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Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy: Contradictions of an Oscar win – by Safiya Khan

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and pro-Taliban, anti-women politician Imran Khan

This class exploits the poor on selective causes and profitable NGO businesses but stands with anti-women politician Imran Khan and pro-establishment politician like Farooq Leghari.

Esteemed anti-establishment writer and media critic, Nadeem F. Paracha wrote this blog in Dawn  (Art Off: Rethinking Shanaakht) about the 2009 Shanaakht festival, whose chief organizer was Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

It is a pre-emptive defence of what I am about to do: support the gung-ho PPP jiyalas who after being offended by a ‘satirical’ piece of art that showed late Benazir Bhutto sitting on the lap of General Ziaul Haq went on a rampage across the recently cancelled Shanaakht festival in Karachi.

Of course, the jiyalas’ reaction was roundly condemned by the ‘civilised society’ and supporters of the otherwise pretty impressive exhibition, but the immediate question that came to my mind was: How on earth can anyone who could conceive of a brilliant idea like Shanaakht simultaneously be so insensitively stupid?

It’s so easy for us ‘civilized and cultured ones’ to look down at those rampaging jiyalas as ‘thugs’ and ‘brutes’, but since I’m in a mood to make stark confessions, let me add that if they were thugs and brutes, then so was I!

Disgusting, isn’t it?

Well, disgusting is what those jiyalas felt looking at that picture that oh-so-cleverly showed their recently slain leader on the lap of a reactionary military dictator who sent her popularly elected prime minister father to the gallows and whose vicious intelligence agencies were probably involved in the mysterious death of her youngest brother, Shahnawaz Bhutto.

Admittedly, Benazir was no Mother Teresa. But then politics is no place for Mother Teresa. She remained an extraordinary woman. For my generation of hot-headed yet dreamy young men of the 1980s – many of whom faced jail, torture and even public flogging by the Zia dictatorship – she was a hero; a woman braver than most men, bolder than the malicious and trigger-happy generals of the Zia regime, and tougher than us, stoically bearing the humiliation, torture and jail terms that she served under Zia. Above all, she was one of the finest human beings, never uttering a single derogatory word for her biggest enemy, Ziaul Haq, even when the wily reactionary blew up somewhere over Bhawalpur in 1988.

Unfortunately, it seems this generation of haughty and arty ‘activists’ and culturalists only have the intellectual capacity to view her, not through history books and academic critique, but through the lens of bad, one-dimensional toilet humour that started doing the rounds against the Bhuttos in the 1990s, and continued even after Benazir was mercilessly assassinated in December, 2007.

Source: http://blog.dawn.com/2009/04/16/art-off-rethinking-shanaakht-and-benazir/

Is LUBP serious when it calls itself “critical supporters” of PPP? If so, how can it ignore the atrocious and disgusting personal attack by Sharmeen’s Shanaakht festival against Pakistan’s leading woman icon, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto.

I don’t condone the hooliganism of jiyalas who protested by tearing one poster but worse, like Nadeem sir, I was deeply hurt, disgusted and shocked to see some rubbish claiming to be art, showing Mohtarma sitting in the lap of the same military dictator who killed her father and imprisoned and tortured her family. Not to forget, when young Shahnawaz Bhutto, the apple of Mohtarma’s eyes, was murdered, everyone knew that Zia’s hands were involved.

Yet, it was not LUBP that reminds its tiny readership of the excellent exposure by Nadeem Sir. No, you are too busy being urban flatterers of Oscar winners.

This is what Nadir Hassan wrote in today’s Express Tribune (How to win an Oscar):

The pernicious influence of the West on Pakistan extends far beyond cinema. Anyone who has worked at a local NGO, after Pakistan suddenly became relevant again, will tell you how the gold spigots were turned on — but only if funding proposals hit all the right notes. Keywords like ‘Taliban’, ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘women’s empowerment’ have a Pavlovian effect on the likes of USAID. Once again, this is not meant to imply that such causes aren’t worthy of funding; simply that they crowd out other issues that should be as much of a priority for Pakistan, even if they are of no use to Western donors.

We also seem to have decided that our image, as projected in the West, is one of the most pressing matters currently facing the country. That we are in the news for an Oscar win is a matter for rejoicing, partly because now we’ll get a momentary break from stories about the latest outbreak of violence. And such feel-good stories will also ensure further foreign funding, more bouts of self-congratulation and more awards. Thus the vicious cycle remains unbroken.

I would like to add that while I fully support and applaud Sharmeen’s documentary on victims of acid attacks, I am shocked that so few are questioning the contradictions and selective nature of her work. For instance, why did she not select any victim who was attacked by ISI ‘s Jihadis in Kashmir?

Pakistan Blogzine writes this to add to what Nadir writes on Sharmeen’s selective activism:

She is a part of a powerful mafia in Pakistani and international media which has maintained consistent silence on the systematic and ongoing target killings of three most suffered groups in Pakistan: Shia Muslims, Balochs and Pashtuns. Nor has she paid any attention at all to Ahmadi Muslims, Pakistan’s most persecuted faith group. In fact on more than one occasions she refused to make even a tiny documentary on the suffering of Shias, Pashtuns and Balochs on the pretext that she did not want to annoy Pakistan army.

She is known for choosing topics which are no more than minor irritants for Pakistan’s military establishment (e.g., acid attacks on women), yet she fails to write on topics which might hurt Pakistan army’s real interests, e.g., sufferings of Shia, Baloch and Pashtun women whose dear and near ones were kidnapped or target killed by Pakistan army and its various proxies. Her choice of topics is driven by sexy appeal for west, commercial oriented agendas, instead of paying attention to urgent human rights crises in Pakistan.

Sharmeen can back and support a deeply anti-women politician and Taliban apologist Imran Khan. Did she not know his stance on the Taliban when she publically praised him? Did she and the Oscar committee not know that Imran Khan is notable for opposing the Women’s Protection Bill when he was in parliament (2002-7)? Did she not know that it was Benazir Bhutto who made this legislation successful? Yet, she stands with Taliban Khan and abuses Pakistan’s most loved and respected, women’s icon!

It was laudable on her part to support the victims of acid attacks. However, isn’t it hypocritical to then stand with those who are actively and openly working against women’s rights (Imran Khan) while being part of a disgusting smear campaign disguised as art, against Benazir Bhutto who gave her life for openly standing upto the Taliban.

However, this is not the thinking of the upper-middle classes who flaunt extravagent designer wear and jewelry while presenting the cause of those poor women who suffered acid attacks. This class exploits the poor on selective causes and profitable NGO businesses but stands with Imran Khan and pro-establishment politicians like Farooq Leghari. On Leghari’s death, Ms. Chinoy praised him on her facebook page for dismissing Benazir Bhutto’s second elected government using a clause that had been inserted by General Zia ul Haq.

It is truly disappointing to see that LUBP missed out on this – on the contradiction of someone standing with Imran “the Taliban” Khan, Farooq Leghari and General Zia ul Haq and winning awards as a women’s rights activist.

About the author

Jehangir Hafsi

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  • This woman, Sharmeen Chinoy, was an active supporter of Imran Khan only until a few months ago. You will always find her around pro-establishment urban elites and PPP bashers.

  • How to win an Oscar
    By Nadir Hassan
    Published: March 1, 2012

    The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad who also does risk-analysis work. He has worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline
    When I was a kid, I loved the proudly racist British TV show “Mind Your Language”, and not only because stereotype-based humour is so uproarious to a six-year-old. What truly made it an instant classic was that it featured a Pakistani, who always wore a Jinnah cap and mined canned laughter by mispronouncing English words. Back then, any mention of Pakistan anywhere in the West was a cause of celebration, no matter how humiliating the reference may be. The snake charmers and yogis of yesteryear have been replaced by computer nerds and gas station attendants, but that’s Hollywood for you: always reducing foreign-looking people to the most reductive character possible. The real problem comes when Pakistanis buy into the same game, actively striving to gain Western recognition or, for those who follow a more mercenary mantra, Western money.
    It is not surprising, then, that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is the first Pakistani film-maker to receive the kind of international attention an Oscar win guarantees. Her documentaries all perform the kabuki dance that brings forth international funding, distribution and publicity. From the repression of Afghan women to the radicalisation caused by the Taliban right up to Saving Face, which ties in well with Western efforts to highlight the oppression of women in Pakistan, Sharmeen’s documentaries fuel the narrative that has been set by the West for Pakistan. Unless you believe that the US government funds work only out of a pure love of culture, the fact that she has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the US (although not for Saving Face) only shows how useful they consider these kinds of documentaries.
    But this is not meant to be a personal attack on Sharmeen. The topics she chooses to concentrate on are all worthy of attention and have not been dreamed up by the West to justify military aggression. It is the consequences of the power enjoyed by western money and approval that needs to be critiqued.
    The western influence means that only certain types of injustices will receive the international attention that has been bestowed on Children of the Taliban and Saving Face. Produce anything on militancy and at the very worst, you will get a pat on the back. Try and produce a documentary on, say, the victims of drone attacks or labour abuses and make sure you stock up on battery-powered torches and imperishable food items as you wait in the dark for NGO cheques and gold statuettes.
    The pernicious influence of the West on Pakistan extends far beyond cinema. Anyone who has worked at a local NGO, after Pakistan suddenly became relevant again, will tell you how the gold spigots were turned on — but only if funding proposals hit all the right notes. Keywords like ‘Taliban’, ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘women’s empowerment’ have a Pavlovian effect on the likes of USAID. Once again, this is not meant to imply that such causes aren’t worthy of funding; simply that they crowd out other issues that should be as much of a priority for Pakistan, even if they are of no use to Western donors.
    We also seem to have decided that our image, as projected in the West, is one of the most pressing matters currently facing the country. That we are in the news for an Oscar win is a matter for rejoicing, partly because now we’ll get a momentary break from stories about the latest outbreak of violence. And such feel-good stories will also ensure further foreign funding, more bouts of self-congratulation and more awards. Thus the vicious cycle remains unbroken.
    Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2012.

    http://tribune.com.pk/story/344036/how-to-win-an-oscar/

    ………….

    Comments:

    Ali Wazir

    For anyone who thinks Nadir is wrong. Just answer this simple question. Have you heard of the critically acclaimed yet not reported documentary “The Invisible War”?(It came out this year) Telling isnt it…
    Taxi Drive to the Dark Side only got picked up because Bush was almost universally loathed by then. And the Gist was again that only Rumsfield forced the poor angelic marines into becoming monsters thanks to the stress and all that jazz.
    Easy to kick someone when he is down.
    Its Kinda like why “Inside Job” (which was critical of the Banking industry) won last year.

    Talha:
    FINALLY!
    The stupidity of the Pakistani blogosphere seems to have no bounds, celebrating like mad for what was actually a slap in the face. Let Sharmeen make a docu about the vastly greater number of rape victims in America, or about Abu Ghraib, or about the civilians lost to American and other imperialist wars, and see how much acclaim she gets.
    Indeed issues like violence against women are a sad part of our society and need to be addressed, but this Oscar was no “positive” news as many seem to think. It merely added to the demonisation of Pakistan.

    IA Agha:
    Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and her fans likewise are people who believe in the authority White mans certificate. The white mans approval that proves that they are great, they have done wonders, they have done the right thing and they are the best.
    But what about the Pakistani certificate, is there a Pakistani who cares more about what Pakistanis think of them instead of what the west thinks of them? To how many of us does the Pakistani approval matter more than the west’s approval?
    We Pakistanis need to get some self-respect instead of degrading ourselves in front of the west just to earn medals of approval from them. We know Militancy is wrong but so are the drones.

    YeaRight:

    Financial transparency is the cornerstone of responsible social work. Noble intentions and goals do not justify Ignoble means. Just like taking donations from the Taliban to distribute candy and books to orphans will still be considered polluted and not okay. So is taking money from the State Dept (diplomatic and propaganda wing of the US government) to do ‘social work’ in the name of Pakistanis is NOT OKAY!
    Such funding would have been unacceptable in ANY part of the world. Also if this funding is not a big deal then why is it being brushed under the carpet and not been admitted in public by the film maker?? That is just dishonest man.

  • Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has been tasked by Pakistan’s military establishment to promote ISI’s new puppet Imran Khan in Pakistan’s political scene. Sharmeen is often seen visibly and also behind the scene promoting Imran Khan and his political party (PTI, which is known for links with Jihadi-sectarian groups such as Jamaat Islami, SSSP-ASWJ and Difa-e-Pakistan Council DPC). Sharmeen was seen clearly promoting Imran Khan’s rally in Lahore in October 2011, exaggerating the intensity and impact of the ISI-manufactured rally. For example, this is what Sharmeen wrote on Twitter on 30 Oct 2011 as a running commentary on PTI rally:

    sharmeenochinoy Sharmeen Obaid
    The numbers are impressive- people still believe in the system and democracy! Thank you #PTIjalsa –

    http://pakistanblogzine.wordpress.com/2012/02/27/sharmeen-obaid-chinoy-and-her-oscar-do-not-mean-much-for-pakistan/

  • Another piece of garbage from lubp. Well done for bringing out such nonsense so consistently

  • Surprised…!!! LUBP’s godfathers have awarded the lady with the oscar.. still these guys are upset…strange…I donot know why the politicize everything..???

  • Oh I love that handsome pic of Imran Khan on ur blog. Isn’t he at 60 still so handsome, than your younger heroes? 🙂

  • Very clever of you for quoting from a 3-year-old article by Nadeem F. Paracha. Firstly, he attacked the Shanakht festival for its slip up and not an individual. Secondly he was one of the first people on Twitter to praise Sharmeen.

    I am a PPP supporter and I think if there ever was a sensible, intelligent and inspiring PPP jiyala it is Paracha. You guys should learn from writers like him and stop behaving like wankers.

    Lastly, this guy Nadir Husain is an immature fellow and in no way a columnist. I think he should join the Jamat Islami along with many of the lubp folks.

  • Ilmana, I completely agree with you. Whoever has done his Botox, face and chin tucks and hair implants has my vote any day. These bloody PPP wallas have such uglies. You will never catch them wearing Bantu or Sana Safinaz. Maybe HRK but she is ok. For me, its really all about looks and I am glad to find someone who thinks the same. Jeeti raho; so Scchhhweet of you to stand up for Immi!

  • Yeah my man YB! what a take down of these silly Urdu medium type wanters! Cooool man, cooool! These bloody LUBP wallas keep talking about Shia killings which makes them so Jamaati, right. I mean, get over it; there are more important things to discuss now like the glorious politics of NSF and MQM in Gurumander Polytechnic in the summer of 2006.

  • Shakeel Arain, you must be one of the Paindu Jamaati wankers of LUBP who have the temerity to publish something critical of Oscar winner, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. So what if she supported Musharaf and was critical of Democracy.

    She is a PTI supporter of an Islamic Welfare Caliphate State so stop cribbing; not everyone has to agree with you Jamaati Paindu wankers of LUBP on this whole democracy brouhaha!

    There is nothing wrong in Ms. Chinoy supporting General Musharaf; after all the latter was always supportive of women’s rights and his lucid statement on Mukhtaran Mai’s quest for a foreign visa is testament to that.

  • FYI, I am also a PPP supporter who votes for PML N, defend MQM’s secular credentials vis-a-vis its Save Aafia campaign and I will vote for PTI in the next elections. Like any sensible PPP supporter – which is unlike the Paindu Urdu medium wanker blog – I will find even the smallest opportunity to damage and undermine PPP. Cheers amigos – that is if you can understand my linguistic dexterity.

  • @BYOB

    LOl- I’ve nothing against her support for respected General Pervaiz Musharaf ; who just doctored referendum result without any manhandling unlike Waheeda Shah who attacked polling staff .

    Killed and make sure his political opponent can’t particpate in popular politics , created MMA , supported rapist of Dr.Shazia and ridicule Mukhtara Mai was indeed a visionary man .

  • I am not reading the article after this statement, everybody is cracked up in Pakistan, one way or the other…

  • SHARMIN UBAID IS WRONG ,IMRAN KHAN IS WRONG ,JAVED HASHMI IS ESTABLISHMENT PUPPIT,Pakistanis ,your DIMAGH must have been grazing around for grass.

  • […] I also remember how you suspended your event a day later and raised a hue and cry about how people cannot tolerate a difference of opinion and also how you now FEARED FOR YOUR LIFE?! All because a few PPP workers had rightfully protested a picture demeaning our martyred leader that YOUR organisers REFUSED to remove when first requested to do so! That picture, which I saw for the first time a few days ago in a post on Pakistan Blogzine, was ABSOLUTELY worthy of the response it got! These are the very contradictions of your Oscar award which have been eloquently described by a fellow blogger, Safiya Khan. […]