Animal Farm revisited - Masood Hasan - Sunday, April 10, 2011

A friend once advised me to read three books every six months. ‘Alice in Wonderland’ to understand the sheer absurdity of all things, ‘Animal Farm’ to understand betrayal and the absence of decency in our lives and ‘1984’ to understand the madness that states and governments succumb to in order to perpetuate their interests and maintain their hold over everything. It is of course no coincidence that the last two were written by the great George Orwell. What we are witnessing today since democracy’s revenge began in right earnest is a combination of all three but with disastrous consequences for this wretched land.

When asked about their game plan during the World Cup, a Pakistani cricketer said they took each match as it came! It seems the same game plan is pursued by our government. No game plan. Each day therefore erupts with more things going wrong than right. The derailing – this being a country where public transportation has failed, is nonstop. Islamabad seems to be demon-possessed to pursue the most foolhardy and ill-planned, ill- advised ventures. More cow dung on their collective faces seems to make absolutely no difference. No lessons are learnt and the concept of right or wrong has fled them and this country. Corruption is the new religion.

Take the Geo Super business. Since before the World Cup, the channel, having paid all the required fees, has been battling on all fronts to prevent mavericks from illegally cashing in on the satellite feed. It’s a complicated business at one level and just as easy as A, B, C (or G, E, O in this case) at another. Grab what is not yours. Air time is one thing but look at all the grabbing that’s going on in every sphere of our lives. It can make your hair stand on end if you have any left.

Now Geo Super in another bizarre twist has been denied a license by Pemra which was fathered by the police and carries its traditions from that hallowed coupling. Dr Jabbar – pray what kind of a doctor is he? Surely, he does not have a doctorate in say public communications or media management. More likely, he is another dubious medic and therefore cannot use the prefix – but hello who are we talking to?

In a cutting edge press conference (Dr) Jabbar jabbered on and on contradicting himself every few seconds. He ducked questions, lied, made ambiguous statements and passed the buck wherever he could. The reason he heads Pemra is most likely that he does not know a thing about broadcast and really, it does not even matter. As long as he holds the fort lying through his teeth and later, dentures, he will be the blue-eyed boy of the GOP. Hang the principles or contracts on legal paper. In this entire circus, the orders of the Supreme Court have been treated with contempt. They should close the SC and build a Joy land here.

The Geo travails should come as no surprise to anyone. When you cross the path with your masters, expect the worst. But what is at stake here is not one channel or one group of companies but the closure of Geo Super. This is a no-holds barred attack on this country’s few assets – independent media.

Ironically it was the president’s wife who gifted media their independence. Now it’s been undone. However, more shocking than what’s been done to Geo is the deafening silence of all the other channels. In print there is not a word about it. On other nonsense channels, not a whisper. On radio, nothing but static. This is Geo’s problem, not theirs. The myopia of such thinking simply defies words. It’s all very well to have a competitive edge but whatever happened to fundamental rules of public behaviour? Gone to the dogs like everything else – sorry Coco and Brandy, my two spaniels.

Personally and dare I say I speak for millions, the mushrooming channels are unbearable. Most have arrogant and self-conceited guests thronging their studios screaming utter nonsense versus even more arrogant and self-conceited anchors. Everyone shouts at everyone else and not a word is audible but the screaming and hysteria of people who you’d think have by now figured out the source of life. No debate ever reaches a conclusion and there are now physical scuffles and abusive language – all thrown in. These ‘debates’ are nothing more than screaming encounters in a loud fish market. As for the anchors, this is a mutant, cross breed which cannot tolerate anything but hearing its own voice spilling pearls. Most guests sit and wait while the anchors drone on and on. The concept of guiding the conversation along (remember David Frost’s interviews?) does not exist.

However, we must be in a minority because the channel masters think nothing of paying them money that you and I would not be able to earn in years. I have a bad feeling that one day the anchors (which ground ships) will do the same for all the channels too.

But that’s the media – good, bad or ugly, take your pick. What madness now has Islamabad in its death throes? Any half a brain government would have learnt that the best way to survive here is to keep your head down. Ours specialises in getting shot in the face every day. If there is no crisis, God forbid, they manufacture one. Last week there was the unceremonious closure of the HEC which has led to a nationwide debate.

NUML now finally rests in peace under hob nailed boots. The answer to Pakistan’s problems. Call in the armed forces. And there is the curious case of Reko Diq where skull drudgery and mysteries pop up by the minute. What is happening? Does anyone really know? On a lesser scale, a host of ambassadors are appointed and half of them don’t qualify. Going by the GOP’s rule book, why should the right people get the right jobs? PIA is one and there are plenty more and PIA is hopelessly bankrupt – advertisements showing delighted dads with happy daughters won’t cut the ice. A reality check is in order but since everything is cuckoo, the more bizarre things are, the better it is.

I have no wish to comment on cricket, but why are we showering public money on a team that failed miserably on the big day? Let private individuals or companies do it but what gives any government the right to squander our taxes to yobs who, let me remind you, are not amateurs but paid professionals? Yes, welcome them back because they exceeded our expectations but why are cash-incentives the only way this government and most of our people pay homage to cricketers? It adds crudity to the proceedings. Worse, the message is – although you never achieved your goal, here’s some cash to smooth things over! Try selling this concept to a properly run company.

You don’t achieve goals, you don’t get perks. Period. Read ‘Animal Farm’ again.

The writer is a Lahore-based columnist. Email:

Source :

No comments:

Post a Comment