Sunday, February 15, 2009

You Cannot Celebrate Valentine’s Day AND Advocate Taliban Style Sharia

Its official, Channel 5 is the most annoying news channel in Pakistan.

In its 9’o clock news hour, the channel devoted a large part of its time focusing on the Swat operation. Commendable you would've thought, but there was little to no mention of the violence being perpetrated by the Taliban, the focus instead was on the innocent people that have been killed by the army. This is followed by a discussion between the newscaster and reporter wherein the two question the merits and demerits of imposing Shariah to appease the Taliban. The merits: it will stop the violence, we are a Muslim country so Shariah is good; demerits: none.

Therefore according to the channel the only way of stopping the violence is by giving in to the Taliban, and which in any case isn't that bad because there demand isn't that unreasonable.

This is followed up by inane report on Afghanistan in which the channel’s correspondent informs us that there is little change in the US policy in Afghanistan, which is evidenced by the fact that Robert Gates was appointed by George W Bush, and that the US has some 'grand plans' for the region. I stopped listening at this point.

Funnily enough, while the newscaster and various reporters were going on about their thinly veiled support for Shariah and appeasement of the Taliban, dozens of tiny hearts kept exploding from the channel’s logo every thirty seconds; in addition to this, the channel was running a special Valentine ’s Day message ticker.

You can't have the best of all worlds. Pick your friggin side man!

These channels are really pissing me off. Do they not see the irony? I think it’s time that we start holding media barons directly responsible for the views espoused on the channels owned by them. Something’s got to be done to make them realize that this isn’t some fucking game that they can go on playing in lieu of short term profits.

I want to begin with Taher Khan. Pakistan’s most prominent ad-guru and the man behind Interflow and TV One Network. Mr. Khan is by all accounts a liberal man in private and in public and appears to have few sympathies with Islamists, and in fact Taliban style rule would destroy his business empire. And yet the most prominent talk show host on his television channel is a thing called Zaid Hamid.

Mr. Hamid is an engineer who fought as a Mujahideen who has now refashioned himself as a 'defence analyst' and presents the show Brass Tacks; incidentally, Mr. Hamid also runs a think tank by the name of Brass Tacks. In actual fact though, Mr. Hamid is anything but an analyst, he's a hate mongering conspiracy theorist who believes: there is an "American game plan to establish an independent territory in Pakistani tribal areas;" "that Hamid Mir is a CIA spy;" 'that MNCs are deliberately causing famine; 'that by God one day there will be a united South Asian region and its name will be Pakistan and only after Radio Pakistan broadcasts from Delhi will we live in Peace' and of course that the Hindu Zionist network wants to destroy Muslims and anyone who denies this is a Jew / CIA operative / Raw agent / Russian.

A few choice clips:

The best video though on the Zaid Hamid though is this parody from the 4 man show:

I can’t begin to tell you how much this man angers me. And thanks to Taher Khan his ignorance and message of hatred and bigotry is being spread far and wide. He’s a Pakistani version of David Icke, a one time British TV presenter who went cuckoo in the late 980s and started sermonizing about international Zionist conspiracies and what not. However, unlike Zaid Hamid, David Icke didn’t get his own show he lost his TV show and got ridiculed.

Its time we started laughing at the likes of Zaid Hamid on our streets and criticizing the likes of Taher Khan for being so callous and short sighted. Mr. Khan money isn't everything, and don't you have enough of it already?


Majaz said...

Most Pakistanis are crazy inspired by Zaid Hamid. The WORST part is trying to debate the 'jewish conspiracy' to topple all Muslims. And believe it or not, THAT's the whole and sole reason behind why we Muslims get diphtheria, diarrohea, 9/11 and Zardari.

AKS said...

Another point I wanted to raise is the absurdity and lunacy of these people supporting the 'imposition of Shariah.' The inference here is that Pakistani law is in contravention of Islamic law and therefore must be bettered. This is blatantly not true. Pakistan is constitutionally an Islamic Republic, and there can't be any laws that are in contravention of Islamic Law, that is why you have the Islamic Ideology Council as well as the Federal Shariat Court.

And the Taliban are ably supported in this contortion of reality by the rest of us (especially Altaf Bhai) who categorize the Taliban and their supporters as being fundamentally different. But are they? Would there be a sea change in the social norms and practices of ordinary people as a result of Taliban rule?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not denying that the goals of the Taliban are different and that they are particularly vicious, but it is false to claim that the lives of ordinary people in the FATA region changes fundamentally under the Taliban. The change is in the rulers but not particularly the rules.

The destruction of schools has become a symbol of the extremism espoused by the Taliban, but how many of the local tribal people sent their children (especially girls) in the first place, and what sort of education did they receive? Aren't the Taliban's actions a challenge to the writ of the state rather than a challenge to ordinary people to change their social norms.

Khizzy said...

i work for the Taher A. Khan.(Interflow, not the tv channel) and have gone through the same thought process you're going through right now, since in real life he's actually very liberal and cool and would possibly not advocate most of the propaganda based content on his channels.
i've finally come to the conclusion that once you get to a certain position, a level of 'power' and status(in the line of business you are in, and he is THAT), you tend to not worry about what people are saying and just care about ratings.
Zaid Hamid's show gets pretty much the highest ratings at this point(and it might disturb you) but many of the country's top (liberal) corporates and politicians have complete DVD sets of his show through personal request.
Mubashir Lucman is also a big favorite.
and for a man running not just a tv channel but a whole empire of media related companies, its all about the money and ratings... and there is no such thing as having enough money.(not my words...just an observation)
i'm a regular reader here(but rarely comment). this post hit home. and while i dont agree with it, i tried to put things in perspective(his, not

Majaz said...

Aah the dominant ideology.

Also reminds me of the Lal Masjid scenario. What Talibans 'claim' to attempt is sort of the same, don't you think. A state within a state.

Pakistanis are regular Muslims. If we talk about the regular Pakistani metropolis, a vast majority, the people who sit and watch Geo and eat McDonalds and have fancy mehndis, are people who don't really give too much thought to each and every subtext, paragraph, verse of the Quran. To me, Taliban's a political force, more than a party following a religious agenda. So whatever they aim to achieve in Swat, they're making use of the fact that the place itself is hicksville and the people wouldn't know the Quran from the Bible even with a gun to their heads.

Ahsan said...

Great post AKS.

Rabia said...

great post. I did have one comment which was that even though as you mentioned the constitution doesn't allow laws to go against Islam, the rest of the country does follow a penal code that was at least secular in origin. So as long as we have that in the constitution Pakistanis don't really have much of a constitutional argument to oppose alternative penal codes that are based in Sharia, do they? (like this nizam-e-adal regulation). That's why I am really pessimistic about this ever being repealed.

It's quite horrible, though, how we have so many hypocrites like Imran Khan who are so happy to see Shariah imposed on Swatis but not on themselves. T

Aisha said...

It's very frustrating when people put Islam/Shariah and Taleban within the scope of reference. They have gone out of the folds of Islam and use it as a gimmick.
Have you ever studied Shariah? And if so, do you not believe in the Shariah? (Not the fake Taleban Shariah) Honestly, if there was a Shariah-based govt in any part of the world, the Taleban would be the first to be held in trial for their violence and killings. They know that too, at least I hope they do.
I agree with Majaz, that the Taleban are a political force and they call their handbook 'Shariah.' If they truly studied Islalic Jurisprudence, they would never be who they are today. They are just foolish losers who are greedy and want to profit off of their terrorizing tactics. And the reason why some Pakistanis like the idea of guys like Zaid Hamid is because they don't know any better. They hear Islam and Shariah and they think wow he's so holy and they get smitten.
I had read an interview a BBC reporter had done with a Taleban fighter. It was about how the Taleban are in Karachi and how they are spreading within the city for economic reasons. The fighter said something along the lines of 'Karachi is a financial hub and we can make a lot of money here compared to other places.. Honestly, the Taleban are more focused on making money than religion or making people follow the Shariah.' I was surprised he actually admitted to that since he was supposed to be all holy and not supposed to care about money. But the truth is they do care Their greed for money and greed for power is what drives them.

Aisha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aisha said...

There is a hadith that applies to the point I'm making:
Abi Dharr may Allah be pleased with him reported from the way of Imam Muslim that the Prophet (PBUH)said: “There will be those that come after me who will read the Qur’an but it does not go past their throats. They leave Islam like a spear leaves a prey, and they never return to it. They are the worst of the creations.”
Please read this very needed explanation titled 'Islam against Extremism and Terrorism'

Kalsoom said...

Great post, Aks!

karachi khatmal said...

@ Majaz

Swat is not exactly hicksville, nor are people there as ignorant as you portray. Similarly, the girls schools - for all there shortcomings - were institutions that have been lost. just because they didn't rise to our standard of educational quality doesn't mean that they are losses we can consider expendable.

i agree that the destruction of the schools was a challenge to the writ of the state, but we can't repeat the mantra that the people in swat/tribal areas are hicks anyways, and were bound to embrace the sharia whether we liked it or not.

as for the media, without working for channel 5 i can safely venture the guess that the hearts were the graphic's department's decision, while the program was the news department's decision. considering the low level of communication between various departments in pakistani organizations, especially those in the media, i can be sure that no one even bothered to consider the absurdity on display.

AKS said...

@ Majaz

Well said. I too consider the Taliban to be a violent political force that is attempting to uproot the current rulers, i.e. non-compliant, federalist tribal elders, and replacing them with themselves or those who will support them.

@ Khizzy

Thanks for reading the blog. The problem here is that in the absence of effective media regulators and / or media watchdog groups a lot of these channels get away with some pretty horrendous things. Of course Taher Khan cares about the money, and as a businessman it is his right to do so, but Mr. Khan and our other media moguls portray themselves as upholders of the truth, etc, etc, which is disingenuous. The reason I picked on Taher Khan first is because of the fact that even if one were to ignore his personal life, there exist inherent contradictions in his professional undertakings. On the one hand he’s providing prominent public space to Zaid Hamid, on the other he’s got semi-clad models launching a new product for an MNC.

Moreover, you know what, when the shit hits the fan, he’ll just take a flight to Dubai / London / NYC, while the rest of us will be screwed.

@ Ahsan

Thanks bro.

@ Rabia

Thank you.

Pakistani penal code may have had secular origins but it is bound by Islamic law. But in any case Pakistani society doesn’t need laws to shift towards conservatism and religiosity; its managed achieve this feat all by itself quite ably over the last 20 years.

It is this general shift towards (ultra)conservatism and intolerance that is more troubling – it is also this shift that gives birth to more extreme groups.

As for the Taliban, as I commented earlier, they are attempting to codify tribal social norms, which in essence are anti-women. Any new laws introduced to appease the Taliban in FATA are going to have a limited impact on the lives of ordinary people living there as many of the laws in question are rooted in tribal custom.

However, by implementing said laws, and acceding to the demands of the Taliban, the Federal government is creating special laws only for FATA, and while FATA has always had a separate, more autonomous administrative structure, it is now being allowed to have a separate, more autonomous legal structure.

If you're a Baluchi separatist or a member of JSQM or even a hardcore Muhajir (Karachi separatist!) you're going to be observing this development very keenly.

The other thing I want to say is that I think the reason why most Pakistanis fall prey to this Sharia law argument is primarily because they aren't protected by our legal system. The laws are there but they aren’t implemented / enforced, and if you’re rich / influential, you get away with murder. The likes of Taliban and Imran Khan have always taken advantage of this to wrestle increased political support. But changing the laws, or the faces of who govern said laws is unlikely do any good until there is a respect for the rule of law. Try explaining that to your average Javaid.

@ Aysha

I guess with religion its always a matter of interpretation. The Taliban want us to live in 10th century Arabia, whereas the rest of us want to live in 16th century India.

@ Kalsoom

Thank you Kalsoom.

@ KK

On a side note, someone at work was speaking about the destruction of schools in Swat, and stating that one thing that people are ignoring is that the destruction of schools disrupts the army’s logistics as Pakistani armed forces have always used schools as bases in such operations – this was the case even in Karachi during “Operation Clean-Up.” Therefore this is more of a battle plan than a social pogrom, which the Taliban, ably supported by the media, are milking to frighten people into submission.

@ NB

If you're reading this, can you please critique the new laws that they've implemented in Malakand. You know this subject well.

visitor said...

if the rules are more or less the same and only the rulers will change, then what is your opposition to the taliban?

surely they too must get a chance to rule this god forsaken country? every other madman has, right? even the afghans now harp on about the 'good 'ole taliban days. lol.

pakistan is a strong state but a weak nation, ripe for dismantling.

sidrah said...

whhhaaat? Hamid mir a CIA agent? okay, now that is just utterly insulting to the CIA.

Majaz said...

KarachiKhatmal, you've kinda just twisted the whole thing round. No one's fault though, maybe I wasn't clear enough, maybe the words seemed to say something else to you across cyberspace.

I do not consider Swat schools expendable. Didn't you hear me putting down the Taliban? Unless I'm with them, I don't want anything to do with women's education going down.

What I do intend to say is that the fact that Swat is not a teeming metropolis like Karachi or Lahore, Taliban are having a slicker time spreading terror through bombing schools for girls and pipelines. I'm not saying they couldn't have spread terror through Karachi (they probably would've used a different strategy here - like shutting down Park Towers on Valentine's Day or something, oh the horror), I'm just saying it was easier for them to misinterpret Islam in Swat and its lower and lower-middle class and feed to their minds any picture of Islamic jurisprudence they find fit for their own power-politics. That's all I'm saying. I no like Taliban, okay? And I don't think people from Swat don't deserve education. I just find religion to be an opiate of the masses - especially so when a party like Taliban is so ready to make it so.

mysticsmuses said...

Thats indeed quite hypocritical of Tahir Khan and his media empire.

But there is a need to look inward before pointing a finger at others.

His channels' hypocritical transmissions are supplying what the people are and what the people demand.

We are all hypocrites to some extent. Some might not agree. But perfection in any one good skill/quality/trait etc can be accomplished by God alone and perfection in anything evil can be done by Satan alone.

There is a need to self-reflection; if that is done the media won't be able to use us.

Zaid Hamid is a nationalist and he has gone blind because of it. I don't suspect his intentions but I do advice care and caution to those who want to blindly trust him. I might be wrong but at times it seems as if most of the material he uses is straight from google and is not properly checked authentic information. It is unfortunate indeed.

Regarding David Icke, I have yet to see his views on zionist conspiracies but I do think that certain things said about Zionists, plots, etc etc make a lot of sense. David's views on reptilian hidden rulers of the world is where he loses the grip of reality IMHO.

Great post by the way.

naqiya said...


dude, i havent had time to read all the comments....but this is seriously hilarious!! i haven't been home long enough to really delve into the crazies/o'reilly types, so this is great! abbas and i watch the o'reilly factor often when we are bored, and this seems very much like pakistan's version of him. pretty funny. love the 4man show parody!

well done.

Anonymous said...

I was going to Queens yesterday and somebody on the subway asked me about the takeover of SWAT by Taliban in Pakistan. The situation is so horrifying and appalling that every night a Taliban leader addresses terrified residents of Swat on banned activities and names those killed for violations. I just want to say that democracy is all about participation by the people. I don’t think people of Pakistan can be intimidated by a group of people called Taliban. They should send a clear message to Pakistani government that it has got to deliver by crushing Taliban and taking control of the situation.

Anonymous said...

you were going to Queens? eewwwww

Sohaib said...

Fabulous, fabulous post!

sarah said...

Dear Aks

Thank you for this fabulous post ! Can't stop laughing at the 4 man show :-) hilarious! this is exactly how Zaid Hamid should be perceived by the common people but unfortunately he seems to have a very loyal following...sad!

How about a longer post about Taher Khan and other bigots like Mubashir Lucman?

Waqas Ali Khan said...

So funny,
but why arent we talking about Reko Diq in south west baluchistan- One of the largest gold and copper reserves in the world , which was sold by Musharraf to foreign firms for a mere 21 billion dollars while it was worth around 65 billion - Zaid Hamid talked about it, no one else in our media has ever done that. Its unfair to discredit Zaid Hamid entirely, when u all chose Zardari as ur president

Naveed said...

I agree with the comment that some self reflection is needed here. ARY, GEO and most of the other Urdu language channels seem to host talk show presenters who have very reactionary agendas. They are pretty much all Fox News and I don't see much MSNBC or BBC in the talk show hosts. For me it shows an amazing consensus amongst their financial backers that the public wants opinion formers to stamp out any liberal, informed, logical thought (as displayed on this blog). I am losing faith rapidly that the majority of Pakistanis want to stop the never ending march to the extreme right and paranoia. With all the evidence before us, why should n't I think that Gilani is a modern day Neville Chamberlain and the Pakistani nation as a whole is simply not interested in fighting this? Thank goodness for the blogosphere, at least the minority Pakistanis can still hope.

Hazrat Zaid Hamid (RA) said...

Anti-Pakistan elements are barking against me everywhere, this blog is no exception.

I welcome all the pure Pakistanis to my new official website:

Aiyee aur bait kar lijiyee. rah-e-nijaat payiyee.