Declan Walsh, the New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief, is shaping a new discourse – by Karrar Hussain

In service of the Najam Sethi club of Pakistan's phony liberals

Declan Walsh, the New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief, is shaping a new discourse: How the disappearance of a ‘popular’ Twitter satirist/humorist (@majorlyprofound) may rupture Pakistan’s social fabric.

Pakistan’s alternative media (LUBP) has in the past archived Walsh’s dubious reports on Pakistan in his previous role as Pakistan correspondent for The Guardian (the same newspaper which is currently busy in exporting US-Saudi-Al Qaeda sponsored democracy to Syria), which can be read here:

On Thursday, August 23, Walsh wrote a lengthy piece in New York Times on @majorlyprofound, and the increasing concomitant concern about his ‘safety’.

I am sure a lot will follow in the wake of this report in ‘NY Times’ (we’re not talking about The News (Jang Group) or Ummat here but NEW YORK TIMES); however, a few points to seriously consider that will be mentioned below.

  1. Was a piece on an anonymous Twitter account more important than the hundreds of disappeared Baloch, desecrated Ahmadi graves, routine massacre of Shias, and murder of anti-Taliban Pashtuns?
  2. Was his life in as much danger as those of Baloch activists?
  3. Did writing a piece on @majorlyprofound require a field work?
  4. Do we exactly know the percentage of internet penetration in the country?
  5. Of the thousands of users on Twitter, how many followed him (you said he had around 10,000 followers; doesn’t Mubasher Lucman have more than a 100,000?), and how influential he was?
  6. If he was so important, how many ordinary Twitter users (the laymen, not the likes of Ejaz Haider, Feisal Naqvi and other members of ISI-friendly Najam Sethi lobby that you heavily quote in almost every piece) did you interview, and their reaction?
  7. Were all his tweets on the minorities’ sufferance? Of the thousands of tweets he tweeted, did he strictly keep his focus on minorities?
  8. Any comment on his tendency to expand his social circles in and around the country with ‘wimmens’ and important people with frequent humorous comments on them?
  9. Given how important NY Times is in academic, intellectual, social and political circles of the world, how regularly does Declan write on the ethnic and religious persecution of minorities in Pakistan other than @majorlyprofound, Sherry Rehman and Veena Malik?
  10. Any piece on Balochistan in NY Times?
  11. A major incident of Shia massacre (25 killed) took place at Babusar (Naran) only a few day ago. Perhaps Walsh never heard of that?

It is with concern that one must note the falling standards of international journalism too, when it comes to Pakistan. We previously thought it was a phenomenon that had affected Pakistani journalists only, but it comes across as something contagious now.

The New York Times must seriously review the performance of its ‘Bureau Chief’ whose sole concern centres around the happenings on Twitter.

Such a piece potentially belittles the more serious problems. Pakistan’s problems are far more complex and disturbing than a alleged satirist’s coming and going from Twitter. According to some sources, the so called Satirist is none other than a camouflaged member of Najam Sethi Club (of which Walsh himself is a member).   The issues plaguing the country force the world leaders to worry for the future, and NY Times, a very important newspaper of the world, concerns itself with a so called satirist with 10,000 followers on twitter. That is dishonest as well as insensitive.

Should we now expect a series of five-articles on BBC and BBC Urdu regarding the Twitter satirist’s disappearance?

Will not then everyone wonder and ask what ’embedded journalist’ and ’embedded journalism’ mean?

7 responses to “Declan Walsh, the New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief, is shaping a new discourse – by Karrar Hussain”

  1. Liberals are not Pakistan’s problem. Phony liberals are.

    Don’t blame Declan Walsh; he is a blond. Blame Sherry and Sethi who serve free wine to him and extract dubious stories.

  2. ejaz haider ‏@ejazhaider
    really? this makes it to the NYT? #NYT #RIP

    Xain Gardezi ‏@XainGardezi
    @ejazhaider NYT from last few months had a keen eye on pakistan twitterati and fab crowd with all the gossips. Courtesy @declanwash i guess

    Abdul Nishapuri ‏@AbdulNishapuri
    Declan is not alone. Previously another similar foreign correspondent in Pakistan wrote an entire piece on Twitter a/c of Salman Rushdie.

  3. Fans Worry After Pakistan Twitter Star Goes Off Line
    Published: August 22, 2012

    KARACHI, Pakistan — “Where r u MAJOR ?? What happened 2 u ?? I hope u r safe from mad dog jihadis.”

    Electronic cries of anguish are ringing out across Pakistan’s Twitter community over the abrupt disappearance of the popular satirist @MajorlyProfound, beloved for his acid commentary on the powerful and their prejudices. The unexplained closing of his Twitter account and a related blog on Aug. 4 has become the cybermystery of the moment among English-speaking Pakistani liberals.

    Channeling the American comic Stephen Colbert, the determinedly anonymous blogger behind @MajorlyProfound adopted the voice of a pompous, paranoid, honor-obsessed nationalist — Twitter posts typically started with cries of “whoa!” or “OUTRAGE!!” — then took things a step or three further. The result was a searingly funny and often jet-black perspective on Pakistan’s rolling crises that pushed the boundaries of what is considered politically acceptable — or personally prudent.

    A Pakistani should have been given the honor of lighting the Olympic flame, @MajorlyProfound declared during the recent opening ceremony, in recognition of “our expertise at burning things” like NATO supply trucks and Indian luxury hotels.

    Later, he suggested that the national team could do well in archery, but only if a photo of an Ahmadi — a religious minority that suffers grave persecution — were placed on the target board.

    “Pakistani shooters sure to win gold,” he wrote on Twitter. “But there is a danger they might throw grenade instead.”

    Such jagged wit won @MajorlyProfound more than 10,000 followers on Twitter, many of them influential in the Pakistani and Indian news media. Foreign journalists started to quote him in stories, sensing he had become a cultural touchstone of sorts.

    But the man behind the phenomenon assiduously shunned the spotlight. “I’m just a nobody,” he wrote in an e-mail exchange started by The New York Times before his disappearance. “I like to poke fun at absurdity.”

    His disappearance left behind disconsolate fans and, perhaps fittingly, a swirl of conspiracy theories. Some speculated he had been threatened or abducted; others predicted he would reincarnate in a new guise. Female fans — “wimmins” in @MajorlyProfound’s world — were particularly upset.

    “I am heartbroken,” one wrote on Twitter. “What will happen to us wimmins now?” another asked.

    The comments were, for the most part, tongue-in-cheek. But they also highlighted something serious: how the Internet has become an important platform for subversive satire, and outright social dissent, in a country where speaking freely can exact the highest price.

    Over the past two years, two leading politicians have been shot to death for their public stances, and a prominent investigative journalist was killed under mysterious circumstances in April. This summer, Asma Jahangir, an outspoken human rights campaigner, spoke of a plot by the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency to kill her. And even the hint of blasphemous speech can bring witch hunts and criminal charges. (@MajorlyProfound took that issue on, too: “On being asked if plasphemy law should be amended, 20% of beepuls said it should be retained, 80% killed the interviewer phor plasphemy,” he wrote on Twitter last year, in calculatedly idiosyncratic spelling.)

    And so creative young Pakistanis are turning to social media to vent their political frustrations.

    A catchy satirical song by the Lahore band Begairat Brigade was shunned by the mainstream media last year, but caught fire on YouTube, where it became a Pakistani pop culture sensation. This year another little-known performer, Ali Pir Gul, scored two and a half million hits on YouTube with a comedy rap that parodied the lifestyles of the feudal elite.

    “Every day you see your government doing things that make you pissed. There’s nothing to do except make fun of it,” said Adil Hussain, a 23-year-old student who posts politically pointed cartoons on Facebook.

    Twitter has played a cameo role in several national dramas. In May 2011, Sohaib Athar, an Internet cafe owner in Abbottabad, posted details on Twitter of a mysterious helicopter raid in his neighborhood that, hours later, turned out to be the American commando assault against Osama bin Laden.

    Later, Mr. Athar was called to testify before a government inquiry into the raid. As he left, he recalled recently, the presiding judge urged him to “tweet on.”

    Pakistan’s beleaguered progressives, meanwhile, have come to view Twitter as a public square of sorts. A spontaneous Twitter campaign in January against Maya Khan, a television host accused of harassing courting couples with a camera crew in a Karachi park during her morning television program, helped lead to Ms. Khan’s dismissal.

    The figure behind @MajorlyProfound said he had been inspired to write by the novel “Catch-22.” His target is a particular mind-set that dominates public debate: the puff-chested vanities, poisonous bigotry and contorted logic of certain politicians, generals and journalists

    He views his alter ego as “the love child of Homer Simpson and Adolf Hitler,” he wrote by e-mail. “What would you do if that baby started saying and doing nonsensically stupid but scary things, yet ran a country and had a bunch of rabid supporters?” he wrote.

    Times Topic: Pakistan

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    Why, turn to Twitter, of course. Recent events have provided a rich store of material, from the cabinet ministers who claimed to have found a car that ran on water, to the tortured talks with Washington that centered on notions of national sovereignty — or, as he put it, “sovirginity.”

    Beneath the punch lines, however, lies a rumbling anger, particularly over the treatment of minorities. In Pakistan, “Ahmadis and Shias are treated worse than animals,” he wrote by e-mail. “More importantly, they are dehumanized.”

    For some, Twitter has filled a void left by the closing of teahouses and nightclubs that thrived during the 1960s and ’70s, before the Islamist dictator Gen. Mohammad Zia ul-Haq warped Pakistani society. “Pakistan no longer has permanent public spaces for reasoned conversation,” a lawyer, Feisal H. Naqvi, wrote in the newspaper The Express Tribune recently. He hailed @MajorlyProfound as “Pakistan’s sharpest wit.”

    But even the freewheeling Internet is not entirely insulated from the real Pakistan. Several extremist groups, including the charity wing of Lashkar-e-Taiba, which carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, hold Twitter accounts. Twitter’s success has also sprouted legions of so-called trolls, users who direct abusive or threatening comments at other users. Women say they feel particularly vulnerable.

    Such worries surfaced during a recent conference on social media, sponsored by the American Consulate in Karachi and held at a luxury hotel. Organized under low-key conditions, owing to security worries, the conference featured lively debates on the uses and value of social media.

    It also brought together Twitter activists who had previously only interacted online. Not all of it went well. Heated exchanges between some rivals spilled into the hotel lobby. Since then, one Lahore lawyer has obtained a court order preventing three with whom he had clashed from commenting about him on Twitter.

    One notable absence at the conference was @MajorlyProfound. Jealously protective of his anonymity, he offered only that he is between 25 and 35 years old and comes from a middle-class background. His profile picture always features goats because, he said before his disappearance, Pakistani critics might “put up with sarcasm from a goat more than from a real person.”

    “On the Internet nobody knows that you are a dog. Or a goat,” he said. “I could be anyone.”

  4. Declan,

    I am yet to read your report on Babusar, or the brutal beheading of two Shias in Quetta.