.

Systems can not be overhauled for individuals. Democracy is a culture along with being a system, that needs to be cultivated. It requires time which this nation, that has resisted years of several dictatorships, refuses to give.

To see how democracy functions if facilitated with patience and continuity, one must not look any farther than India.

The nation must also aim for unity, an evolution, an intellectual revolution and aspire to establish the values Jinnah and Iqbal had wanted for their Pakistan.

 

Pakistanis must change their attitudes and themselves along with rationally analysing the situations to bring about a difference in their country, for virals can never be the remedy for any ill, in this case, the ills of Pakistan.

– Hafsa Khawaja

From Fascination To Inspiration : What Tunisia’s Revolt Signifies & Teaches Us



 
Seldom does the world get to witness nations standing up to take hold of their country from tyrannical heads and their atrocious hands.

Recently it did, watching in fascination as Tunisians came out on the streets to revolt against the corrupt and autocratic government of Ben Ali, their President in power since 1987.
 


What eventuated this uprising in opposition of unemployment, inflation and for civil liberties that lead to Ben Ali absconding the country just after 29 days of unrest as a young, jobless man Muhammad Bouazizi.
 
International Business Times writes about him under the title  ‘The Story of Mohammed Bouazizi, The Man Who Toppled Tunisia’ :
 
“Mohamed Bouazizi was a 26-year-old Tunisian with a computer science degree.

Like millions of angry and desperate Tunisians, he faced the unpleasant combination of poor employment prospects and food inflation. Moreover, the Tunisian government was seen as corrupt and authoritarian.
By December 17, resentment against authorities has been brewing for a while.
To make ends meet, the unemployed Bouazizi sold fruits and vegetables from a cart in his rural town of Sidi Bouzid, located 160 miles from the country’s capital Tunis. He did not have a license to sell, but it was his sole source of income.

On December 17, authorities confiscated his produce and allegedly slapped his face.
Bouazizi became incensed.
                                                                                                                                                          

He then drenched himself in gasoline and set himself on fire outside the governor’s office. Bouazizi survived his initial suicide attempt. After being transported to a hospital near Tunis, he was visited by President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali before passing away on January 4.

 

 

After his suicide attempt, unrest broke out in Sidi Bouzid. The police cracked down on the protestors, which only fueled the movement. The revolt eventually spread to the capital city.”
 
For decades, many a nations under totalitarian regimes have eagerly fancied the idea of a revolution – waiting for the ‘right time’ and a leader to take them forward to actualize it but Tunisians have shown that when it comes to taking back the ownership of their country, no nation needs a leader rather their actions have asserted the reality that nations are their own leaders.
 
Those who had been following the unfolding of events in the Arab country since December had their thoughts about the marches, protests and riots dangling between doubts over their success yet the citizens of Tunisia proved that it is people like them who deserve a country and freedom – for they value and fight for it and in the end, the power and will of the people is what will always surface to reign high.


 
Award-winning columnist and an international public speaker on Arab and Muslim issues, Mona El-Tahawy has penned-down a notable piece on the happening in The Washington Post:
                                                                                                                                                              

For decades, a host of Arab dictators have justified their endless terms in office by pointing to Islamists waiting in the wings. Having both inflated the egos and power of Islamists and scared Western allies into accepting stability over democracy, those leaders were left to comfortably sweep “elections.”
                                                                                                                                                      

Ben Ali was elected to a fifth term with 89.62 percent of the vote in 2009.


All around him is a depressingly familiar pattern. Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi (68 years old) has been in power since 1969; Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh (64) has ruled since 1978 and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (82) since 1981. Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika (73) is a relative newcomer, having been in power only since 1999. Not so much fathers as grandfathers of their nations, these autocrats cling to office – and are increasingly out of touch with their young populaces.

No doubt, every Arab leader has watched Tunisia’s revolt in fear while citizens across the Arab world watch in solidarity, elated at that rarity: open revolution.”

This is not only a matter of much relevance and significance for Arabs but also countries like Pakistan, which today staggers towards the precipice of danger finding it hard to balance the burden of terrorism, inflation, poverty, rife corruption, institutional dysfunctions etc – hoisted on its back by years of military rule and political tug of wars for control of the state.
                                                                                                                                                           

One hopes that the result of the Tunisian rebellion and revolt is a domino effect. Are Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Syria or Pakistan next? After all, the nations of these countries do possess simmering feelings of frustration and have been forced to swallow too many bitter pills over the years.
                                                                                                                                                              

Every population is as capable as that of Tunisia to kick start a movement of dissent yet what most of them lack currently is the will, unity and valor of the Tunisians to exercise this, for which they must be saluted.
  
An Egyptian friend and youth pertinently comments on the whole situation:
                                                                                                                                                             

All we lack is the start. What started it in Tunisia is one of the most commonly incidents that you can see daily, a simple man burning himself up protesting for being unemployed, which led to one of the biggest protests in the Tunisian history…

We also need to realize that its our own countries not theirs (rulers), so every right in these countries is ours, not them being so ‘kind’ giving them to us. We should be the feared side.

While it may be too soon or facile to term this revolt a complete success, it has come to symbolize what can be labeled as an inspiration for countless countries and future order of events.
 

 Vive Le Tunisia!

 

– Hafsa Khawaja

Taming The Wild One : Media In Pakistan


Carte blanche for anything leads to an unhealthy atmosphere to be created in the sphere of its activities.

In a country where events have lead to the people lending unparallel countenance to the media, the line that should have been long drawn between freedom for the media and abuse of freedom seems to have self-effaced.

 

Media, both print and electronic, has become an important instrument in weaving a society’s ideologies and opinions both politically, mentally, emotionally and socially but in a country like Pakistan where for the past 63 years; the nation has been jerking between the rules of corrupt politicians and power-thirsty Generals which has nurtured the feelings of divestiture, infuriation and pessimism amongst them; the media with its raging political expositions and uncovering of happenings swept under the carpet by those running the country – has surfaced as a significant organ which is immensely trusted and supported by the people.

Media ethics have dwindled in the storm of the 21st Century that has left behind a plethora of ‘psuedo intellectuals’, anchors, journalists and a spate of private media channels.

Its influence on the mind of the average Pakistani has swollen to an enormous extent that almost boundless reliance and confidence is bestowed unto them.

Rather than informing people, the media has begun to feed them news that they wish to and each word of it is believed resulting into the paucity of much-needed critical thinking amongst them.

This utmost belief has also let the media commence with whatever they plan in the run for booming ratings or reader/viewership, without any questioning thus the swift corrosion of media ethics and principles.

 

It’d be apt to quote Arundhati Roy here:

 “In the race for sensationalism the line between reporting news and manufacturing news is becoming blurred.”

  

 

Impartiality seems to have withered visibly with open bias seeping into what is written and reported. One-sided stories, deceptive and misleading headlines and fallacies have become rampant.

Interpretive journalism with sharp visible tones of personal opinions has rocketed causing a considerable abrasion of neutrality.

Thomas Patterson, a Professor of Government & the Press at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government guages the reasons that breed negativity in news in his book ‘The Vanishing Voter’ which can be associated to journlaism here also:

 [Excerpts]:

 “Interpretive reporting has unleashed the skepticism traditional in journalism. This style requires reporters to give shape to the news, and they tend naturally to shape it around their perspective on politics. To the journalist, politics is not a struggle over policy issues. They see it largely as a competitive game waged between power-hungry leaders. Politicians’ failings and disputes are played up; their successes and overtures are played down.”

 

Bashing political figures with boisterous, unjustified insolence and a brazen condescending attitude has slipped into the garb of a growing fad while sensationalism (which is defined as “the notion that media outlets often choose to report heavily on stories with shock value or attention-grabbing names or events, rather than reporting on more pressing issues to the general public. In the extreme case, the media would report the news if it makes a good story, without much regard for the factual accuracy or social relevance.” ) and yellow journalism coupled with impudent insensitivity, have transformed into a raging conflagration.

 

American historian and journalist Frank Luther Mott had defined yellow journalism in terms of five characteristics:

1. Scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news

2. Lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings

3. Use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudo-science, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts

4. Emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips (which is now normal in the U.S.)

5. Dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.

It is undisputably conspicuous from here, that some of these characteristics do exist widely in Pakistani media.

The need of the hour is certainly a code of conduct for the press and media in Pakistan.

The last was adopted by the General Assembly of the Committee of the Press on May 17, 1972 – with only 17 points and those too in accordance with the situations 39 years ago.

In October 2002, the government issued a new code as part of the “Press Council of Pakistan Ordinance”, though published under a military government, it is comparatively better than the former.

The Pakistani Government needs to revise, update, make alterations and additions in the previous documents of media conduct or chart out an entirely new comprehensive code of ethics which neither provides or is used as a tool for advantage by any of the two parties (Government and the media), which addresses and establishes accountability of the expanding affairs related to the media of today and ensures the prevention of misdemeanor by journalists and the media-men.

 

Even India’s Norms of Journalistic Conduct is a much particularized set of rules.

Ranging from Pre-publication Verification, Parameters of the right of the Press to comment on the acts and conduct of public officials, discernment between Conjecture, comment and fact, / encouragement of social evils to be eschewed, Covering communal disputes/ clashes, Reporting on natural calamities and Investigative journalism, its norms and parameters – it is characterized enough to deal with the emerging matters and activities of the media in this decade.

Keeping in view the stage of our budding media, the introduction of restraints and limits concerning the print and electronic media has become a compulsion of time. They need to be made and put into effect immediately so that our media evolves into a mature and responsible structure whose rightful freedom, position and flamboyance is preserved and protected while guaranteeing it complies to remain inside the set boundaries.

 

Most importantly, the regulations should be enforced and strictly actuated with their following stringently monitored by either a Government or autonomous body – for implementation of laws and plans is one of the basic problems in Pakistan.

A position paper titled ‘Codes of Conduct’ by Mike Jempson, Director of ‘The Press Wise Trust’ is a commendable work that concisely provides an understanding of why the code is required and the plan to sketch it and implement it.

It also mentions:

  “Media freedom is NOT about allowing those who can afford to own media outlets, or who work as journalists, to do what they wish (to make money or obtain political advantage); it is about guaranteeing the public the right to receive and communicate information and ideas.

 As The Press Wise Trust puts it: ‘Press freedom is a responsibility exercised by journalists on behalf of the public’.

The position of the media of any country forms an essential part in the criterion to judge the state of matters there and an independent media is the cornerstone of a democratic government but a sense of aversion and a feeling of distastefulness is developing towards the media in Pakistan due to the wrong direction it is taking its given freedom towards.

Rather than availing it, it is being abused.

I A Rahman, in his piece titled ‘Balance or Power’ states:

“The Pakistan media has almost always been the victim of excesses by governments, democratic as well as dictatorial, though the former cannot be as highhanded as the latter. As a result, the media has developed a persecution syndrome that has bred an exaggerated feeling of self-righteousness on the one hand, and an aversion to self-criticism on the other hand. Neither can be defended all the time, and the present appears to be a good opportunity for the media to do some soul-searching.”

 

So as the media gallops, wildly, to enjoy its independence on Pakistani soil – it must be tamed before it tramples much on the very ground.

 

– Hafsa Khawaja

Chaos and Revolution


As published in the Newspost :

This is in response to Ghani Khan’s letter (News Post, Nov 3). He has raised some very important points and I am in complete agreement with him. With this nation being unorganised and hankering for a French – or Iran-style revolution, what we forget is the intellectual revolution that took place in Europe and is called ‘The Age of Enlightenment’. It produced great thinkers like Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, Mikhail Lomonosov, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and many others. These were the men who woke the people up from their slumber, taught them to question and learn while setting the stage for change.
In Pakistan, intellectual freedom is not practised so talking about a revolution is useless. It has become our hobby to put the blame for every mishap on ‘foreign hands’ and people do not look beyond such preposterous theories. Our nation needs to realise that without a change in ourselves, there can be no change in Pakistan. As Marilyn Ferguson said, “The greatest revolution in our generation is that of human beings, who by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Hafsa Khawaja
Lahore