Pakistan’s surreal Urdu media — I

Pakistan has more doctors writing columns than any nation on earth.

Aakar Patel May 24, 2011

The Pakistani’s uncomplicated view of the world is revealed in his Urdu press.

A sample is available daily in the verse of Riaz urRehman Saghar, the poet published on Nawa-i-Waqt’s second page. He’s entertaining, but his trajectory is predictable: Citizens victims, Muslims pious, hukumran corrupt, Pakistan honourable, Amrika bad, Bharat worst. (Urdu writers refer to India as Bharat, rarely as Hindustan.)

After over 160 people were slaughtered in Mumbai, Saghar wrote verse scolding India for making it up (“khel rachaya Bharat ne”). Sharing the page with Saghar is Tayyaba Zia Cheema, Nawa-i-Waqt’s correspondent from New York. She wrote this on May 20: “Yeh faisla ab Pakistani qaum ko karna hai ke woh zillat ki zindagi jina chahti hai ya usay ghairat ki mot pasand hai.”

What a strange thing to say. Why must Pakistan die so that Ms Cheema can feel honourable in New York? And why hector Pakistanis from there?

On the same page (figuratively and literally) is Dr Ajmal Niazi. Pakistan has more doctors writing columns than any nation on earth. Dr Niazi is always angry. For those he dislikes, which is most people, he uses the ‘tu’ form of address. This is off-putting to the reader, especially when he writes about men like Najam Sethi.

Dr Niazi is untroubled by nuance: “Main ISI ke haq mein hoon keh Amrika aur Bharat uske khilaaf hain.” His reading of history is original. Bhutto, King Feisal and Liaqat were killed by Americans (May 21, ‘Andar se Pakistani, bahar se Amriki’).

Dr Niazi’s concern is that Pakistan’s journalists are insufficiently hysterical: “Taqriban sara electranik media Amrika aur Bharat ka prapagenda cell ban chuka hai” (May 23, ‘Nazariya hee sahib-e-nazar banata hai’).

In the same column, he helpfully points out that Geo TV kay “naam ka tarjumah ‘yahudi’ banta hai”. Apparently Geo equals Jew.

Hassan Nisar of Jang is quite stylish. He speaks in an affected manner, but often gets the issue right when he refers to America and the West. When he writes about India, alas, the old instinct freezes his brain. The loss of Bangladesh remains raw in Nisar’s mind and India, not Pakistan, was responsible for the partition of Pakistan in 1971.

On Jang’s editorial page, the best writer, or at least the most rational, is Nazir Naji. His view on India, terrorism and Pakistan’s army is quite balanced. Appearing with him is Haroon Rashid, foremost among those concerned about Pakistan’s honour. He has the look of someone who can be friends with anyone in power.

Daily Express’s Zaheda Hina is different from the rest, and alert to what the world thinks about Pakistan (though she got Thomas Friedman’s name wrong in one piece). Orya Maqbool Jaan has made it his life’s work to prove the two nation theory. It’s not clear, however, whom his lectures on Hindu inferiority are aimed at.

Javed Chaudhry looks earnest, but is as uninteresting in print as he is on television.

Millat Gujarati (which also has an Urdu edition) is better than Urdu dailies, but only marginally.

Data is rarely communicated by Pakistan’s kaalumnigar and tajziyakar. They write to express anguish, with little reference to facts. Breasts are beaten daily over drone attacks without acknowledging Major General Ghayur Mehmood’s numbers-led briefing that most of those killed are terrorists. Suicide bombings are referred to once in newspapers, for the event, and then passed over.

There is little attempt to connect the dots of the thousands of attacks and to come to the understanding the rest of the world has arrived at about Pakistan. It is a parallel universe in which the Pakistani is kept warm and insulated from the uncomfortable world of facts.

There is plenty of self-reference (“main bar-bar keh raha hoon”) to the writer’s unacknowledged prescience and wisdom. The Urdu writer’s problem is that the world is clearly wrong and Pakistan alone is right, but for some reason the world is unable to grasp this.

In the next piece we’ll have a look at the characters of Pakistan’s Urdu news tallyviyon (as Sheikh Rashid might say).

Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2011.


Malay | 10 years ago | Reply It would be interesting to have a look at Hindi and Urdu media on in India.
Norwegian Pakistani | 10 years ago | Reply Very well written. It is good to see an objective perspective about the Urdu Media. Now these posts should be translated and published in Urdu :) Please keep your blog posts coming!
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