Reliable sources – by Gulmina Bilal Ahmad

It has been revealed through reliable sources that for the past five years the moon has come out in the day and the sun at night. In other words, for the past five years what we have been seeing is actually the moon in the mornings. The reason why we did not know about this is because it is a sophisticated optical illusion created by the Americans, Indians and Mossad.

The reason for hatching such a nefarious conspiracy was because all three are interested in disorientating Pakistanis so that we as a country are destabilised and ‘they’ can capture our nuclear weapons, our warm waters, our mountains and my teddy bear.

This revelation of the reliable sources has further been substantiated in a widely acclaimed and popular book Alice in Wonderland. Since what the ‘reliable sources’ and the book say correlate, it has to be true, you have to believe it and all future defence, foreign, economic and political policies of Pakistan will have to based on these revelations.

Confused? Why? If the front pages of newspapers of this country can have news analysis filed on the basis of what has been written in a book, why cannot opinion pieces refer to Alice in Wonderland for facts?

Every day, for the past two weeks now almost, one wakes up to find in the papers another excerpt or news story based on Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars. Each news story quotes the page number where such and such earth shattering information was revealed, leaving one wishing that the reporter would finish the book quickly. No hope is in sight, unfortunately, as a particular news group’s reporters have only reached Page 116 till the writing of this piece. Makes me wonder if the news group has heard of speed-reading?

The only reason that the book is being quoted on the front page indicating that there is something newsworthy about its revelations is that it is written by Bob Woodward and that the book is going to rack up sales. If this is the only criterion, why not base front-page news stories on excerpts from Alice in Wonderland? After all, Alice in Wonderland has been translated in over 125 languages, including Korean, Japanese, Egyptian and Arabic. It has the distinction of being the most quoted book after the Bible, Quran and Shakespeare. Ever since it was written in 1862, after the author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in order to amuse his sisters, particularly his sister Alice, on a long boat ride responded to her request of telling a story with “lots of nonsense in it”, the book has sold thousands of editions. Forget about the book. This year a 3-D movie was made on it, which racked up $ 116 million just in North America. Can Bob Woodward match that?

The real story “with lots of nonsense in it” is not Alice in Wonderland, however. It is the sorry state of media affairs in Pakistan where the front-page news is what has been written in an opinionated book. On the basis of one man’s opinion, governments and leaders are evaluated as to what they said, did and who they met and did not meet.

We are at war. We do not seem to be aware of it unfortunately. From the front pages of our papers, it would seem that we are more concerned with what has been written in books, cricket and the proceedings in the Supreme Court. The other two topics of interest are the assets of parliamentarians, which have increased manifold — no one bothers to question the research methodology or the fact that three years back the price of gold was dramatically lower than what it is today. Then there is the crystal ball fortune telling of the future of the present government. Will it stay or not? Will there be a battle of the institutions or not? Speculations, leaked facts from ‘reliable sources’, who said what and who did not continues. In other words, lots of nonsense, but do read on.

Read on while the Taliban have a field day burning NATO tankers and we find apologists justifying this act of theirs for perceived slights over sovereignty. We get upset when allies ‘infringe our sovereignty’ but when the Taliban do, it is of no consequence and there is a justification because of the perceived slights to the Muslim ummah.

While we are busy forecasting the future of the government in ‘will they or won’t they’ intellectual games, citizens suffer as a result of terrorism. At the risk of repeating oneself as one has repeatedly pointed out in this space, a total of 9,009 civilians died in terrorist attacks, along with a total of 3,215 security personnel, the most recent being the illustrious Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Farooq. While we lose our people, the ‘watchdog’, the ‘fourth estate’, the ‘mirror to society’ is filing front-page stories on Bob Woodward’s book.

The front-page of any newspaper anywhere in the world is designed to depict what the editor feels is of prime importance. In other words, nothing can beat the stories presented on the front-page of a paper in terms of its news worthiness and news value. What news value has Woodward’s Page 116 is beyond me. What the chief justice had for breakfast or whether his son is following traffic laws, is certainly not front page news, but our present media finds some news worthiness in this. In the meantime, the flood emergency response is largely ignored by the media, as there are no more juicy stories to it. The fact that to date there has not been a single disease outbreak — that were threatening at the onset — in the camps is not at all reported. Perhaps, Bob Woodward should include this in his next book and then only will it catch our media’s attention.

The writer is an Islamabad-based consultant. She can be reached at

Source: Dailytimes