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Charter of irresponsible journalism in Pakistan in 2011

Responsible optimism” is the catchy title of an article that I read today in my ‘favourite’ newspaper, The News (of Jang Group!).

According to the byline, Mr Mosharraf Zaidi, the author of the article, “advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.”

According to another source (PBS): “Mosharraf Zaidi is an American-educated Pakistani analyst and policy development adviser. He has worked as both a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor on education and as an adviser to the British government’s development arm.”

I really hoped that the article will contain both elements, i.e., responsibility and optimism for the new year.

However, I was a bit disappointed to see that both elements were carefully manipulated in the said article.

Based on my critical reading of the article, I have identified the following few guidelines for (continuing) the irresponsible journalism in Pakistan in 2011. Feel free to criticize or add more points as you deem fit.

Charter of Irresponsible Journalism in Pakistan in 2011

About the author

Abdul Nishapuri


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  • Apparently President Zardari’s media advisor too is for ‘responsible optimism’.

    One media advisor (of Asif Zardari) praising another media advisor. Silly games of the media advisory business!

    fispahani farahnaz ispahani

    I love ‘responsible optimism. My new New Year mantra. RT @mosharrafzaidi: “Responsible Optimism in 2011- http://bit.ly/gIjRnj #Pakistan


    Mosh Zaidi thanking Shahbaz Sharif

    mosharrafzaidi Mosharraf Zaidi
    @CMShahbaz very gracious of you, as always. I hope efforts are being
    made to correct structural problems you’ve rightly identified in past.

  • Biographical note from Mosharraf Zaidi’s website. How carefully he hides the names of his employers and pay masters. (Do notice ‘advisor to governments’, ‘political campaigns’, ‘member of staff’).

    Conflict of interest, any one?


    Mosharraf Zaidi has served as a member of staff, and advisor to governments, international organizations, bilateral donors, political campaigns, and non-governmental organizations for nearly fifteen years.

    His most recent assignments have required him to focus on decentralization and local governments, public sector capacity, project and programme impact measurement (M&E), counter-radicalization, state-building, elections, access to justice and civil service reform.

  • سال2011 حالات میں بہتری کا سال ثابت ہوگا،کور کمانڈر پشاور

    Updated at 1500 PST

    پشاور…کور کمانڈرپشاور لیفٹیننٹ جنرل آصف یاسین ملک نے سال2011 کوحالات میں بہتری کے حوالے سے تبدیلی کا سال قرار دیا۔وہ پشاور میں خیبرانسٹی ٹیوٹ آف ٹیکنیکل ایجوکیشن سے فارغ التحصیل قبائلی علاقوں کے طلبا سے خطاب اور میڈیا سے گفتگو کر رہے تھے۔کور کمانڈر پشاور کا کہنا تھا کہ فاٹا میں ترقیاتی کام ہو رہے ہیں۔ جنوبی وزیرستان میں سڑکوں کا جال بچھایا اور انگوراڈہ میں چیک پوائنٹ قائم کیا جائیگا۔ کور کمانڈر آصف یاسین ملک نے کہا کہ اورکزئی ایجنسی میں امن قائم ہوگیا ہے اور اب وہاں بھی ترقی آئیگی جبکہ کرم ایجنسی میں آپس کی لڑائی ختم کرنے کی کوشش کی جا رہی ہے۔ انہوں نے کہا کہ فاٹا میں قانوں نافذ کرنیوالے اداروں کو مضبوط کیا جائیگا۔ ہماری خواہش ہے کہ قبائلی علاقوں میں اختیارات سول ایڈمنسٹریشن کو حاصل ہوں۔


  • اسی طرح کے لوگ جو بلھے شاہ نے دیکھے تھے۔

    چڑھدے سورج ڈھلدے ویکھے
    بلدے دیوے بجھدے ویکھے
    ہیرے دا کوئی مل نہ تارے
    کھوٹے سکے چلدے ویکھے

    لیکن پھر وہ نادرِ روزگار شاعر یہ کہتا ہے

    جہناں دا نہ جگ تے کوئی
    او وی پتر پلدے ویکے
    او دی رحمت دے نال بندے
    پانی اتے چلدے ویکھے
    لوکی کہندے دال نہ گلدی
    میں نے پتھر گلدے دیکھے

  • In contrast, here is a specimen of a bold, objective op-ed (Babar Sattar, writing in The News, on 1 Jan 2011, exposing the khaki puppetry)

    What we will need to sustain democracy and rule of law is an army willing to (i) withdraw from areas of policymaking that it has encroached over due to our history of military rule, (ii) transform its mindset from that of a national savior to a vital state institution willing to fulfill its legal mandate, and (iii) subject itself to the public scrutiny and legal process that must accompany exercise of public authority by any institution or individual.

    Unfortunately over the last couple of years, we have seen a steady flexing of muscle by the army as opposed to a withdrawal. Since its first public assertion in matters of foreign policy during our national debate over the Kerry-Lugar law, the army under the leadership of General Kayani has been expanding its scope of influence to an extent that now the army chief is in the driving seat when it comes to matters such as the strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the US. From Wikileaks we also know that the army chief has been discussing budgetary issues directly with the US administration and wishes for the incorporation of a mechanism by which reimbursement of military expenditure by the US comes directly to the army as opposed to the federal government. Wikileaks has also confirmed that there is no change in the khaki mindset, and the army chief would feel obliged to indulge in political engineering if he deems such action necessary in larger national interest as defined by him.

    And finally the military’s aversion to legal processes and public scrutiny is no secret. The approach of our intelligence agencies to the missing persons’ case and the recent issue of release of 11 civilians charged with terrorism and then released by the trial court and the Lahore High Court are instructive in this regard. From the missing persons’ case it appears that the ISI and other intelligence agencies continue to work on the assumption that constitutional guarantees against arbitrary arrest and detention are luxuries that the state of Pakistan can ill-afford at this time and thus fundamental human rights of citizens can be dispensed with in the interest of national security as defined by them.

    The same mindset is reflected in the decision of intelligence agencies to force civilian jail authorities not to release 11 civilians discharged by a trial court, the audacity to abduct them once their release was ordered by the Lahore High Court, the initial refusal to subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the gall to come up with a cock-and-bull story about how imposters abducted the released individuals and how they were recovered by the agencies from FATA so that they can be tried under the Army Act! The army high command and the head of the intelligence agencies cannot possibly believe that such conduct is legal. And yet it continues unabated and any journalist or state functionary drawing unnecessary attention to such facts does so at the peril of his freedom and physical safety.


  • Kayani dictates talking points to “free media”


    Now here is an opinion journalist Mosharraf Zaidi, repeating the same talking point:

    “It boils down to this: Pakistan’s interests in Pakistan and in the region are simply not the same as those that the US and other Nato powers have. Unlike alliances that go back a long way and seem to endure all shades of politics, like the special relationship between Great Britain and the United States, Pakistan’s relationship with the United States is decidedly inorganic. To stimulate each other the right way, the United States pays the Pakistani military, and gingerly, its civilian government, to put the squeeze on the safe havens for bad guys in Pakistan that are targeting US and Nato troops in Afghanistan.”

  • Some gems from Mosharraf Zaidi in the last year.

    The Consensus About Drones – Part I – by Mosharraf Zaidi

    In criticism of Farhat Taj and Aryana Institute’s research on drone attacks. Propagates the anti-drone line of the ISI.

    Tuesday, May 11, 2010



    Reporters for Geo News, Jang, The News, and Dawn all emphatically rejected the notion that drones are, in any way, something that the people of the tribal areas enjoyed.

    Mussarat Qadeem, who runs a non-profit that does extensive advocacy, research and survey work in Malakand and some of the tribal agencies, shared with me, data from a survey her organization, the PAIMAN Trust conducted in March 2009. The survey covered 223 people in Bajur, Orakzai, South Waziristan and Mohmand Agencies. Her survey does not confirm the relative enthusiasm expressed by Christine Fair, or by the Aryana Institute. Instead, it shows more than 80% of respondents saying they do not favour drone attacks, because they kill innocent people, and only 20% supporting the drones. Perhaps more tellingly, the PAIMAN Trust survey shows that drones are one of the primary reasons that people in the tribal areas mistrust the US, with 26.5% of respondents citing drones as the reason for their mistrust.


    Of course, part of the reason the government never wanted to touch corruption was because this very day was what it feared. After all, when you construct a core advisory team full of allegedly unscrupulous thieves and charlatans, you should be scared. President Asif Ali Zardari’s political choices are a reflection of his own political skills. Among the Farooq Naeks, the Salman Faruqis, the Rehman Maliks, the Fauzia Wahabs, and the Husain Haqqanis, he chose a group that could help the Bhutto-Zardari enterprise flourish in terms of transactions, rents and spin, but not one that could help it politically.

    The answer is, it deserves a lot more than it will get. The national mistrust of President Zardari and his advisory corps is not necessarily misplaced.



    “The middle class and the elite both have a distaste for this man [Zardari], despite the fact that he’s never been convicted of anything,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a political analyst. “He is guilty in the court of public opinion … If there was a direct election, there’s no question that Zardari would come in last.” Zardari insists that outside the chattering classes, he is popular. His party is also keen to stress that he is a substantial politician, having previously served as a member of parliament and twice as a minister.



    Why Waldman must be sued
    The News, June 15, 2010
    by Mosharraf Zaidi


    The buzz being generated by an LSE discussion paper is truly electric. The paper itself is rather unremarkable, alleging long-alleged, long-acknowledged, and long-standing links between Pakistani intelligence and the Kandahari Taliban (those Taliban associated with
    Mullah Omar and the original extremist political movement that rose in the Afghanistan of the 1990s). What is remarkable however is the vigor and confidence with which the author uses already established theories and facts to libel the president of Pakistan.


    Mosharraf Zaidi says that Mr Matt Waldman should be sued for libel. I can’t say I disagree. The author is no mere student who is perhaps misguided. This is a long-time professional who should absolutely know better than to publish such sensational nonsense. A man of his stature
    must know that the obvious result would be controversy, and he should be held responsible for his actions.

    There are some real lingering problems with jihadi sympathizers both in groups like ISI and retired from the same. How does it do any good to solving these problems for such a report as Mr Waldman’s to be published. The only possible reason to do such a thing would seem to
    be an attempt to make a bad name for Pakistan so that we become isolated and left at the mercy of Talibans so that his country doesn’t have to make any more sacrifices. This might be a suitable answer for Mr Waldman who enjoys his luxurious home in the West. But for those of us who have to live with this Taliban monster on a day-to-day basis, it’s not such a fine answer.



    A hyperactive cocktail
    Tuesday, August 10, 2010
    by Mosharraf Zaidi

    The devastating floods across the country, the lethal violence in Karachi and the agony associated with President Asif Ali Zardari’s trip to Europe, all seem to have been rolled up into a hyperactive cocktail–a lethal intoxicant that dulls the senses while it kills us.

    And sure President Zardari seems totally detached from reality. The president’s inner circle, to a man and woman, was against this visit. Still he went. The mood in the UK and here was against making any mention of the word storm. Still he fell over himself to reinforce how close the UK and Pakistan are, by saying, the relationship will endure, while “storms will come, and storms will go.” But what idiot would mistake the president for his wife, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto? Those expecting Churchillian timing, Obama-esque rhetoric or Manmohan-istic wisdom from President Zardari should pause. Really? Seriously? The floods are killing us. The government is either doing everything it can, or nothing at all. The military is perfect, or it is evil incarnate. Mohajir blood-lust is epic. Pakhtun blood-lust is epic. Shias are victims. Sunnis are victims. And the TTP and Al-Qaeda are behind every goblin in Pakistan. President Zardari should have stayed, or he should have gone. And all of this is on repeat mode. Over and over and over again. The same mind-numbingly ineffectual conversation. So, perhaps, it really is time to take a moment to pause and ponder, what’s really happening here? As crass as it may be to try to reduce complex social, political and economic phenomena to small digestible bits of information, it’s important to single out the key drivers of the problems Pakistan is currently enduring.

    Finally, there is the inescapable anger about President Zardari. This is old hat. The real engine that drives the rage of Pakistanis around President Zardari is a little Urdu word called izzat. Pakistan’s urban middle class–disengaged from politics, partly because of the stark
    absence of local issues in the political discourse–wants their country to be strong and proud, like they are. This moral class in Pakistan will employ both fact and fiction to validate how it sees the world.
    For many, the blind nationalism and religious commitment of the moral class is a problem. It may or may not be, but we know this much. Future economic growth and the future of Pakistani politics are vested deep within this moral class. One certain way to diffuse the sense of outrage at the nation’s izzat being at stake is to enable the moral class to engage in issues that actually matter. Their streetlights and parks. Their schools. Their hospitals. Their cops. To do that, Pakistan needs local government that genuinely adheres to democratic, administrative and fiscal subsidiarity. An insecure Islamabad (and Pindi) doesn’t have the confidence to cede provinces their rights and responsibilities, therefore the provinces don’t have the confidence to do the same for districts and beyond. And so goes this cycle of tragedy, incompetence and breaches of izzat.



    “For most of the Pakistanis, the narrative of the Taliban is very compelling,” said Mosharraf Zaidi, a political economist based in Islamabad. And this was not because the society wants to be Talibanised but because the religious Right hijacks the language of the Taliban and al Qa’eda, he said.

    That is why an attempt was made by the religious segment to divert the attention from the flogging incident to the drone attacks by the US inside Pakistan, Mr Zaidi said.

    “The United States is out of step with the people of Pakistan as it fails to recognise the sense of kin Pakistanis have with fellow Muslims. The drone attacks are equated with the murder of innocent Muslims.”

    The lack of moral clarity among ordinary Pakistanis regarding terrorism comes from confusion between political violence and faith, Mr Zaidi said.

    “There are a lot of similarities between the religious symbols of Islam and the terrorist groups using the name of Islam,” he said.

    “Furthermore, the state has tolerated and cultivated an angry and political Islam. That explains part of the trouble.”



    If we want this bloody war to end, which I believe we all do, we need to have a frank discussion grounded in reality. The war isn’t going to
    end with the wave of a magic wand, no matter how much Mosharraf Zaidi wants it. There are going to be some terms to the completion of the effort. And if we are determining what we want these terms to be with a false set of facts, we are likely to get an outcome we don’t want.



    Mosharraf Zaidi’s Latest Column Starts Well, Then Flops
    August 2nd, 2010

    By Adeel

    Mosharraf Zaidi’s column from last week about why we should praise the Wikileaks because they will help “end the war” is a mixed bag. On the one had, he does make a good argument that American willingness to believe that ISI is a bogey man is the same as our own willingness to see the hand of CIA or Black Water behind everything. But then Zaidi provides another example of failure to include realism in his call for the war to end.

    Let’s start with the good. Mr Zaidi makes an excellent comparison between the way different nations have distorted views of each others intelligence agencies.

    Over time, the space provided by an ineffective Pakistani state has helped the ISI occupy in western minds, what the Mossad and CIA represent in the Muslim world: a convenient red-herring to explain the complexities, difficulties and unpleasantness of war and diplomacy in a post-9/11 world.

    Western conspiracy theories about Pakistan’s evil double-cross in Afghanistan don’t need to be rooted in absolute truth, just a scant kernel of the truth will often do. In that way, it is once again eminently clear that talk of a “clash of civilisations” is garbage. It turns out that human beings are the same everywhere.

    Pakistan’s obsession with conspiracy theories is well-documented by the western media. This small sampling, for example, took less than five minutes to compile: August 24, 2005, “Pakistan: In the Land of Conspiracy Theories” PBS Frontline. May 12, 2009, “A Grand Conspiracy Theory From Pakistan” NY Times The Lede. November 17, 2009, “Pakistan’s conspiracy theories” Reuters Blog. November 27, 2009, “Pakistan conspiracy theories stifle debate” BBC News. December 24, 2009, “Conspiracy Theories ‘Stamped In DNA’ Of Pakistanis” NPR. February 12, 2010, “Blackwater Conspiracy Theory Thrives in Pakistan”
    AOL News. February 16, 2010, “Pakistanis See a Vast U.S. Conspiracy Against Them” Time Magazine. April 28, 2010, “Pakistanis just love
    conspiracy theories” PRI’s The World. May 25, 2010, “U.S. Is a Top Villain in Pakistan’s Conspiracy Talk” NY Times. May 26, 2010, “Times
    Square bombing conspiracy theory takes hold in Pakistani media” Yahoo News.

    This kind of coverage of Pakistan irks some within the Islamic Republic. But it really shouldn’t. It is absolutely true that the current conflict between terrorists and ordinary Pakistanis has been made worse by our national and collective dependence on invisible and indefensible theories about the harm wished on us by other countries. Most of all, conspiracy theories, which tend to be based on small kernels of truth, help us avoid uncomfortable realities. Pakistan has a massive national security problem that is rooted in the violent extremism it once invested in as a strategy in Afghanistan. That is an uncomfortable reality.

    It is too easy and too convenient for Americans to blame everything on
    ISI. It is obvious that the situation is much more complex and requires a more nuanced understanding. Similarly, it is ridiculous for conspiracy theorists like Shireen Mazari and Ahmed Quraishi to blame everything under the sun on some CIA or Black Water plot.

    If Mosharraf Zaidi had stopped there, he would have had a pretty good column. But instead he concludes with a statement that is puzzling in its naivete.

    Focusing on the adverse role of the ISI — real and imagined — in Afghanistan is a distraction. Ending Obama’s Afghan war is the true purpose behind the Wikileaks expose. For that it should be celebrated. Not mourned.

    There are two major problems with this statement. First is that the
    Wikileaks will result in the murders of some Afhgan civilians at the
    hand of militants because they have been exposed as working against
    the jihadis. Maybe this doesn’t matter to Mosharraf Zaidi because it
    fits his political goal of “ending the war”. So these innocent Afghans will just be casualties of Zaidi’s own battle.

    But what is worse is that Zaidi’s stated goal is “end the war”. This sounds nice, but what does it mean? What are the terms under which the war will end? If I tell you I will cook you dinner, that may sound nice. But if I serve you a bowl of garbage, will you be grateful?

    Wars do not end in a vacuum. There must be some terms to the end.
    Wishing for everyone to simply put down their weapons and go home is a child’s dream. Mosharraf Zaidi is an adult and should not have such
    simple and naive thoughts.

    Does Zaidi want there to be yet another peace deal with militant groups? How many times will we sign such “deals” only to be treated as a surrendering force? Has he not heard of the SHAKAI Agreement from 2004? Or the Sararogha Peace Deal? Or the Mirahshah Peace Deal? Or what about the deal that ended the fight against militants in Kalosha in 2004 after which Nek Mohammad Wazir declared that Pakistan Army had surrendered to him? Is this the “end to war” that Mosharraf Zaidi wants? Pakistan surrendering to a band of militant extremists?

    Actually, we don’t know. Of course Mosharraf Zaidi doesn’t say anything except, “end the war”! This sounds great, but so does a free dinner. Unfortunately, Zaidi is offering a bowl of garbage. No thanks.



    What does Mosharraf Zaidi want exactly? Does he even know?
    July 21st, 2010

    by Adeel

    Mosharraf Zaidi is a man who does not want for complaints. What he does seem to want for are answers. He represents one of the great
    obstacles to progress in Pakistan because he masquerades as a “intellectual” who goes around making critical remarks about everything under the sun.
    But when it comes time for providing solutions, Zaidi has nothing to say.

    In his column for The News today, Mosharraf Zaidi even describes this evolution as it pertains to the American aid that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been speaking about.

    There was a comment left on this web site recently that echoed what is becoming a disturbing line of thinking, and one that seems to be at the foundation of Zaidi’s column. The commenter wrote,

    We need a governement of intellectuals and technocrats, with local governements, where people with clean slate are elected…If you don’t like to have Graduate Parliamentarians, the voters should be Graduates to have vision to select proper candidates.

    There is a famous book for students of politics called, The Best and the Brightest by the famous American journalist David Halberstam. In this book, the author tells the story of how the American government of President John F. Kennedy decided to include only “the best and the brightest” among the nation’s intellectuals. The thought at the time was that by filling the government with intellectuals and technocrats, everything would run efficiently and cleanly. What they got, though, was the Viet Nam war.

    Mosharraf Zaidi laments the ‘brain drain’ that we are experiencing, saying the ‘best and the brightest’ are choosing to work for the UN or
    World Bank or in London or New York City rather than as a CSP or DMG officer. Certainly this is an issue that is worth addressing – how to encourage our best students to devote their talents to improving the country. But Mosharraf Zaidi’s bio says that he himself “advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy”. Why is he not taking his own advice? Does his career choice not make him one of the “unknowns at the thaana kuthchehri and galli-mohalla level” that he complains about? Why is he not a CSP or DMG officer himself? Surely there is an availability for him here in the Pakistani bureacracy. It seems that for all his complaining, Mosharraf Zaidi doesn’t have any more stake in Pakistani politics than anyone else he accuses of being out of touch.

    The truth is, Mosharraf Zaidi is a perfect example of the impotence of the intelligentsia. They know everything they don’t like – military rule, populist politicians and parties, professional political advisors, etc etc etc. But they can’t come up with anything to say about practical policy solutions. Ini fact, when the politicians
    elected by the people and the “unknowns at the thaana kuthchehri and galli-mohalla level” come up with suggestions, Mosharraf Zaidi and his lot are only there to criticise, not to help.

    They can talk about all the right kinds of reform, but they can’t deliver. More worryingly, their reform-speak is often deluded, because it is devoid of any political rigour. “Let’s clip military powers by marketing bold ideas in Washington DC, instead of Rawalpindi.” Well. We’ve seen how that has turned out. “Let’s raise taxes!” Sure. Because nobody else has ever thought of that! “Let’s improve education.” Sure. Because it takes genius to figure out that education is a problem. Advice that is anchored in Rubinomics and Bretton Woods theology has been failing Pakistan for the entire duration of Pakistan’s lifetime. This should hardly be a surprise. It never works anywhere.

    Actually, Mosharraf Zaidi is in such a habit of criticising that he even criticises Mosharraf Zaidi. Today he complains about “clipping military powers”, but just a few months ago he wrote:

    “If Pakistan’s military will ever be the impregnable wall of defence for Pakistan that it aspires to be, it needs to be subservient to civilian oversight.”

    Mosharraf Zaidi’s writing is like the belch from an empty stomach: After it’s over, nobody is satisfied. What we have yet to hear from Mosharraf Zaidi and his fellow ‘intellectuals’ are some realistic
    suggestion for how to improve things.
    Mosharraf Zaidi says that it is obvious that education is a problem, but complains that everyone’s solutions are “anchored in Rubinomics and Bretton Woods theology”, which, honestly, doesn’t even make sense. What does Bretton Wood have to do with education? Is Mosharraf Zaidi simply throwing around monetary policy buzzwords in order to impress people while hiding the fact that he doesn’t have anything constructive to offer? It certainly sounds like it.

    Another blogger, Ahsan Butt who writes the Five Rupees blog, has noticed the same problem with Mosharraf Zaidi: He complains for the sake of complaining, but offers no practical solutions for anything.
    Ahsan offers some advice for Zaidi.

    If mainstream Pakistan wants to ignore [us liberals], fine, that’s their prerogative. But don’t blame us when shit goes bad. In other words, don’t blame the victim for the crime. It’s bad enough that we have to live with the actual criminals.

    Pakistan doesn’t need more ‘intellectuals’ belching empty complaints. We need people like Sana and Ahsan who are interested in moving the country forward. Mosharraf Zaidi says that “only organic reform” can change the lives of Pakistanis. To borrow a phrase from Zaidi himself: “Sure. Because nobody else has ever thought of that!” Please, sir, define what “organic reform” you are speaking of. And don’t include magic wands or time machines or ‘Democracy in a Box’. We’re waiting for your answers…



    The people vs expats, aunties and urbanites-
    by Mosharraf Zaidi


    If a functional democracy that produces popular and electorally legitimate government is too much for Pakistan’s uber-smart expat and urban elite, then they had better close their eyes. They ain’t seen nothing yet. When the PPP is done with the national exchequer things will seem a lot more like 1996 than they have since 1996.


    De-Musharrafising the NRO, Musharrafising the PPP
    Posted on August 4, 2009

    by Mosharraf Zaidi


    By adopting the NRO as an act of a sovereign and free parliament, the PPP will be putting on a cloak of infamy bequeathed to it by the retired General Musharraf. When it does so, the once proud, resilient and sacrificial ethos of the PPP will stand completely transformed. Passage of the NRO, for all practical purposes, will essentially be an act of finality. It will help extinguish the last remaining sparks of a flame that once burnt loud and proud across Pakistani cities. That spark was urban voice in Pakistan. Before the emergence of the middle class, there was once a different kind of middle class. People who could read and write and count.

    It’s the coattails of these liberals that enabled people like Husain Haqqani to enter the Bhutto court, and to legitimise their chameleon-like transformations from right-wing hatchet men for the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, to becoming right-wing hatchet men for Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol and the National Review. That constituency — an ever more precious community that is made up today of bloggers, academics, policy hacks and armchair critics with a readership and scope of influence, far larger than it ever was in the 1970s — is now on the precipice of being forever lost to the PPP. A PPP that has morphed from the formidable force the elder Bhutto constructed, to the secure, though weakened political operation that his daughter Shaheed Benazir Bhutto helped sustain, to what it is now. An inward-looking, village-exploiting, reason-rejecting, and lame-duck party of feudal aristocrats. Out of touch, out of synch, and not too far into the future, out of luck at the ballot box.

    What the PPP has forgotten, in part because it is no longer blessed with the extraordinary vision of an adult Bhutto, and in part because it is run by a combination of feudals with massive political constituencies and sycophants with no political constituency of their own, is that Pakistan is changing faster than the CDA can hand out contracts for unnecessary development schemes.

    Pakistan’s cities now account for just under 40 per cent of the country’s population. They may vote the MQM in Karachi, but that still leaves more than half of urban Pakistan, most of which lives between Multan and Rawalpindi. Urban Pakistan is sick of politics as usual, it has a small and insignificant stake in the mercies of rural patronage, it is taxed through the nose, and it is ready for change.

    If the best change that traditional politics in Pakistan can deliver is an NRO ratified by a parliament of the people, then traditional politics has no future in Pakistan.

    The legitimate president, prime minister and parliament need to wake up to the realities of this new Pakistan. An NRO validated by the legitimate parliament may have the stamp of legitimacy. But as we’ve all discovered over the last year, legitimacy alone does not guarantee good political fortune. The ultimate survival of politicians and their parties in a truly democratic system is contingent not only on the linear and technical legitimacy of their positions. It is contingent on the moral authority they enjoy. The NRO is the last place for the PPP to begin to reclaim any moral authority in Pakistan.


  • I don’t know much about Musharraf Zaidi. He is probably one of those unknown journalists who are hardly read and commented upon. I have now read his article in The News (Responsible Optimism) and must say it is crappy, lopsided optimism, typical establishment-civil society hoopla.

  • فرح ناز اصفہانی صاحبہ جناب مشرف زیدی کی مدح سرائی میں مشغول ہیں. بہت خوب. جبکہ مشرف زیدی صاحب حسین حقانی صاحب کی شان میں کچھ یوں رقمطراز ہیں

    President Asif Ali Zardari’s political choices are a reflection of his own political skills. Among the Farooq Naeks, the Salman Faruqis, the Rehman Maliks, the Fauzia Wahabs, and the Husain Haqqanis, he chose a group that could help the Bhutto-Zardari enterprise flourish in terms of transactions, rents and spin, but not one that could help it politically.

    It’s the coattails of these liberals that enabled people like Husain Haqqani to enter the Bhutto court, and to legitimise their chameleon-like transformations from right-wing hatchet men for the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, to becoming right-wing hatchet men for Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol and the National Review.

    سرمایہ دار کی منڈی میں سب مال چلتا ہے. خاندان کی عزت کے کوئی معنی نہیں. مال لگاؤ، تماشا دیکھو

  • From a different thread:

    Two opposing views on Pakistani media:

    Cyril Almieda
    via Dawn:


    The rumours swirling around the news agency which put the fake WikiLeaks cables on the wire are well known, as is the reputation of the `newspaper` from where the story originated — and yet the story found its way to the front pages of newspapers and as headlines news on TV. How?

    Why the easy gullibility on such matters? Imagine if the content had been reversed and the stories were about Pakistani generals. Still think the fake cables would have been headline news?

    Actually, you don`t even have to imagine. The real cables have contained damaging enough details, and yet the media narrative has focused on the foibles of the politicians. The coverage of the cable in which Gilani suggested the politicians would protest drone strikes in parliament and then ignore them has been particularly telling.

    Read through all the coverage of that cable and try finding anything anywhere which suggests a small-time politician elevated to the slot of prime minister because he was deemed to be the right amount of spineless could possibly authorise American missiles to rain down in Pakistani territory.

    Everyone knows there is only one institution with the power to make such decisions in Pakistan. But good luck finding even a hint of that reality in the breathless and shocked reports on the drone-strikes cable.

    Yes, the Invisible Soldiers are on the march again, but, even more dangerous, sometimes it`s hard to tell if you`re looking at one.

    Mosharraf Zaidi
    via Twitter (15/12/2010):


    really tired of attacks on the Pakistani media that keep focusing on the obvious fallacies and mistakes it makes–ignoring all the good.

    so let’s keep dissecting everything haters say; but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Pakistani media is a force for good.

  • In response to an email suggestion, here is a copy of Mr. Zaidi’s article reviewed in the present post:

    Responsible optimism

    Saturday, January 01, 2011

    Mosharraf Zaidi

    The morning of the first of January is always a sobering one. After all the inane New Year’s Eve celebrations, people have to get up in the morning, and get on with it. The year that has just ended wasn’t exactly one that left Pakistan drenched in glory. More than 5,000 Pakistanis were killed in more than 670 terrorist attacks. Pakistan’s right-wing, intoxicated on petrodollars and taxpayer rupees (courtesy of the invisible hand), continued its grotesque failure to represent even a sliver of the values it claims to uphold. Wikileaks put to rest the dangerous fiction of any difference in the ambient levels of national pride between civilian and military leaders. Most disturbingly, the economy continued to be a zombie lacking the robustness expected of an emerging market of 180 million consumers.

    Then again, perhaps we sometimes overdo our maatam about Pakistan. Every country has problems. 2010 was a pretty bad year for everyone. Our princely brethren in the Middle East were probably more embarrassed than anyone at GHQ by Wikileaks. Indians were embarrassed by a range of acronyms BSF, CRPF and AFSPA and the odd Kalmadi and Radia. Greece and Ireland, despite not being run by President Zardari, went totally belly-up. Libya still has Moammar Qadhafi and Italy still has Sylvio Berlusconi. Perhaps most embarrassingly, the United States is still mired in an expensive war run by an ambitious and Machiavellian general, who is nowhere close to wanting it to be over, all while US leaders continue to refuse to tax the rich.

    The difference between the troubles of other countries and the troubles of Pakistan is that in this country the tradition of a responsible optimism is non-existent. Our realism seems only to prop us to declare moral, economic and political bankruptcy – we are doomed, it is said. Our optimism blinds us to daylight robbery, the murder of poor innocent villagers and the hijacking of our faith traditions – we are doing just fine, and everything else is a conspiracy against us, we are told.

    There is of course such a thing as a little perspective. On this first day of a new year, in a new decade, of what is still a relatively new century, Pakistanis must insist on being responsibly optimistic about what the future holds. To do this, we have to stop and take a deep breath.

    There are a lot of things that call for a realistic, responsible and constructive narrative of hope in Pakistan. And we need not close our eyes to any brutal truths, nor condemn to oblivion any of our outrage. We just have to control ourselves, just a little bit.

    When we’re bombarded with fake news stories, we can choose to condemn the Pakistani media. Or we can celebrate the brilliance, bravery and contrition of the same media. From blogs like Café Pyala to newsmen like Azhar Abbas, the fake wikileaks was not so much a fiasco as it was a manifestation and affirmation of the Pakistani media’s evolving maturity and internal accountability. 2010 was a year in which this evolution took on a more vibrant feel.

    When we’re titillated by the mud and sleaze that has been flying betwixt the MQM and the PML-N, we can choose to hold our heads in our hands, and lament politicians’ disgraceful behaviour. Or we can consider the fact that all things considered, both the MQM and the PML-N are enablers of new kinds of political cultures in the country. The Noon League, it seems is done with its days as a proxy of the military establishment. The MQM, it seems is sincerely committed to decentralised local governments. Both a sustained democracy and the emergence of increasingly fiscally, politically and administratively autonomous cities in Pakistan are good things. They were visibly manifest in 2010.

    When the skies ripped open and Pakistan was flooded knee-deep in water and misery during the worst monsoon season in our history, we were scarred for life. Scarred by the clumsy callousness of political leaders, and the populism of our military leaders. Scarred by the drowning livestock, the inundated schools, and the looming disease epidemics. So how did Pakistanis respond?

    The same way Pakistanis responded in 2005 for victims of the earthquake and in 2009 for IDPs from Swat and FATA. Pakistani doors and wallets swung open and goodwill, money and love flowed forth like someone had unhinged Tarbela. From Slackistan to Hopelessistan and everywhere in between came forth the generosity and hope that has helped sustain twenty million flood victims.

    Did Pakistan have some help from abroad? Sure. But it was deeply and widely disproportionate to the magnitude of the needs. Pakistan survives earthquakes, terror-wars and floods because of the resilience and generosity of Pakistanis. 2010 was yet another massive demonstration of this graceful resilience and generosity.

    Of course, there’s much to be accountable for too. Human life and dignity seem to have little meaning for tiny pockets within the country, and the state seems to have no way to respond to these pockets. Ethnic strife in Karachi and all across Balochistan was proof. So was terrorism all over the country, including at Daata Darbar. There are no metrics whatsoever on civilian casualties in war zones in FATA, including civilian victims of drones. We can keep demonising the PPP for this, but those drone attacks and military operations are the domain of the Pakistani military. That institution remains unaccountable for its actions. There are also no metrics on how complex it must be to grow up Christian, Hindu or Ahmadi in Pakistan – which surely highlight the urgent need for legal and political reform that addresses equality of citizenship in Pakistan. Yet for all these problems, where do the voices for change come from? They are from Pakistan.

    For every sin there are one hundred calls for accountability. For every excess, one hundred voices against it. This is a young and evolving democracy with a complex set of existential challenges. Within the morbidity and from the so-called sea of mediocrity, arise absolute geniuses. All Pakistani. Where do they come from? The Aisamul Haqs, the Rohail Hayats, the Qayaas’, the Maria Toors, the Bumbu Sauces, the All Growth Pakistan 25, the Raza Rabbanis, the Asma Jahangirs – where do they all come from? They are from Pakistan.

    In the year 2011, there will be more. Any one of 180 million could be on this list next year. That rich and exciting possibility should help us get up and get on with it today, and every day in 2011. Happy New Year.

    The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. http://www.mosharrafzaidi.com


  • @ Farrukh
    I wonder why u ppl have gone so demoralized? People on LUBP have gone crazy. I think there was no need to discuss tiny issues. u can differ from other’s opinion but measuring one’s view point in such a way aimed at maligning image is even worse thing. lookin forward to positive criticism in future.

  • For a journalist or an anchor, it is a great professional achievement to be able to reach out to an outlaw who is being internationally hunted for and record his interview. On the other end it provides an invaluable opportunity to the terrorist leader to propagate this line of thinking and organization. The channel also benefits as its audience increases and so its income. Is such income or profit worth the ills it carries? The process strengthens the hands of the terrorist, leads to increase in public casualties, adds to the difficulties of law enforcing agencies in combating this menace and above all pushes country towards economic degradation and retards the pace of her development.