Archive for the ‘ Pakistan ’ Category

Live Challenge: The Future of Pakistan to 2060

(Originally published in The News International http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-271235-Pakistan-2060)

Alternative Scenarios

Alternative Scenarios

A daunting challenge, many have struggled to imagine a future of Pakistan beyond an electoral cycle or a human life or even unmet visions. The trouble is that collective foresight and intelligence is missing from our political and institutional systems. Foresight that enables a country to build, and for stronger relationships and alliances amongst leaders from across organisations and sectors, demonstrating clearer intentions and commitments as to what these leaders need to do and as a result of which initiatives and actions are designed co-creating better futures.

As the rhetoric goes, Pakistan is in a unique situation in the region. ‘Hybrid democracy’, ‘failed state’, ‘the world’s most dangerous country’ – in recent decades Pakistan has been categorised and de-categorised so it can fit the informed paradigm for strategic thinkers.

Pakistan is undoubtedly a young nation. It is apparent that the country’s democratic structure remains highly uncertain due to sovereign debt crisis, weak and polarised political leadership, diminishing confidence in state institutions, criminal injustice, oppressed freedom and decaying rule of law. Close to 70 years, Pakistan and its people have come a long way in militating global affairs.

The question is: are policymakers, legislatures and political groups equipped to shape the future of the country, which will inspire the next generation and enable it to enjoy a secure and prosperous Pakistan beyond an electoral cycle? Can they realign themselves in an effective decision-making process, by developing shared understanding of global uncertainties and political despondency?

‘The future of Pakistan to 2060’ in its current state serves as a working paper that highlights the essential narrative required of a secure and prosperous Pakistan with a positive regional influence, demonstrating leadership in the Muslim world and inspiring the next generation. The principle idea of this paper was not to predict the future, but to bring people on board to draw out perspectives, establishing logical sequences to challenges, determining relationships between drivers, and identifying certain high-impact events.

The challenges that seemed to concern people the most included leadership, religion, economy and security. There were differences in perspectives between the generations. In Pakistan’s case engaging with the next generation becomes an important entry point.

Preliminary research was conducted to check and test assumptions about Pakistan’s future among the ruling elite and wider society, explore perceptions of Pakistan from both inside and outside the country, and identify future risks and opportunities.

As a result four scenarios emerged for the country in 2060: i) low citizen empowerment, regional integration; ii) high citizen empowerment, regional integration; iii) high citizen empowerment, regional fragmentation; and iv) low citizen empowerment, regional fragmentation. These scenarios were based on impact and uncertainty. The drivers of change were composed of demographics, urbanization, macro-economic conditions, resource availability, climate change, technology, religiosity and ethnicity.

Policymakers and the political leadership in Pakistan are either incompetent or incapacitated to cope with the challenges confronting the nation due to rapid globalisation, economic interdependence and the changing nature of global affairs. The country begs for ‘meritocracy’ where there’s an institutionalised capacity to devolve the decision-making process.

Nepotism has destroyed the state-run institutions; the public faces the brunt of dishonest and corrupt officials at the highest levels. Research and several discussions have indicated that there’s an overwhelming need for institutionalising foresight techniques, tools and technology in policy formulation, planning and decision-making processes; allowing different stakeholders to explore emerging ideas and values reflecting on medium to longer-term strategic research, analysis and planning contributing to policies that are dynamic, resilient and transcendent.

In South Asia, the complete lack of visionary leadership is a serious challenge. While President Ziaul Haq drove this country in a reverse gear the consequences of which linger in the form of ethnic conflict, sectarian violence, radicalisation, oppression against freedom of expression, and exploitation of minorities.

Equally to blame is Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Historic precedents have demonstrated that religiosity does not let nations become pragmatic; corruption and perceived corruption reduces investment, which makes them less competitive and less efficient.

Pakistan is the second largest Muslim country, and if the population – which is projected to exceed more than 250 million by 2030 and up to 335 million by 2050 – presumably grows at that same rate, then it will be a tough battle for the leadership to overcome the dramatic challenges that come with the uncertainty that climate change, geopolitical difficulties and social and cultural isolation pose.

Currently, we have a population of 198 million people, with a median age of 22, 63 percent of the youth is under the age of 29 years, making Pakistan as one of the youngest nations in the world. If this invaluable human capital is not leveraged in achieving its optimal potential, then with deteriorating service delivery, unemployment and injustice will further frustrate the coming generations which will become the gravest challenge for state institutions – ultimately undermining the political system.

The country’s elite captures determining the economic growth model have mostly benefited the rich more than the poor; institutions retreating from providing essential legal assistance, collecting taxes and security have severely discredited the socio-economic and political outlook of the country. Pakistan already has a fragile political system; and while the philosophy behind strategic depth is hugely out of fashion, the country in the information age has failed to integrate the role of its institutions with the growing needs of not only its population but also in aligning itself to the global knowledge-grid.

In order to secure stability in the region Pakistan, the Kashmir region and India must chalk a way forward. Complacency towards diplomatic obligations will lead to further internal misfortunes. Lack of public funding, appalling institutional capacity in service delivery, access to justice, and extremism – already a bane of contention – will further fuel internal crisis.

As the state loses its relevance, it has created room for many of the non-state actors who are essentially plugging in the loopholes. While incompetence can be one of the reasons, the country needs to learn to start paying for itself. Masooda Bano has, in one of her writings, highlighted the failure of development funds channelled through non-governmental organisations eroding cooperative behaviours rather than strengthening initiatives amongst the state, community and individuals. A serious issue that goes unaccounted for in realpolitik.

Pivot of the World?

Pivot of the World?

 

There’s potential for creating the fifth scenario for Pakistan based on a vision, commissioning some more systematic future insights that can be helpful in developing plausible scenarios, thinking through global/regional dynamics, understanding risks and opportunities, and bringing out insights on what useful intervention points might look like.

 

 

 

 

NOTES:

DRIVERS OF CHANGE 

Demographics

  • Although a population of 188.2 million projected for the year 2014 is well above the carrying capacity of its resources and creating population resource imbalance. With a median age of 22, 63% of youth in Pakistan is under the age of 29 years, making Pakistan as one of the youngest nations in the world.229 people per square km and it was in position 151th in the density population ranking of 2013. With over a 150 million people today, the UN projects the population to cross 300 million by 2050. The country also host 1.6 million registered Afghan refugees hosted by local communities across Pakistan.

Urbanization

  • During 1990-2003, Pakistan sustained its historical lead as the second most urbanized nation inSouth Asia with city dwellers making up 36% of its population. Nine cities have population of more than one million, 75 cities have population of over one hundred thousand. Its urban population is expected to equal its rural population by 2030. Environmental degradation along with poor hygiene, lack of basic sanitation and unsafe drinking water will have a grave impact on the migrant population.

Resource Scarcity

  • Pressure on land and water, as well as demand for food and energy, will increase significantly over the next decade as the country faces the demographic dividends and the urbanization process. Inefficient distribution and mismanagement of energy and water resources will become an impediment to the economic growth and livelihoods. Pakistan also faces the effect of climate change, with related disasters intensifying impacting the vulnerable threatening food security. A study indicates an available supply of water of little more than 1,000 m³ per person, which puts the country in a high-risk category, this will threaten the lives of millions of Pakistanis. About 29% power is generated through hydro resources.

Technology

  • The potential of ICTs is not sufficiently leveraged in Pakistan, where access to ICTs remains the privilege of a few. On a slightly more positive note, Pakistan does comparatively better in
the more advanced areas captured by the GCI. It ranks 67th in the financial development pillar, 85th business sophistication pillar, and 77th in innovation.

Network Readiness Index 2014

  • The Telecommunication sector of Pakistan is fairly dynamic with the adoption of next generation advanced technology. Teledensity of the country reached 75.21% (135 million subscribers combining Cellular, WLL & LL) with major contribution from cellular sector and revenues of $4.457 billion.

Macro-Economic Situations

  • In 2013-14, Pakistan ranked at 133, out of 148 economies on the competitiveness Index. On the competitiveness index, Pakistan’s performance on the public institutions indices signifying inefficiencies corruption, patronage, and lack of property rights protection:
Country Global Competitiveness Rankings Goods Market Efficiency Labour Market Efficiency Financial Market Efficiency Market Size
Pakistan 133 103 138 67 30
India 60 85 99 98 3
Bangladesh 110 89 124 102 45
Sri Lanka 65 37 135 41 61
Iran 82 110 145 130 10
China 29 61 34 54 2
Turkey 44 43 130 51 16

 

  • According to the International Monetary Fund, macroeconomic imbalances and longstanding structural impediments to growth have prevented full realization of Pakistan’s potential:

Problems in the energy sector, security concerns, and a difficult investment climate have combined with adverse shocks to undermine economic performance in the past decade.

The GDP growth has only averaged 3 percent over the past few years, well below what is needed to provide jobs for the rising labor force (95 million) and to reduce poverty.

The population is still increasing rapidly (1.7%), per capita income growth ($1370 almost 4.3%) has lagged behind many emerging economies.

The fiscal deficit is at 4.9%, driven by weak tax collections, energy sector subsidies, and increased provincial government spending.

Domestic deficit financing has crowded out private sector borrowing and has contributed to inflation (8.4%).

Private sector credit has become negative in real terms, while monetary aggregates continue to be driven mainly by the government’s financing needs.

The external position has weakened significantly, and central bank reserves have declined to critical levels $8 million in Jan 2014 and $14.3 million in July 2014.

Religiosity and Ethnicity

According to the CIA World Factbook, Library of Congress, Oxford University, over 97% of the population of Pakistan is Muslim and the remaining 3% is Christian, Hindu and others. Majority is practicing Sunni, while Shia’s are a minority. Saraiki make up 10.53%, Muhajir 7.57% and Baloch 3.57%, remaining constitutes 4.66% of the total population.

Numbers of speakers of larger languages
Language 2008 estimate 1998 census Main areas spoken
1 Punjabi 56,367,360 44.17% 58,433,431 44.15% Punjab
2 Pashto 26,692,890 15.44% 20,408,621 15.42% Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
3 Sindhi 26,410,910 15.35% 18,661,571 14.10% Sindh
4 Saraiki 17,019,610 10.42% 13,936,594 10.53% South Punjab
5 Urdu 13,120,540 7.59% 10,019,576 7.57% Karachi, Sindh
6 Balochi 6,204,540 3.59% 4,724,871 3.57% Balochistan
7 Others 8,089,150 3.59% 6,167,515 4.66%
Total 172,900,000 100% 132,352,279 100% Pakistan

 

 

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In Swat

Swat Valley

I was there this August. The city reflects about what it would have been like when the Taliban had taken over. People of Swat were threatened, Islam was different, life was not normal, and nothing could possibly be related to the essence of what the city was known for.

The clashes of natural beauty; the mountains, rivers and the innocence of the land through the eyes of young girls like Malala. Swat has risen from the dark ages, despite the distant yet lingering fear of the return of the extremist elements. The streets are abuzz with the sweetness of young boys and girls making their way to school, taking a dip from the riverside, joyfully teasing one another; something that any parent in their right state of mind would want their child to experience and share. The marketplaces cluttered with people and goods, I could also see shops selling music CDs and DVDs. Sitting on a newsdesk, couple of years ago, collating information and trends, I regularly got to hear of the music shops being blown up by the Taliban back then.

Driving through the valley, we pass Imam Dhehri, once the Headquarters for the Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, a rebel movement dedicated to the destruction of the rule of law, now banned, Maulana Fazllulah, also known as ‘Mullah Radio’, a fundamentalist, son-in-law of the TNSM Chief, Sufi Muhammad, allied to the Taliban forces spread inciteful messages through illegal FM stations against the women’s right to vote and education. swat1

Even though the enforcement agencies in the Malakand Division now come across as a state functionary in absolute control of the law and order situation. Pakistan is seen to be continuously demanding the Afghan Government to handover Fazllulah. The militant has been accused of destroying schools, shops, conducting suicide attacks, bombings and most recently for carrying out an attack on Malala Yusufzai and her school friends. One may argue, that this perhaps calls for the International community to build a more closer diplomatic relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan that brings stability in to the region.

Meanwhile, further ahead into the valley, is the Sanghota College for Girls, an educational facility, a bleak reminder of the past, wrecked and blown up, walls scraping off, holy scriptures painted, tarnished school desks and books piled up in the corner – it does tell a story of the clitter-clatter of girls running through the corridors. The silence is now filled with workers fixing the grills, re-building and renovating different parts of the college.

A visit to “Saba’oon”, a de-radicalisation school, a harsh reality, a project meant for teenage boys, psychologically savaged into believing that the true way of living is to destroy the so-called ‘others’; their only fault in life, is being born and raised in unjust circumstances. Their stories are the ones that need to be told, stories of plight, stories of economic disparities, stories of bad peers, stories of not being aware of right from left, right from wrong – stories that reflect on the poor education system, on unbearable living conditions. Their life is not a simple story to tell. But is a story worth listening to before questioning their dignity.

Nevertheless, the project, instills the belief of how life, under different circumstances can change thought, build  character, create a new future for these young boys. Each one I spoke to had a future, a dream to do better, to do good to give back to their families, to help their community, to help the ones that have suffered. Overwhelmed only by sheer intelligence, the program  shows that the youth in Pakistan needs its share of attention in a country caught up in every type of turmoil.  Many of the 15-17 year old boys have been reintegrated, and are being mentored on regular basis.

How often, does one get to read, hear, think, what “The State for the people” actually means for an everyday Pakistani?

Saba’oon protects these children, gives them shelter, hope and a tomorrow to look-forward to. One would only naturally think that is what the role of the state is supposed to be.  To Protect and To Serve.

SwatSwat has suffered the worst exodus and civilian casualty.  Rah-e-Rast left 90 soldiers dead, and now as it reels back to life, the impact of those contributing towards its rehabilitation can be seen through constructional efforts of new schools, hospitals and clinics. But the infrastructure still carries the wounds of the past.

(This blog was originally published by Jang Group’s, The News, http://blogs.thenews.com.pk/blogs/2012/12/in-swat/)

Future of Journalism

Media practitioners, journalists, communication professionals around the world need to build consensus to realize the significance of globalization, in the context of the socio-political gaps, economic interests, cultural and religious values, to strengthen the fundamental rights of individuals and societies.

Needless to say, efficient and transparent mechanisms need to be developed, which can help in determining the quality and implications of what is ‘good’ content and which is ‘bad’. Bringing the debate in the public domain will bridge the unnecessary gaps that are reasons for creating knowledge deficit in the society. Therefore enabling a healthy debate of reasoning and rationale.

In emerging economies, early adaptation of the ICT tools will connect communities pertaining local relevance with those ensuring best practices at a global playing field, hence raising the bar of journalistic standards encouraging not only an effective but an appreciative-well-informed society. It is through this transition, which gives an individual or the society to question and demand response playing a vital role in the newly formed democracies of the world. And because this industry on its own is so rapidly evolving, most fearing change will not able to adapt, compete and coexist in the digital space.

So as Adrian, suggests in his video, that the future of journalism, is for the digital savvy group of people having the ability to analyze massive amounts data; but then the question arises in what context does one critically evaluates such information…

 

Dear Journalist,

When you cover a story, or chase a lead hot or cold is this the way you’re looking for it to be…can this be the way how journalism should be done and offered to the masses or does this framework seem one-dimensional?

Future of Journalism – The Way Forward

Journalism in emerging markets have a unique opportunity to reinvent its traditional model, re-identify challenges, and manifest its achievements in form of knowledge in the public interest at the policy as well as at the grass-root (individual/community) level.

The Boston Globe and the MIT’s Center for Civic Media acquired a grant worth $250,000 dollars from the Knight Foundation, in order to build tools for newsgathering and reader engagement. This is one of the prime examples how new journalism trends will emerge from environments of mutual collaborations.

The industry, at least in Pakistan would need to go back to the Academicians, establish linkages that are very so often discussed but not processed into tangible results. In other words, and very right put by the Secretary of State’s Advisor on Innovation, Alec J Ross ” Innovation comes from taking risks, accepting failures” reason why we see so many venture capitalists investing in start-ups are thriving in the US.

The dynamics of the thought processes with the future generations to come will not be determined by shady propagandist tactics used by special interest groups that encourage fear-mongering that teased the less-informed segments of the society.

As the society is becoming increasingly informed; the ability to navigate through large amounts data by rationalizing with objective narratives will determine the credibility of the journalists. The industry-academics will need to ensure that the concept of journalism in the public interest is not lost in implied tactics of the external factors acting as the influencing force that challenges the credibility and the authenticity of the profession. One methodology of evaluation can be based on the following indices:

1) Content reflecting diversity.

  • Reports that highlight the issue and content that reflects an unbiased viewpoint.
  • Article that are thoroughly researched and well written and are edited by a professional news outlet.
  • Articles that mention people with contrasting viewpoints.

2) Content should serve the need of all groups in the society: public, private and community based.

  • Identify stakeholders: government, security establishment, political parties/groups, minorities, religious groups, cultural groups
  • Understand the history and be familiar with coverage of diverse groups in society. Usefulness of the news information for the public at large
  • Accessibility of the content

3) Content displays culture of self regulation.

  • Applied ethical guidelines and practices that govern the profession and the legal implications and considerations that inform the profession
  • Including information about sources, accuracy estimates, possibilities of bias and voluntary retractions

4) Communicating with fairness and impartiality.

  • Articles that demonstrate the ability to apply tools, concepts and technology appropriate for the presentation of images and information on diversity
  • Minimum 2 or more contrasting views in the story. Use of neutral (unemotional) vocabulary

5) Content displays high-level of trust and confidence with the civil society organization/academia.

  • Credibility can be measured by the number of readers or subscribers of the professional news outlet

6) The content should also reflect the linguistic diversity of the targeted issues.

  • Credit reports that discuss regional (and not national issues) in less commonly spoken languages and that interact with minorities in their local languages
  • The report includes interviews and/or information from linguistically diverse segments of society

7) The content should represent the views of the entire political spectrum and the wide spectrum of the social interests including the weakest segments of the society.

  • Is there a political bias or not?
  • Choice of a topic (or topics) that highlight a minority (or underrepresented) group. Major piece on a minor political group

Although this methodology is/could potentially be debatable, and is open for constructive critique, yet it covers variety of elements that an informed material, in whichever form that may be, can be evaluated and assessed over its quality. The amalgamation of the framework and the assessment criteria of creating quality content ensures the credibility of the content-originator/journalists.

In times where it may seem that the journalism in public good no longer matters, it only reinforces the behavior which will provide favorable circumstances to the bulging youth populations in the emerging economies to challenge the existence of monstrous infrastructure and traditional revenue models by exploring and innovating new wheels of the game.

The Missing Link

It’s ironic how the mainstream media deviates from what is important to a 180 million people to what aids individual interests. Sadly, it has become an acceptable way of life that a corrupt politician, misleading opinion-makers and the ‘foreign forces’, are allowed to govern and then destroy the efforts of aspiring youth population to bring change. And when hoping for one becomes a sin, surfacing selfishness and disorientation spreads like a disease.

A country, by the very definition of consequences of any chaos, in this case, which is constant in nature, suffers from Post-traumatic stress disorders. Whether this may be because of the War President or the Drone War President.

Perhaps our own short-term ill-conceived tacit strategies are haunting us back to the Dark Ages.

Since 2008, the Drone warfare has increased radically, there are almost 64 bases across the globe engaging in US drone missions. Currently, positioned in over 14 different countries, some for intelligence gathering purposes and others for targeting ‘populations’ those are ‘sources’ of National Security threat to the US.

One of these frequently targeted area is the North Waziristan, a place I never visited, nor which the Pakistani Army dares to go, clearly many Americans wouldn’t know how it actually looks like either. But regardless of how complicit the US or the Pakistani Government is towards civilian deaths, what is strange that none of the overly exuberant Civil Society Organization has been able to establish Reprieve Pakistan. The only people churning out remotely smart questions and op-eds are the ones not sitting in key decision making boardrooms of legislators and policy-makers.

A question put forward in a documentary produced by Alternate Focus, by an author and an activist Tom Hayden was; “Are these weapons [Drones] keeping us [United States of America] safe, or do they just incite further terrorist attacks? And is their use a violation of the Geneva Conventions?”

According to the Geneva Convention, most serious of crimes are termed grave breaches, will the drone strategy be termed as one? If so how far, will one go to distort the lines  – even further between the combatants and the civilians…

Why Pakistan is an easy target and is usually not a hard nut to crack; well that is mainly because we critically remain in a self-sustained state of anarchy and inefficiency.

The combination of the two defines the very nature of how the country is perceived and dealt with.  According to a few professors in Israel, the price of anarchy is by now a standard measure for quantifying the inefficiency introduced in games due to selfish behavior, and is defined as the ratio between the optimal outcome and the worst Nash equilibrium.

Even though Imran Khan’s Tehreek-i-Insaaf portrays itself as a likely political force, which will act as a restraining factor and influence the scale of corruption in the country, yet the reality remains that the incumbent disease is widespread and systemic in law enforcement agencies, in the offices of the public service etc etc.

A country with massive power failures, leadership crisis, fanaticism, water-and-what-not shortages we really fancy our ‘long marches’ or as my friend put it over dinner ‘long drives’. Such actions only portray the level of commitment of these so-called power influences to this nation. The choices and then the priorities are all dangled up in an elusive dream.

Its 2012, as India goes into celebrating its first and the European region into marking its 10th year of Polio free certification, Pakistan is still battling possible travel restrictions over the virus. And even more absurdly, with the Taliban in the Waziristan creatively linking the predator drone programme to the polio vaccination of over 200,000 children in troubled region, there’s a possibility that thousands of families will be at the risk of being missed out during the inoculation campaign.

Who really decides for over a 180 million people, when each pillar of the state is losing its supposed grace?

A Free Press? What if Wapping were Islamabad?

Lord Hunt of Wirral has proposed a revamp of the Press Complaints Commission, which he now chairs. His is a serious and considered response to the complex issues being considered with great dexterity by Lord Justice Leveson’s historic inquiry.

The challenges faced by Leveson and Hunt are daunting – but transposing their activities to Pakistan would prove formidable even for men of such intellect, skill and diplomacy.

Pakistan has witnessed a huge increase in the number of private news channels in the last decade. Previously, the market was monopolised by a single state-owned television network that was heavily influenced by government functionaries and provided limited information access to the public.

Today, the people of Pakistan can watch dozens of news channels and hope to get more credible information in real time. However, the emerging situation has also spawned new questions and challenges that must be confronted to improve the overall quality of journalism in the country.

Many applaud Pakistan’s media for playing a significant role in the reinstatement of the country’s superior judiciary, bringing down the Musharraf-led administration, creating the environment for the restoration of democracy and frequently challenging corrupt politicians and the political system of Pakistan. On the flipside, many condemn it for glorifying militants, spewing hatred and creating despondency among people. Who is right?

Pakistan’s media organisations were in the forefront of exposing ‘disappearances’ across the country and raising many other human rights violations at a time when the U.S.-led ‘war on terror’ was in its full bloom. However, the same news channels also got many other things wrong and failed to create clarity about some vital issues that could have had existential implications for their state.

Pakistan’s decision to side with the United States in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks was frequently criticised by the mainstream news channels. Few of them realised that Islamabad did not have the option of staying neutral in the ‘war on terror’ since it was deeply involved in Afghanistan and supported the Taliban regime that harboured Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. They also accused the government of fighting the U.S. war at a time when diehard militant factions were using their country’s soil not only to export violence in other parts of the region but also to target innocent civilians and security forces in their own country. Subsequently, the media’s discourse strengthened the militant propaganda and weakened the state’s ability to take the ownership of the war and swiftly respond to the challenge at hand.

Some journalists believe that some high-profile anchors working with leading Urdu-language news channels were pursuing the rightwing agenda on purpose. But a closer examination of the internal landscape of these organisations can also provide us more insight into this phenomenon.

Looking at the growing influence of Pakistan’s private news channels, it is sometimes easy to forget that they are relatively new to the business and have employed young journalists with limited field experience. While these journalists have brought fresh energy to the local broadcast industry and have become intimately involved in policy debates and political and decision making processes, they have also been required to venture into areas which were previously viewed as the preserve of senior journalists with concrete skill sets and proven track record of serious journalism. Some young journalists are now seen as performers as much as reporters. Bombastic talk shows and sensationalised issues keep the ratings of their channels high. So Pakistan’s media stands accused of committing a number of professional felonies. Private news channels are believed to be suffering from the breaking news syndrome – get things fast, not right.

This raises a credibility issue, something that was reflected in the media coverage after the U.S. Navy SEALs launched the Abbottabad operation in May 2011. Some of the leading Pakistani news channels kept displaying a fake image of Osama bin Laden’s corpse for several hours without confirming its authenticity.

The broadcasting of graphic images after terror attacks spreads greater anxiety among people, creating an impression that the local media is unwittingly playing into the hands of militant groups who are doing their best to strike terror into people’s hearts.

Media accountability remains limited. While most journalists remain understandably suspicious of government’s attempts to regulate their industry, they have fallen short of formulating their own code of conduct to display their sense of social responsibility and commitment to quality journalism.

When a senior DawnNews journalist, Matiullah Jan, launched a programme to expose the irregularities of the media in Pakistan, there was a backlash from among his own community. The show was stopped by the management of the news channel and the anchor was excommunicated by some of his close friends.

Mr Jan asserts that the extent of media freedom continues to fluctuate in Pakistan since “it is one issue that is usually determined on political, rather than legal, grounds.” Unlike most of his fellow journalists, however, he feels that media regulations may not be entirely bad for journalists.

Last year, the government revived the Press Council of Pakistan to receive complaints against news organisations. However, the Council has not accomplished much so far and its mandate and mode of functioning is opaque.

The media needs to devise a proper self-regulating code of conduct, acceptable to all stakeholders in the industry, within a proper and obligatory framework that does not only focus on their responsibilities but also extends them security and provides them with freedom of information and expression. The fact that such a code has not been formulated so far reflects the extent of fragmentation and lack of confidence among the media community.

According to one journalist, who attended a recent Agahi workshop in Lahore organized by Mishal Pakistan, the country’s journalists are represented by different media bodies. “Most of these associations,” he contended, “are at cross-purposes with each other. The groups that represent the owners do not speak for the rights of their employees and impose greater responsibilities on them. The media organisations representing the working journalists, on the other hand, view things differently and tend to hold the owners accountable as well.”

Whatever may be said about this problem, responsible journalists mostly understand the rudimentary principles of journalism and do not sacrifice their commitment to their profession at the altar of their organisation’s commercial interests. Technically, therefore, it should not be difficult for them to devise a proper code of conduct.

Perhaps, after they have finished dealing with the British media, Lord Justice Leveson and Lord Hunt should offer their combined talents to Islamabad? They might be there a long time.

(The article originally appeared in the Huffington Post and was co-authored by The Lord Carlile of Berriew)

clear-skies & bright-lights dimmed

There’s nothing fake about Balochistan, nor there is an absolute reality to what we see, hear and delinquently opinionate on. Pakistan is not Lahore, Karachi or Islamabad, it is when you travel to Quetta and from Quetta passing through Qilla Abdullah, Khan Kili, Kili Malik Ghulam Jilani on Chaman Bypass  all the way up to the Pak-Afghan Border’s Friendship Gate; is where you find the real Pakistan.

There’s nothing so ‘friendly’ about the Gate accept for the polio team administering vaccinations to the Afghan children. Something that even the Afghan’s have common in Spinboldak.

– we’re a funny nation – its tragic.

Creating new wars or dwelling over decades old conflict does not by any standard defy the odds of sanity. Staying in one’s own comfort zone and talking about Baloch insurgencies and the transgressions of the Law Enforcement Agencies doesn’t change the fact that, Nasrullah, father of 11 growing up amidst conflict, sarcastically explains how painful it is to live to survive and to support his family. Yet he naively laughs off his agonies and brushes away the scars of hurt, as he drives us all the way to Chaman on the most brutal road – conditioned to leave one with a backache for life.

As we are driven through the most beautiful part of Pakistan, we see real people, real lives, and shattered dreams hopelessly counting down on the days to the life promised once upon a time by the Quaid in ‘47.

“We should have a State in which we could live and breathe as free men and which we could develop according to our own lights and culture and where principles of Islamic social justice could find free play”.

Mohammad Ali Jinnah

Life is plain harsh, there are no two ways of explaining – this should in an ideal world put most fortunate to shame. We have an undeniable capacity to decapitate ourselves from the realities on the ground and look the other only adding to the miseries of the innocent and the neglect. Chaman and Spinboldak share three villages and a mosque at the Pak-Afghan border; what unfortunately we have failed to share and resolve is our grievances and hatred.

We have been easily relating to nations sitting half way across the world, yet we have failed to relate to the ones living right next-door for the all the good and the bad strategic reasons that led to the decisions we fall short of rectifying.

Balochistan, as I see can be narrowed down to a) internal conflict and b) external influence; both which need to be aggressively resolved and addressed. A safe future for the children of Balochistan lies in the decisions need to be taken ‘NOW’ by the authorities in power, who are ready to face the unforgiving lives crafted over the decades of abandonment outside of their luxurious offices.

Afghan Qoumi Movement, is one of the walk-chalking we drove right pass, and with every passing security check post there was a bleak reminder of ‘Pakistan First’.

‘First’ for who?

Many journalists in Balochistan are exploited into working for free, yet they continue to risk their lives into reporting on community-interest stories. Some have gone to the extent of saying that the profession is nothing but ‘Munshirgiri’. In their part of the world they feel belligerently cut-off from the mainstream media. Post 9-11, journalism was a booming career around Pak-Afghan border just like the economy near one in Chaman.

Might I go into details, would be too risky.

Civilized nations find a way to move forward despite kidnapping, killings and extortions. We need to find one for Balochistan and we need to find one fast; And not stay cuddled up in front of the tube deriving our knowledge on the province from considerably the most exhausting panel competing in the National Awards for who screams the loudest.

Someone very wise once put it across as plainly as; Pakistan losing its ‘Unity’ in diversity, ‘Faith’ in itself(ves) and ‘Discipline’ as a people.

‘what a terrorist is, what a terrorist does?’

Continuous broadcast of news covering death, destruction and chaos is leading to a much radicalized – intolerant society.

Rukhsana, mother of a 6 year old, I met at the airport says her daughter knows what a terrorist is, and what a terrorist does. I will not digress from what I heard and it’s impact. Nor am I not going to into the politics of Pakistan nor our Media Industry.  But to point out that our media has gradually desensitized and misled our society into a debate, which is neither in their socio-economic wellbeing nor in Pakistans’ national interest is a fact – far from generalization.

A perspective we fail to acknowledge are the voices that don’t burn our tubes at 8PM every night.

Since the deregulation of the Media and Telecommunications in 2004 in Pakistan, we have become a very informed society. So we know whats happening, why is it happening and now thanks to the breaking news diarrhea we also know exactly when it is happening. But what it has also led to, is that we are unable to process, channelize and transform that information into knowledge either online or offline. The consumption of information is not resulting into any actionable value derivatives.

The fact that everyone wants to see credible, relevant and ethically sound journalism happening in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world, is a reality!

During our course of Media Development Initiative in Pakistan, we have come across several journalists from all over the country,  demanding to be trained and exposed to opportunities where they can connect their content to the global agenda. Content that not only promotes a healthy democracy; but also stand up for public interest, and campaigns for appropriate reforms.

Relevant content development creating knowledge footprint and clusters of information both online and offline, which not only supports but also encourages pluralism and diversity of reportage in Pakistan will play a critical role in the fundamental development of a progressive nation.

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