This is how we self-congratulate us: A comment on Nasim Zehra’s article in Express Tribune

Nasim Zehra, Sherry Rehman and Gen (R) Talat Masood with Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari

Traditionally lifestyle liberals in Pakistan use an 80-20 mixture formula, i.e., they inject the 20% pro-military establishment discourses within the 80% objective facts or neutral assessments in their articles. Of course we agree with the 80% of their content, however, it is the 20% part (e.g., Taliban = Pashtoon, or, sectarian clashes between Sunnis and Shias, or, involvement of RAW in Balochistan, or, politicians are corrupt etc) which makes them more refined, opaque and dangerous than their right-wing affiliates of the Deep State.

For example, in his recent article in Guardian, Mohammed Hanif writes: “Pakistan’s army is as corrupt as politicians.” This is an example of false neutrality, acontextual inference, with no mention of the third jeem, i.e., journalists as committed partners and helpers of the other two jeems, i.e., jenerals and judges.

We reproduce below an example of how liberal elites in Pakistani media self-congratulate themselves by constructing imaginary enemies, sufferings and victories while at the same time providing deceiving and misrepresenting accounts of events and affairs.

Some nuggets:

NasimZehra writes: “Had there been an independent electronic media in October 1999 there would have been no coup.” How conveniently she censored the fact that many journalists including herself were the first one’s to accept and endorse General Musharraf’s military coup in 1999 against a democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif.

NZ further writes: media has ensured “that Husain Haqqani is not declared guilty unheard”. The “not declared guilty unheard” notion is so entertaining. Would Nasim care to contemplate on and explain the outcomes of the Saleem Shahzad murder judicial commission, which conducted number of interviewed and reviewed a lot of documents only to reach a conclusion which was so clearly pro-military establishment and anti-free journalists. Whatever happened to free, vibrant media? And also the fact that a journalist represented was a part of the Judicial Commission and endorsed its findings. What else could be a better example of the classical unholy nexus of generals and their toadies in judiciary and journalism?

How a vibrant media can thwart a coup – by Nasim Zehra

No coup is about to take place in a Pakistan where the independent media has ensured that every move by every player on the national power scene is examined threadbare. This exercise in itself is both a leveller and a restrainer. Had there been an independent electronic media in October 1999 there would have been no coup. Examination of every move gives a fair share of public hearing and also self-examination, to all players. The resulting public censure, or approval, now informs the power players of the limits of their power, constitutional or otherwise. So while in the coming days we will see and hear some trial ballooning, some real moves, some political rhetoric, some bombastic claims, some propaganda, some shadow-boxing as well as alarmist breaking news, none of this is likely to send the president, prime minister, or the army or ISI chief packing.

The government will look towards constitutional and political means to survive, the army will be constrained to act within the Constitution and the honourable judges in the Supreme Court will engage with the Constitution remaining mindful of history and fairplay. Asma Jahangir’s critique of judgments and the workings of the Courts cannot be ignored and neither can the call to respect the judiciary as an arbitrator. Everyone, in any position of authority, is on trial in today’s Pakistan, even the Supreme Court.

The media ensures that the moves of all power players — government, politicians, army, and now the judiciary — are examined for historical precedents, legality, constitutionality, double standards; and whether they are based on individual, institutional, party or national interests. Regardless of which position they occupy, which party they lead, how many corps they command, what agencies they command, what bank balances they have, which ethnic card they can play, which foreign country they can lobby or how many votes they can poll, they cannot claim immunity to public scrutiny. All opinions in the public realm are scrutinised against the public’s inherent common sense, its experiential wisdom and the recall wisdom that the media discussions inject into public space.

Public debate and discussion, which many people are critical of and uncomfortable with, have emerged as Pakistan’s new power centre. Its ways are haphazard, and also in many cases questionable, but it is sections of this media that have ensured that the May 2 Abbottabad fiasco is not hushed up, that Saleem Shahzad’s killing does not go un-inquired, that Husain Haqqani is not declared guilty unheard, that a vigorous debate on the pros and cons of the memo issue is being conducted — the list is endless. And now in this current state of political boil in Pakistan, all power players will be forced to enter this interplay with this intangible power centre, by introducing their moves to the public through it, be it the January 11 ISPR press release, an observation by Supreme Court judges, the prime minister’s interview given to a Chinese newspaper, Nawaz Sharif’s call for abandoning the government or Imran Khan’s demand that the president resign.

Perhaps on a broader note, for us in Pakistan, in matters of power and politics there is only one unifying factor that straddles our collective consciousness; we all carry the burden of our tragic history. Tragic, above all, because a democratic system has not taken root. Had it taken root, we would have evolved a credible and effective national management within which Pakistanis could lead secure lives and have hope for progress, and where those exercising executive and bureaucratic authority were held accountable for their actions. Instead, through our history, Pakistan’s national managers, mainly khaki and occasionally civilian, have committed endless blunders.

In Pakistan, often pygmies have paraded as rulers, personal and institutional interests as national interests, and haphazard and reactive cobbling together of ideas as national policy. Hence modern statecraft, in a country so blessed with talent, competence and a collective will to reform Pakistan, tragically remain elusive.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2012.


Jan 12, 2012 – 10:42PM

Pakistans media may be free but its definitely biased. I am not sure that the Pakistani media gives a “fair share of public hearing and also self-examination, to all players”. The coup may not have happened, but tv screens were lit up with newscasters championing one, and they were hardly any dissenting voices. Not to mention so many news worthy items and issues that never make headlines or are victim of self censorship. The coverage or the lack of coverage of the recent death of girls at an Atif Aslam concert is a case in point.

Jan 12, 2012 – 11:29PM
lol this is hilarious “How a vibrant media can thwart a coup”….If army wanted a coup they’d bulldoze over this “vibrant media” of yours. Also I find it quite ironic that if there was no coup in 1999 there would be no free media in Pakistan today. btw given the current situation vast majority of Pakistani people would welcome a coup.

Jan 12, 2012 – 11:54PM
Media is full of right wing anchors and media personalities and they twist and make news based on their wish list. Emotional rhetoric, excessive breaking news items, and projecting national security state version are the main follies of current media revolution. There is no effective mechanism in media for their self reformation, they all have one yard stick to measure their performance – Play with public sentiments to get “Rating”. There are few serious and sober voices like you available on media but in this ocean of pious and right leaning media, they hardly make a small percentage.

Urdu Electronic Media only focuses on big cities and other non-issues related to Elite class. Why free media is silent on Baluchistan situation. Nationalist workers from Sindh and Baluchistan are still being kidnapped and dumped. People are being kidnapped by their own institutions. Why missing person case is in hibernation both in media and Judiciary?

Jan 13, 2012 – 1:21AM
Well, yes in general terms I agree to the drift of the article, however, specifically, the ‘coming coup’ was imagination of media it self in the first place. Beside self-congratulations, the writer should have examined the downside of media hype, speculative stories, and sensational pattern of breaking news, as well. Secondly, there must be some forum to critically examine the role of media too. Media has become really powerful, and as the power corrupts others, it also corrupts the media people. There are many examples of abuse of media power, but they hardly get on air! This aspect of media deserves attention, as well!

Jan 13, 2012 – 8:11PM
Recently an article in The Economist accused our media of doing the military’s bidding and of largely promoting army establishment interests. The behaviour of many journalists especially on the airwaves is self evident. The foaming self-righteous proclamations with pretensions of honour and sovereignty are clearly dictated.

Jan 13, 2012 – 10:35PM
Ms Zehra has a very high opinion of herself and her colleagues.
First of all, a coup has already taken place. The media is terrified of asking any tough questions of the army. Pakistan already is practically ruled by the army with no little help from the “independent” media and the “independent” judiciary.
Secondly, if the definition of independence is being biased against a democratically elected government, then Pakistani media is probably the most independent in the world.

Jan 14, 2012 – 3:41AM
Our “vibrant” media is only free to criticize and blame politicians and highlight their corruption and ineptitude.
The media did NOT do justice to the May 2 episode. Neither have they ever done justice to the involvement of our military with Jihadis and Al Qaeda.
They did not do justice to exploring the murder of Saleem Shahzad either.

13 responses to “This is how we self-congratulate us: A comment on Nasim Zehra’s article in Express Tribune”

  1. You belong to Najam Sethi, Nasim Zehra, Ejaz Haider and Sherry Rehman fan club and want us to trust you? We better trust Ansar Abbasi!

    Can anyone ask Najam Sethi, Nasim Zehra, Tammy Haq and other “anti-ISI” liberals: why no program on Shias killed by ISI-backed Jihadis?

    Can anyone confirm if Najam Sethi, Nasim Zehra, Tammy Haq and other “anti-ISI” liberals did a program on Shias killed by ISI-LeJ today?

  2. Will NajamSethi, TammyHaq, NasimZehra etc do a bold, honest program on the massacre of 25 Shia Muslims in Khanpur by ISI-backed Jihadis on 14 Jan 2012?

  3. Benazir Bhutto congratulated Pervaiz Musharraf for his coup and removing Nawaz Sharif’s government.

    But LUBP would conveniently ignore that!

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