Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Pakistani media - challenges and opportunities

Electronic media - challenges and opportunities
In last two decades, Pakistan has become home to electronic media. People have embraced free media milieu as a way of life. Society has started thinking (occasionally) and talking (mostly). Nothing can easily be brushed under the carpet, no backyard appears safe for dangling dirty laundry and no prisoners taken. If executive slacks to execute, it faces charges by people through media. If legislature shies away from legislation, it is made to legislate by people through media. Likewise, if judiciary falls short of mark, justice is demanded by people through media. Corrupt and unaccountable are challenged and weak and unheard of are empowered. But media package, like any other tariff comes with certain terms and conditions. Few questions arise, were we as a society ready for such big change? Did we have institutional depth to absorb media’s meteoric rise? Did we have business models to follow? Have we instated enough regulations through regulatory bodies to define limits? Like a nuclear explosion, the fallout of media’s eruption in Pakistani households warrants some retrospection.
Every challenge has the inherent capacity to turn in to an opportunity but if unintelligibly handled, even trivial opportunities tend to pose unprecedented challenges. Situation of electronic media in Pakistan is no exception to this. It promises immense business growth, journalism has one shot at becoming a reliable powerhouse in the country, journalists have an opportunity to cleanse their noble profession and lastly, it can shape masses’ opinion. In this context, media has already attained a place of significance in power matrix of the country. However, this may be the half full part of the glass and may sound naïve as it paints rosy picture of prospects and opportunities electronic media has to offer. On the flip side, these opportunities are not being capitalized by the electronic media to full potential, hence, transforming them in to challenges. At the same time, electronic media cannot be divorced from a nation society fraught with challenges owing to multiple reasons whether bad governance, corruption, injustice, disparity and tussle among institutions or external factors. Media, after all, like any other institution, carries the signature of society it hails from. While institutions promise end product of collective good, their good faith is often fogged by difference of perspectives.
Our settings are not ideal. It is not surprising that amid these mercurial circumstances, electronic media faces more challenges than opportunities. Corruption, security issues, lack of institutional human resource inflows and political partisanship are not strange terms in our daily discourse.
As a powerful fourth pillar of the country along with Government, Judiciary and establishment, electronic media has an opportunity to assume greater role on national issues. Peshawar incident changed Pakistan’s outlook on terrorism, National Action Plan came to pass removing confusions on our approach to war against terror. It helped redefine national policy for synergetic execution. We have seen a clear change in national narrative after Peshawar incident. After a long time, the nation has united. All institutions converged on one point in national interest. First time in last two decades, the nation celebrated Independence Day with full zeal and patriotic fervor.
However, after initial successes, synergy went missing in execution of NAP. On conclusion of recent corps commanders’ conference, ISPR issued a statement asking government to do more. Government reacted quickly by asking institutions to watch limits. Then the ball was put in media’s court. Now it is up to media to cash in on an opportunity to assume unbiased national role or be eaten up by its own prejudices. Ideally, media should play intermediary role by asking the government to do more and telling army not to antagonize government by public statements because NAP must proceed in good faith among state institutions. 
Crescendo of media rise in Pakistan is peaking up. It has opened up a whole vista of opportunities. Media is not only a fruitful industry rather an institution. So far, progress of media is only visible in expensive outlook of media people. Many have shifted Yamaha 100 to Lexus. This progress should not translate in to quality journalism as well. With economic success comes responsibility to take up unbiased stand on national issues. Information and sensation that sells fast is liable to fizzle out even faster. Bigger role of electronic media is the greatest need and reality of our times. More thought than action is needed to channel the energy and drive of electronic media in Pakistan.  


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Paris attacks-a perspective

Paris attacks were horrific and condemnable. However, we are not bound to sing to the tunes of western media. From a fighting orphan, ISIS went on to create larger state than Syria and Iraq. ISIS revenue rocketed from 1 million USD per month in 2008 to 3 million USD per day in 2014. Growth, capacity and threat of ISIS was misread by modern intelligence agencies and it proved fatal. Writing was on the wall. Terrorist attack on Europe was coming long time. Someone missed out telltale signs of Paris attacks because mass migration was already hustling Europe. Handling mass march of refugees was something for which Europe was not ready as Europeans had gone too complacent to handle a humanitarian crisis. The very way of life which is the center of gravity of Western civilization, suddenly becomes its Achilles when homegrown terrorists attack them. Multi ethnic composition of Europe is eating up on it. Ostensibly, Europe likes to be called a multi ethnic society but reality is far from truth. Europe has already become the soft underbelly of Western Civilization. On personal experience, white people are absolutely convinced of their  superiority over the rest. This fallacy is so deeply rooted that they will term this observation, sheer lunacy. Humans are by birth equal yet few believe to be superior owing to their skin and resource. An absurdity, with which they live all their lives. Though ISIS had been concurrently taking on Middle Eastern countries, Turkey, Russia, North African countries but never showed enough teeth for Europe but it came to pass in Paris through collusion of its homegrown terrorists and ISIS command (again European Muslims). But see how France was able to bomb Syria within 36 hours of terrorist attacks on its soil. This brings us to the unjust ways of the West which firmly exude that life of a Westerner is far superior to remaining. As long as intoxication of superiority persists, injustice will befall the world and as long as injustice persists, world will see conflicts. People will blame ISIS’ twisted ideology for that but if seen with impartiality, its more about economics and less about ideology. If it was about ideology then war devastated Syrians would have migrated to their ideological hubs in Hijaz and Persia but they opted to head West for better economic prospects. West is also confused why homegrown Muslim kids prefer 'medieval ideology' over their refined way of life? This is where multi ethnic Europe needs to look inwards.
War clouds are looming large over Syria. US and her NATO allies are limbering up for delivering a decisive blow to ISIS. It is just a matter of time when France may push for invoking Article 5 which if paraphrased in French tradition of three musketeers states, ‘one for all and all for one’. In simple words, an attack on a NATO country would be taken as an attack on entire NATO. In the meantime, after re-asserting her importance as a global player, Russia began assuming role of world leadership by bombing ISIS and anti Assad (funded by west) in Syria. Since then, her stature grew in the region. For US, matching Russia’s role in ME was withheld by imminent presidential elections and reluctance of Obama administration to avoid political fallout if they physically attacked ISIS. However, attack on Paris offered a breathing space to US to rally up NATO allies and Russia. US was yearning for lost space in world politics and Paris attacks gave her opportunity to once again play leading role on world scene. US did not waste time on reaching out to Russia on ousting Bashar-al-Assad but Russia is firm on backing him. Though fate of Syria had already been sealed when US funded religious factions in Arab Spring, but they could not have imagined that this adventure(or should we call it a misadventure) would boil down to creation of ISIS. As the cliché goes, history repeats itself and ironically it appears true. Osama bin Laden was invented, equipped, glorified, demonized and smoked out by US allies. ISIS is likely to share the same fate, except that ISIS has bigger coffers than Al Qaeda and may pose greater danger. All signs augur a short game set on hard hitting and immediate elimination of ISIS and long game of government formation (with or without Bashar-al-Assad) through soft diplomatic route.
Before we look for a way forward, Marshall Plan deserves a mention. After World War One, Germany was brought to her knees. Soon, Germany pulled herself together and on first given opportunity fiercely struck back. But on conclusion of World War Two, US came up the genius of Marshall Plan according to which Germany and Japan were brought back to their feet through economic support. Germany, over a period of time seamlessly fused in to Europe as if 60 million people never died in horrendous war. Recover plan was only parially applied on Afghanistan and Iraq. But application lacked political will as US was looking for an honorable exit, not a proper rehabilitation plan. Economic disparity and deprivation is the greatest tool of this twisted terrorist ideology. If parts of the world ravaged by West in recent past are not brought back to their feet in economic terms then sequel of Jihadi saga will continue. First Al Qaeda, now ISIS who knows what will follow.
Someone wittingly remarked and it made sense, ‘as long as West continues to impose her brand of democracy on Middle East and rest of the world, ISIS and likes will continue to take their brand of Shariah to Europe’.  In reality, both are wrong. Both crossed lines. Both paid the price. Yet, for any good to come to this world we live in, both need to change their approach to this matter.
Only Allah knows the whole truth. This is just a perspective. It may not comply with your thoughts. Please do leave a comment for everyone’s education.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

PTI- change or perish

Results of Local Bodies’ Elections 2015 have sent a strong message that PTI’s slogan of ‘change’ has been laid to rest. PTI supporters will again come up with ‘moral victory’ speech that against the odds they did extremely well or it is never easy challenging the sitting govt and excuses of such kind. If it may be asked from PTI, where is the Tsunami? Tsunami is meant to sweep the population away. It does not look for post-election excuses. It also seems that the metaphor has lost luster anyway. Problem is not with PTI supporters but its leadership, which refuses to learn from her mistakes. I have been a stern critic of PTI and it leadership, not for fun or grudge; but I felt this country and its people deserved change. That was only possible if PTI had changed her ways. Change is such a fascinating slogan, it can work its magic on most developed democracies like USA where Barrak Obama spelled his magic through slogan of change and inhabited White House for eight years. Unfortunately, PTI is not ready to lend an ear to any advice, let alone constructive criticism. It does not give the scribe any pleasure criticizing and then rubbing the salt by saying, ‘see, I was right about your wrongs’. I feel sorry for the country and its people.
Fact of the matter is that PTI has done well in Local Bodies’ Elections of KPK but vast majority of this nation is voting for PML N (Punjab) & PPPP (Sindh). So what is different about PTI? Like, other two major parties, PTI has won elections in the province where it has resource and power. Collection of political garbage of past and giving positions to people in party according to the size of their pocket(whether Swati, Aleem or Tareen) will change nothing. So change slogan is dying its own death. What needs to CHANGE is PTI’s leadership. But there is no silver bullet for over-confidence, immaturity, lack of political vision and poor decision making. Even if Imran Khan changes his close advisors it will not change his false impression of larger than life image of himself. Besides, those advisors who did not raise their hand when IK was jumping in to a blind well (second marriage) but when they saw IK’s mood of separation, they all agreed to the idea in the greater interest of the party.
Unfortunately, there will be no sea change in General Elections 2018. People, do not be surprised in two years’ time when same old parties will do what they do best i.e. Punjab to Noon, Sindh to PPPP, Karachi to MQM, Balochistan a hung result like always but what may surprise you, will be the result of KPK.
Like always, we shall leave PTI with some advice for CHANGE.
1.       Stop worrying about changing Pakistan. Change PTI to become a dependable political party.
2.       Live up to the ideology of Justice. Your selling point is not election rigging of others but Justice for people. Exercise your own best judgment juxtapose rigging allegations against justice in the country. Logically,  justice will sell more and for long.
3.       It must be clear by now that Imran Khan is not larger than life. He is prone to mistakes in personal and political arena. He needs some tough counseling or in-house-discussion with his aides in an open and candid environment. He needs to correct his bearing now or it will be too late.
4.       IK must stop slandering others. He publicly appealed to feel his pain on separation but he never lets go any opportunity to pounce on others. Double hypocritical standards must stop now. How can your pain be greater than others’.
5.       People of Pakistan have rejected PTI at grass-root level. Instead of crafting excuses, they again have to look inwards for answers. Establish PTI as a party of common people away from GT Road. Big showings in Jalsas in a constituency will not earn people’s vote. If 50 odd PTI loyalists from each district (most of whom are nothing but opportunists, investing today to make hay when sun shines on PTI) show up in every jalsa of PTI in the country, will always make good spectacle but they need to win elections through winning votes of people of the same constituency.
6.       Get rid of baggage from political waste of the past. Introduce merit in party and re-organize on battle footing.
We want Pakistan to change for the sake of coming generations. If PTI fails to change her attitude towards politics, 2018 will be her last general election. The party will either cease to exist because all those investors are running out of money and patience to hang on to it or become a second string political party without any significant role in national politics.