Bravo, Greenshirts!


My letter in the NewsPost today :

‘We lost a whole series just before the World Cup. Our country was denied the right to host the World Cup. Our players were shunned by the IPL management. Three of our cricketers were convicted of spot fixing while we also had the honour of having a runaway wicket-keeper. We suffered humiliation at an international level and as a result, we had a demoralised team. Who would have thought that our team would make it to the semi-finals? This is called winning! We should all be incredibly proud of our team. Our captain should not have apologised. He may not have won the Cup but he has surely won the hearts of this nation.

Our journey ended at this year’s World Cup but our team managed to unite the whole Pakistani nation as one. A tremendous homecoming should be given to our players. Plus, I hope that the atmosphere of ‘Pakistaniyat’ that had been created in the country before the India-Pakistan match would persist even after it!

Hafsa Khawaja,

Lahore.’

My post on why we should be proud of Team Pakistan as it returns home.

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

The Angraizi Complex


Aamna Haider Isani had written an article for Instep by the title:  ‘A New Body Language For Cricket!’. In it, she mentioned the joy of watching a win for Pakistan but something she wrote triggered the engine of my mind to run and the muscles in my fingers to be exercised. Such were the two lines:

“The only slight shudder one feels is when Pakistan wins and Afridi has to talk to the commentator on how the “boys played well”‘ and “All credit goes to Umar Gul for sticking to Urdu” and from here I begin another blog post : The English or Angraizi Complex.

With a society immersed in denialism, dogmatism and their thorny roots that prickle when someone thinks out of the box – and that too, in a country marred by terrorism, corruption, unstable Governments with even exacerbated situations of political tensions, social confusions and economic strains, since the commencement of the War on Terror : the Pakistani mind-set is labyrinthine.

Although its been more than six decades since Pakistan’s liberation from the yoke of imperialism, yet the colonial-inculcated sense of inferiority in the natives of this land relating to their culture, language, customs, physical characteristics et al lingers tenaciously here.

The best manifestation being that speaking English in the country is the yard-stick to measure the education, personality, back-ground, caliber for many; the ultimate crown of sophistication.

And so, it’s considered a reason to shake your head from side to side, in an expression of shame lest Angraizi does not flow ‘fur fur’ on your tongue.

One fails to understand this, why do the Pakistani people stress incredibly upon learning English for our players or any other famous person from this land? Yes, this language is a global and important communicative tool to interact with and put one’s message across almost all around the world but everyone knows, its not for this reason that such emphasis is pressed on English here.

Our players do not go to the cricket grounds to speak Shakespearean English but to play and win. So what if Younas  spoke at a rate of 20 words per 5 seconds? So what if Afridi repeats the same words?

Are their accents and pronounciations larger than their achievements?

Indeed, celebrities and such popular persons are considered ‘public property’ and their lives are scrutinized but dismissing his flair and blazing performance for a mere language which he can’t speak fluently as it is neither his mother tongue nor his job to perfect it ? Those are petty thoughts.

The task of giving this country moments of joy is cumbersome in these times, but people like Afridi and our team make them possible through this sport. Then why does their fluency in this language matter?

Just because a language is global, it does not define or measure talent, class or stature.

Top football stars like Messi and David Villa, tennis champions like Nadal and many players in both football or cricket teams do not speak English. Many sporting stars of the world of today are proud to speak their language even if they know English or often speak English in their natural accents that are even difficult to comprehend, but neither does it disconcert their fans nor does it faze them.

Then why do we, impose this complex of the English language upon ourselves? Or feel dishonored when our cricket players utter broken English?

What loss of glory or ignominy  does it bring us? At a time when a variety of terrorists are the perceived face of this country, is the inability to talk in fine English, really the most of Pakistan’s worries? 

The success of India is often pondered upon by many Pakistanis but little do they realize that one of the basic reasons that the country is blooming today, both culturally and economically is their attitude. Apart from their hardwork and what has contributed to their economic success – most Indians seem to deal with their heritage, culture and history with three P’s : by taking pride in them, preserving them and promoting them.

Whilst in Pakistan, the culture and heritage is dealt with deal with three S’s : feeling shame in associating it with one’s self, shunning it and attempting to separating it from the course of life.

[Bear in mind, I do not mean the foul aspects of Pakistani culture and traditions. ]

Then why burst into flames of anger at other nations who scorn at our culture or country when Pakistanis themselves, fail to ‘recognize’ and embrace their own heritage, culture, roots, language, identity and past ? For if one himself does not respect them, why expect others to?

Hindi today, is in the top 4 most spoken languages of the world and Urdu? Pakistanis, the inheritors of this beautiful language which comprises Turkish, Arabic, Persian and Hindi itself, still hesitate to confabulate in it.

It is strikingly hypocritical, how a local who speaks in ‘broken’ English is met by pityful sighs and an eyeful of eyerolls but when a gora speaks ridiculously-incorrect Urdu, it is viewed to be ‘fascinating and cute’. Sad, to laugh and embarass one’s own while he tries to grasp a component of another culture but to be captivated by another when he tries to grasp our culture.

Culture and language are inextricably entwined or weaved into each other and spurning one’s language is tantamount to disgracing one’s own culture: a major social agency that forms any individual’s identity.

The capacity of this unfounded feeling of inferiority is the touch-stone of a failed people.

I do not condemn the usage of the English language or knowledge of it, but to treat it as some gauge-meter for many an significant things is a plain farce.

Deplorably, this concept is being furthered by many educational institutions and the institution of a family in Pakistan. Elite private schools prefer English as the sole medium of communication, rather some even handle the use of Urdu with strict handling [ Students are reportedly liable to punishment for conversing in Urdu in some of them ]

Families and parents are often seen to place the teaching of English as a priority for their little children while they crawl to reach the stage of learning, instead of Urdu. Its not a rare scene, to see some children in Pakistan with fluent English but terribly poor Urdu.

The abasement of Urdu and the ensurance of its protection, was also what was included in the list of interests of our people [ That later became Pakistanis ] in the pre-partition era and in the championing of the ideology of Pakistan.

To go by history books, it was one of what their identity comprised thus, there is less doubt, that Urdu language was integrant in Pakistan’s emergence.

When the British Imperialists came to the Sub-continent, they tried to foist the ways of their civilization (especially the language) on the people of the region, considering it far more superior than the culture of the people whose land they ruled. It may have inflamed the people of that time to revolt and rebel, but surely it is evident, that the imperialist-instilled constituents of their superiority as a people and all that their race represents and the state of being subaltern of all the natives and what is linked to them – are still obstinately self-retained in our minds; now be that the Gori-Chamri complex or this, Angraizi Complex.

~ Hafsa Khawaja