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.

Aid is not an Investment…

Aid is not an Investment

age of the narratives…

age of the narratives

Today and Tomorrow

‘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.

Pakistan: Not Free

Freedom House rates Pakistan’s news media “not free” with 61 points on a scale of 0 to 100.

Higher scores signal greater restrictions on a country’s news media. Freedom of the Press 2011 identified the greatest threats to independent media in 196 countries and territories. The report shows that global media freedom has reached a new low point, contributing to an environment in which only one in every six people live in countries with a Free press. In 2010, there were particularly worrisome trends in the Middle East and the Americas, while improvements were noted in sub-Saharan Africa.

Behind the Rating

Media freedom in Pakistan remained constrained by official attempts to restrict critical reporting and by the high level of violence against journalists, Freedom House reports.

The constitution and other legislation, such as the Official Secrets Act, authorize the government to curb freedom of speech on subjects including the constitution itself, the armed forces, the judiciary and religion.

Harsh blasphemy laws have occasionally been used to suppress the media.

The physical safety of journalists remained a major concern. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least four journalists were killed in Pakistan during 2009.

Media Scene

Sharp contrasts define the media landscape in Pakistan. The state’s virtual monopoly on broadcasting has been broken, and many private radio and television stations are on the air. However, threats and harassment of journalists persist. The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that Pakistani journalists “continued to be targeted from many sides.”

In 2002,  militants kidnapped and killed Daniel Pearl, the South Asia bureau chief for the U.S.-based Wall Street Journal, while he reported on links between Pakistani militant groups and the al-Qaida terrorist network. Pearl’s killers documented his execution in a digital videotape that showed his beheading. “That an American journalist working for a powerful news organization could be so easily targeted sent tremors through the local press corps,” the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

In 2007, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Pakistan among the world’s “worst backsliders on press freedom” — one of the countries where press freedom “has deteriorated the most over the last five years.” Ten journalists were killed in Pakistan in 2006 and 2007.

About 11 percent of the population had Internet access in 2009.

The simmering hostility between Pakistan and India often takes expression as a war of words in their respective media, the BBC notes. Occasionally, broadcasts from the other country have been banned.

There was an influx in the number of foreign journalists in Pakistan following the United States’ declaration of war on terrorism in 2001. Pakistan’s proximity to Afghanistan and its cooperation with the U.S. made it the logical staging point for reporting on the war. Pakistan restricted access to the Afghan border and refugee camps.

 

About the Rating: Freedom House, a New York–based organization that supports the expansion of democracy and freedom, rates the level of press freedom in countries around the world every year. Freedom House assigns each country a score from 0 to 100. The lower the score, the greater the press freedom. In determining its scores, Freedom House assesses the political, economic and legal climate in which the news media operate.

Aid that matters and Aid that has no meaning…

Possible set of emotions and psychological struggle that are caused by an abortion are; regret, anger, insomnia, guilty feelings, shame, isolation, impaired self-confidence, suicidal thoughts, depression, eating disorders, anxiety. When a foreign policy fails, and a drone strategy only infuriates the masses, the natural symptoms of a country suffering from the complexities of a supposed war gone wrong would only go through what a woman may face post-abortion. Then, would ‘Billions in Aid, with No Accountability’ matter when almost over a hundred-and-fifty children have been killed due to drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt since June 14, 2004? And when a country that spends billions on another country still battles between ‘Aid that matters and Aid that has no meaning’.

How Many Dead Children for Profit?

When the Pakistani population fail to see the effects of the aid given – the drone strategy will naturally create hatred and desire for revenge. In Pakistan’s case, the impact is strategically displayed very successfully through Anti-US rallies. But how does any of that justify the killing of a 7 year-old Syed Wali Shah.

So as these strikes have increased to more than two-hundred since the Obama Administration, occurring at a frequency of one every four days – the thought of loss, anger and suffering caused on the ground is a constant reminder of a lost future for FATA’s innocence. Five children and five women were killed in a village of Spinwam in North Waziristan this April. Now, imagine the intensity of monstrous emotions being created as a result of these strikes. Despite enormous funding to the Pakistani elites for protecting US interests, the question then boils down to; does the US truly understands its ally? Vice versa would be, does Pakistan really thinks its an ally beyond the US war in Afghanistan? May 02, 2011 left many questions unanswered and brought a lot of clarity on the state of relationship between the two countries.

Prof. Anatol Lieven, a Senior Research Fellow with the New America Foundation and a Professor at the Department of War Studies in King’s College London explains in his interview to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism that the drone strategy of taking down the Taliban Commanders has had no noticeable effect than US believes it has.

So as the United States ruled out any unilateral action against militant safe havens in Pakistan, a high-level delegation including the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus and General Martin E Dempsey, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet Pakistan’s political leadership, Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Lt Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha in Islamabad discuss a way forward to end the war in Afghanistan.

All this *RHETORIC*, yet the tribal journalists continue to suffer and remain disconnected with the rest of the country.

Mishal Pakistan and Tribal Union of Journalists to Highlight the Social Face of FATA through the AGAHI Initiative

FATA has significant development needs;

  • Per capita income in the region is just $250 per year
  • 60 percent of FATA’s 4-5 million residents live below the poverty line
  • Female literacy in the FATA is 3 percent
  • Widespread Unemployment
  • Weak rule of law
  • Difficult terrain limits access to markets, health services, industrial activities

AGAHI in collaboration with the Tribal Union of Journalists aims to identify and build the capacity of the journalists on social issues and economic opportunities encouraging diversity and pluralism of the Media in FATA and FR.

And with these facts in place effective assistance to Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas still remains a challenge for DC, let alone the drone strategy.

Pakistan in the ‘extreme risk’ category on the Conflict Risk Index

Pakistan shares the first position on the Conflict Risk Index, joining alongside are Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Cote d’Ivoire, Iraq and South Sudan.

According to the third annual Conflict Intensity Index, released by risk analysis and mapping company Maplecroft, rates 12 countries at ‘extreme risk.’ The popular uprisings of the Arab Spring have propelled Egypt, Libya and Syria into the most severe risk category of an annual study evaluating the intensity of armed conflict across 197 nations, while economic giant India is also rated at ‘extreme risk.’

The index has been developed by Maplecroft as a tool for multinational corporations to assess ongoing trends for conflict and potential risks to operations or investments. It looks at the broad range of conflicts – not only those that take place between two states, but also those within countries between state security forces and rebel militias, or between different ethnic and religious communities. The index is primarily calculated using the number of fatalities caused by conflict in each country between October 2010 and August 2011. However, it also considers critical precursors to conflict, such as threats of violence and economic sanctions.

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