TV journalism's Aafia mafia

Published: October 11, 2010
The writer is a columnist, and TV and radio anchor

The writer is a columnist, and TV and radio anchor [email protected]

Dr Aafia has been hijacked, and not just by the Americans, who had her flown to the US and gave her a dubiously excessive punishment for attempted murder, but by the Pakistani media itself.

Just recently Meher Bokhari conducted a TV programme on Samaa on Dr Aafia Siddiqui, and it was an atrocious attack on the idea of responsible, or even mildly responsible journalism. She opened her piece on the programme with an emotional plea about the “daughter of the nation” and how “time” would ask Musharraf about his actions. Is this journalism or jingoism?

If she had attached sideburns and worn flare pants she would be a shoo-in for deceased actor Mohammad Ali with a shout of “judge sahib!” inevitably coming our way. Guests on her programme were Dr Aafia’s sister, Dr Fauzia Siddiqui, Senator Talha of the JUI and senior ‘analyst’ Zaid Hamid.

Zaid Hamid immediately went off on an amazing tale of why the Americans were after Dr Aafia. He explained that she was a neurologist who had biological weapons’ knowledge that the Americans were afraid of, and that her Indian MIT students were complicit in the frame-up and even went to question her in jail in Afghanistan. I like fiction, but this is too much. Dr Aafia’s two children are in the custody of her family, with one missing, but in the programme the killing of two children was being stated as fact.

To this hogwash Meher Bokhari said nothing, and it looked like she was ready to let things slide until Dr Aafia’s sister said that her sister has a PhD in education, specifically on learning by imitation. Senator Talha then, despite having just heard this, and having been on jaunts to the US on government money to see Dr Aafia in person, said Dr Aafia’s PhD was on lining up “discarded” children.

Again, Meher Bokhari had no interest in correcting anything or playing a responsible role. On a CNBC programme I was on, I mentioned this to Senator Talha when he repeated the same tripe (this was after the Samaa programme), after which a shouting match began where the guests were only interested in haranguing Marvi Memon, who was also present.

In all this, the only voice of sanity was Dr Fauzia. But no one was interested in her because it spoilt everyone else’s agenda. Meher Bokhari kept asking the rhetorical question, “What did Aafia do that cannot be forgiven?” clearly ignoring the issues prior to 2003 when Dr Aafia was on the radar for association with al Qaeda. The UN report never came up.

Zaid wants to use Dr Aafia for cutting off ties with the Americans, Senator Talha for cheap political mileage and Meher Bokhari for playing to the gallery. Dr Fauzia also presented a hypothetically logical reason for why the Americans have done what they have to Dr Aafia. But again, that was of no interest to Meher Bokhari and Co. Why bring logic into the equation? Frankly this particular programme of Meher Bokhari made Fox look good in comparison.

And now, the MQM – for ages not a word about the Aafia case until the Imran Farooq murder. Two pieces of information inconclusively suggested the murder may have been an intra-party affair, the first being a report in The Guardian and the second a vague statement by Scotland Yard. This was followed by a flurry of activity by the MQM for Dr Aafia.

Quite possibly the motive, entirely circumstantial at this stage, is to put the party on an anti-western front, especially with regard to their system of justice. And should things turn ugly in London, the championing of Dr Aafia’s ‘cause’ will serve as the pretext for pursuit of a criminal case – in a western court of law – against the party. After holding a rally for Dr Aafia, Dr Fauzia wryly remarked that it would have been better had it been held years earlier.

To get Dr Aafia back and to help commute her sentence will only be done by a more rational approach. That, however is unlikely to happen given the ways of the Aafia mafia.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2010.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (60)

  • muhammad salim
    Oct 11, 2010 - 10:48PM

    well written fasi, i wish you would cover more of our media’s deafening silence on other issued like the video of the girl being stoned to her death in FATA region,which wasn’t covered at all by the tv channels sans one.

    Also,our tv channels’ silence over the ethnic cleansing of settlers in balochistan,where the federal interior minister states that hundreds have been targetted & killed because they were punjabis & lakhs of punjabis have been forced to flee from the ethnic cleansing in the balochistan where they lived for 40,50 years.Recommend

  • Mawali
    Oct 11, 2010 - 11:02PM

    Snoozzzze fest continues!Recommend

  • Oct 11, 2010 - 11:06PM

    if poor aafia is a drum then some in media and most in politics are ringo starrRecommend

  • sunny
    Oct 11, 2010 - 11:06PM

    if you would like to make fun of everyone whose hearts are broken, rightly so, by what has happen to this woman, than pick up a gun and go and rescue her. Muslims are finally, genuinely in pain over the plight of a woman, and here you are poking fun at them. Jihad is the only way to bring her back. Break her out literally from the brooklyn mdc dungeon where she is, and forcefully bring back Suleyman her youngest son. Even if she was associated with al-qeida, that’s a good thing, al-qeida is evil to the U.S. who wants to see Muslims weak, not to us Muslims, who have been defended by groups like al-qeida. Recommend

  • Hasan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:02AM

    Why doesn’t Zaid Hamid write Ibn-e-Safi’s Imran Series like novels? He could be very successful at fiction.Recommend

  • faraz
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:02AM

    Aafia developed some secret biological weapons……Hahahaha……Commander Zaid Hamid and his stupid conspiracy theoriesRecommend

  • Hasan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:07AM

    Jihad is the only way to bring her back.

    Please start immediately.Recommend

  • Hammad
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:20AM

    Now whose indulging in conspiracy theories? MQM’a motives – not just circumstantial Fasi – just as baseless as the conspiracy theories you harangue against.

    A pretty dire article – we all know how bad Meher Bokhari is.Recommend

  • Aziz Akhmad
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:20AM

    What I gathered from Aafia’s defense lawyer’s plea, while watching her sentencing proceedings in the courtroom, Aafia’s degree had to do with cognitive learning, which is also called neuroscience. Also, she never taught at MIT. She just did her Bachelor’s and then a Ph. D from Brandies University. Therefore this talk of biological weapons and teaching Indian students at MIT is, as the Americans would say, just hogwash.

    For all those who are trying to ride Aafia’s bandwagon, the best course of action would be to put their money where their mouth is, find a good lawyer and appeal in the appellate court. Recommend

  • ali akbar
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:21AM

    Jeez – running out of material. Just call Aafia a cockroach and take a holiday dude.Recommend

  • adam khan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:22AM

    The Aafia stuff is just a repeat of last week.

    The MQM stuff – pretty weak – did you run out of an ending Fasi.

    Normally I love your stuff.Recommend

  • Samia
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:29AM

    @ Sunny – totally agree.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:30AM

    Feel free to write about the total miscarriage of justice that Muslims face regularly – Dr Aafia is one of thousands languishing on various dubious ccharges.

    A mendacious piece from Zaka – sponsored by his masters.Recommend

  • Michael
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:31AM

    The title was eye catching the first time – now it’s just stale.

    You are a bit too pleased with yourself Zaka mate!Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 1:09AM

    Don’t mind Fasi, religious fanatics usually stay awake late-night busy with stitching suicide vests and all. You will get positive responses sometime in the morning. Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 3:55AM

    I would have not come to this piece if I did not have my Google alert set for “Imran Farooq.”

    I think that the author did not bother to tell the readers that what the Guardian “inconclusively suggested” was merely what was being fed to the Scotland Yard by anti-MQM people living around the scene of the murder. After all the Scotland Yard is talking to all and sundry.

    He also did not bother the tell the readers that General Musharraf popped the rumor balloon set off by the Guardian.

    The MQM is the only party in Pakistan that is not only blamed for anything that happens to its rivals, but also whatever happens to itself. As if from rulers to ruled, from police to people, and from lawyers to judges the whole Pakistani nation consists of uber law abiding citizens who are dumbfounded by the non-stop atrocities committed by the MQM.

    I find that ultra bizarre.Recommend

  • Maulana Diesel
    Oct 12, 2010 - 6:47AM

    How about our sister, Ms. Zarina Marri, a young girl from Balochistan who is languishing in ISI safe houses for supporting the separatists? Why shouldn’t this Jihad start at home and efforts made to release her? Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 8:18AM

    The “Daugther of the Nation” slogan for Aafia is selling like a hot cake. Recommend

  • Rao Amjad Ali
    Oct 12, 2010 - 8:24AM

    Request # 12: could somebody enlighten us as to what on earth was she doing in Kandhar in the first place – unless it was declared a destination of choice for rest and recreation?Recommend

  • Shahid
    Oct 12, 2010 - 10:15AM

    I dont know why this issue is so much important.But still,,ideally,,, I think a Pakistani terrorist should only be punished in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 10:16AM

    Whatever the charges against Dr Affia, the fact is that the punishment given to her is unfair and excessive. Yet all the liberals, who feed on cash injections from USA, dare not write against them. I agree that Dr Affia seems to be involved in some sort of activities with extremist elements. However these were not the charges for which she was sentenced for 86 long years. Human rights activists and NGOs need to be seen protesting against human right violations of any citizen of Pakistan, Remember the case of an Australian and another British girl, caught in Singapore for drug smuggling and yet the whole West twisted this into an issue of human rights violation. Dr Afia might be guilty of aiding the extremists, but were her children also guilty, because they were also held captive.Recommend

  • Tariq Khan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 10:26AM

    @ Rao Sahib: Thank you so much for asking that rational question that seems to be eluding everyone covering this story.

    While no one can deny that we Muslims are facing persecution, there is definitely more to this whole Dr. Aafia story that we’re led to believe, what frightens me is even how we “educated readers of this first tier publication” descend into mob mentality everytime someone writes about how we should scratch the surface and look a little deeper into facts.

    I agree with Fasi, regardless of whatever Dr. Aafia has done or not, she should be like all other Pakistanis languishing in prisons abroad should have access to consular support from the Government. We Pakistanis need to start realizing that our clergy, politicians and elite continue to play us like a harp from hell pushing their two cent agendas which only serves their interests and not ours. Recommend

  • Taimoor hassan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 10:37AM

    Report in the Guardian was feeded by well known journalist in Islamabad through Mr Saeed Shah-Correspondent in Pakistan. Musharraf and Co also denied clearly as well. Blaming Meher Bukhari and playing the same blame game for MQM is best example of yellow journalism, you represented.
    Anyway Keep writing and improve yourself on factual groundsRecommend

  • Hamza Baloch
    Oct 12, 2010 - 10:37AM

    Again the same thing, every one know that case of americans were weak, thats why our so-called “intlecutal” not speaking about the case and its desicion.. they bringing “Al-qaeda/JI/Media”….

    And please please… tell mr Anas abas to that “Zarina marri” is a fake story., and also to mr NFP, he was also qouting that story also………………!Recommend

  • Ahmed Iqbal
    Oct 12, 2010 - 11:06AM

    People are so gullible. Afia Siddiqui is claimed to be a neuroscientist whereas she is not. The whole Afia story is nothing but a sham!!!Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 11:09AM

    Agree with To get Dr Aafia back and to help commute her sentence will only be done by a more rational approach The political parties and coalition forces can only show support through protest and rallies, it is indeed in the hand of govt to deal with the issue positively, here is my 2 cent if Musharraf would have been there, Aafia would have been backRecommend

  • A Suhail
    Oct 12, 2010 - 11:14AM

    @Sunny. I think you and commander Zaid Hamid should lead a jihad group called “Lashkar e Afia” to rescue her. You say muslims are in pain over her plight?? We Pakistani’s are so use to swapping the words Muslim and Pakistan that we have forgotten that it doesn’t mean the same thing. NO where in muslim world there is any commotion on her plight. Can you please tell me about one Muslim country where demonstrators came out on street asking for Afia’s release from US jail?. I think not. 98% of the muslim countries are living happily and progressing and only few like ours are blaming the west for waging war against islam. Stick your head out of sand and for once try to understand the consequences of our ill advised jihad against American, West, India and Martians. Collectively they make more than half of the worlds population and not to mention 90% of trade. Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 11:41AM

    Dear fasi.. you forgot to mention that Afia didn’t take American. She is still Pakistani citizen. Media is trying possible thing to fuel this movement because they don’t want to promote culture of Guantanamo Bay. Whatever Meher or cnbc did may not be right but they are left with no option when government is least interested as they have many have kept other Pandora boxes open…Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Oct 12, 2010 - 12:40PM

    Nice article & very funny but true description of this Meher female. Talk about mediocre journalism. You are right these media people just play to the gallery. If I remember correctly, wasn’t she the one dancing at the US embassy party (pictures) a few month back? Talk about hypocrites.

    They have no substance at all.Recommend

  • Zaib
    Oct 12, 2010 - 1:08PM

    good write up… Fasi … Recommend

  • Anwar Hasan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 1:21PM

    I do not think Dr. Aafia is as innocent as she and others claim her to be. Something is going on. Recommend

  • SharifL
    Oct 12, 2010 - 1:31PM

    All very well, but is there not a irony behind this? Aafia is american citizen and has been sentenced in America by a court and not a court of kangaroos. On one hand we want her back, but at the same time we are happy that President Zardari should be handed over to switzerland for a trial. I would like someone to help my confused mind.
    In USA in its history of over 200 years, its supreme court has never, I repeat never made any statement that ‘we are noticing this or that crime or irregularity’; it is left to the government to do that and the courts only handle cases when they are brought to them.Recommend

  • saeed zaman
    Oct 12, 2010 - 1:33PM

    somethings to ask.
    1.why aafia children not coming to media to explain where they were.
    2.who ask her mother,sister to remain silent. she a scientist or diploma holder of other then what she i described by media. she a Pakistani nationality holder.
    5.If this is a drama then what will be the final.
    6.did Pakistani has confirmed what they are agitating for.
    the picture has many sides better understand.Recommend

  • Oct 12, 2010 - 1:36PM

    I am surprised how us pakistani want to go on Jihad all the way to America and break free someone like Aafia, I am not sayign she is guilty or not guilty but I cant understand the same passiional cannot be shown for women who are languishing in jails here for some crime that they did not commit. What I cant understand is why dont all these so called Jihadi voicing people start jihad here on the numerous women that are being attacked on one pretext or the other. A famous saying do not try try to take the saw dust out of the other persons eye when you have a plank in your own. Pakistan wake up and strat cleaning up your house here before others will have to come and do it for you!Recommend

  • Naushad Shafkat
    Oct 12, 2010 - 3:02PM

    Well said Fasi especially the last 3 paragraphs. For the life of me I can not understand all this hype about Dr. Afia. When and how did she become the ‘nation’s daughter’ and a darling of the JI? And why do we insist that her sentencing is a slap on our face (even though we love being slapped? You are probably the only one to have brought up the alleged Al-Qaeda link others even shy away from mentioning it. Then all the ‘legal experts’ were deriding the American legal system for the sentence of 86 years even though the system has been in vogue for centuries and 2 people have been sentenced in Georgia (US) in 2006 to seven consecutive life sentences plus 265 years each in prison not for murder or rape but for armed robberies!!!!!Recommend

  • parvez
    Oct 12, 2010 - 3:09PM

    As if things were not complicated enough. OK, with Fasi Zaka I like what he says and with Meher Bokhari I like what what I see.
    The saying goes for TV talk shows “never trust what you hear and trust only half of what you see”. So Ms Bokhari wins, sorry Fasi.
    Seriously : this Afia thing is a non issue.Recommend

  • Hasan
    Oct 12, 2010 - 3:20PM

    @ Samia – totally disagree.Recommend

  • Gurriya
    Oct 12, 2010 - 5:50PM

    Great piece with lots of food for thought – not just Mehr Bokhari but every TV anchor out there who just finds it the easy way up to celebrity-hood by taking a popular stance (which by the way has been politicized by certain political factions) and also because it is easy to go with the flow (the other channels are doing it, so lets do it). i hope the readers remember that reference FZ gave in his last column about a TV News Producer who verbally accepted that behind the camera every person in the studio was against Afia but on screen they preferred to take a stance otherwise. The ending was the best part actually, i am so glad people like FZ can really see behind the otherwise emotional outbursts of the London based MQM leader – “Jageerdara!!” and his other gimmicks to objectively point out the political moves these people make. Dr Afia was arrested years ago, why the ruckus now? Very good analysis, thoroughly enjoyed it. Recommend

  • Gurriya
    Oct 12, 2010 - 5:53PM

    @ Saeed Zaman

    I am fighting the urge to go int a detailed lecture for u but ur post tells me u have not done enough reading abt this issue. plz go do it. objectively. good luck Recommend

  • K.K.K.
    Oct 12, 2010 - 5:54PM

    mazaydaar piece bro!Recommend

  • Nadeem
    Oct 12, 2010 - 7:03PM

    Sorry a typo made my comment a little funny. The correct comment is:
    I totally agree with Mr. A. Sohail, in which (I dont say slaps) but takes the conservative minds like sunny quite right……………..Recommend

  • M M Malik
    Oct 12, 2010 - 8:25PM

    Dr. Aafia is guilty, lets accept that and move on.
    The questions which still bother me are that why are people of Pakistani origin involved in most terrorist activities and why jihad; wherever done has not been successful in the recent past (last 120 years)?Recommend

  • Yasir Qadeer
    Oct 12, 2010 - 11:30PM

    I believe this story was given hype by a certain sect and who it was is not a mystery. Mullahs have always needed one reason to blow their horn.Recommend

  • Ahsen Lodhi
    Oct 13, 2010 - 3:17AM

    excellent article.. and remarkable description of Mehar Bukhari and Zaid.. I tried to watch her program and then never even thought of doing so.. it would do nothing but make your BP shoot up… Recommend

  • shahnawaz
    Oct 13, 2010 - 9:00AM

    I think its a politicized issue, being further politicized and messed up by the media. Of course she should be sent here and tried here if she is a Pakistani. There is no question about this. However, I feel the media needs a leash, as it has no grooming and all the freedom in the world with jaw dropped poor frustrated and uneducated masses to change mindsets of. Dangerous combination and circumstances. we SERIOUSLY should talk more about the media issue than any other. Its a cancer.Recommend

  • Ali
    Oct 13, 2010 - 10:09AM

    Most of the readers rightly pointed out that there is much more to Aafia’s case than what has been shown through media. If one has followed the entire episode of Dr. aafia, many questions from the journalist used to remain unanswered from Dr. Fauzia especially regarding alleged connection of Aafia with Al-Qaeda.
    The mode of her trial and the subsequent punishment is questionable in many ways and one feel sympathetic for her being a mother of three. These sentiments come natural to human beings and nothing wrong with that but the sentiments should not overshadow the underlying circumstances. Lets take an example of a TTP suicide bomber carrying attacks on innocent muslims, no matter how many children does he/she has, what sentiments do we carry for them? Its a bit harsh and rude example but an honest answer would suffice the minds.

    As far as MQM is concerned, their biggest weakness lies in the fact that they dont have T.V anchors and columnist who could raise voice in their support.Recommend

  • Ifra
    Oct 13, 2010 - 2:42PM

    Just tell me something. If she’s so innocent, why was she not released earlier????Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Oct 13, 2010 - 2:59PM

    The Afia mafia has formed a false narrative. We have many more pertinent causes that need public voicing, such as inclusion of masses in the war against terror, or growing radicalization in society Recommend

  • Anwar Hasan
    Oct 13, 2010 - 3:58PM

    I do not think Dr. Aafia is innocent. She may have committed a minor crime but I so not think she is innocent.Recommend

  • mazbut63
    Oct 13, 2010 - 9:15PM

    WHY AND HOW my media which stresses to follow the judicial orders by HIS EXCELLENCY in LETTER AND SPIRIT feels free to critisize the courts of law in other countries ????
    80 years term implies the grevious nature of indictment ant strength/weight of arguments against her.
    Why media does not insist on case of Dr ARSALAN IFTIKHAR CHOUDRY, which many insiders say would bring into question the morality of HIS EXCELLENCY………………Recommend

  • Imran
    Oct 13, 2010 - 11:00PM

    I cant believe that people on this forum (including mr Zaka himself) are interpreting Aafia’s issue in this way!! And I wonder why all those NGOs claiming for fightging for Women Rights, and who start making noise on issues like Mukhtaran Mai, have been silent on this case. To sell one of your own citizens to another country to be humiliated in this way, speaks volume of the way Musharraf and his cronies were running the government. And the fact that we cannot even make up our minds on the issue speaks volumes of the state of confusion we are in. Why cant we accept that injustice of the highest level is being meted out against one of our citizens??? While people like Yvonne Ridley have raised their voices against the actions of the US government, our educated lot are wasting their time trying to (unsuccessfully) convince each other through these kinds of forums that their must have been some logic in the sentence handed out to Dr Afia. Recommend

  • ali hamdani
    Oct 14, 2010 - 9:45AM

    Media has a large role to play in the current situation of the country. It is important for them to rather portray domestic issues and women being harassed within country.Recommend

  • khan
    Oct 14, 2010 - 10:05AM

    As Zafarullah Jamali confessed Musharraf asked him to brush the Aafia issue under the rug.

    The Aafia mafia should ask Musharraf to tell the truth. Was she handed over for some cold hard cash by his uniformed minions or was she arrested in Afghanistan, as the evidence produced in US Court insists.Recommend

  • AffanKhan
    Oct 14, 2010 - 7:53PM

    An article similar to this was rejected from being published by both the leading english newspapaer-dawn and tribune as they didn’t allow political content to be published. How ironic and the media CRIES over the government of being unjust!! Recommend

  • Qasim
    Oct 14, 2010 - 8:34PM

    If you actually watch the show, Mehr Bokhari did question Zaid Hamid, and he then gave a rather credible reference – (former senator) Mushahid Hussain’s meeting with people connected to the Aafia case in the US, and all that.

    I wonder why you didn’t mention that bit – I guess it would have been counter-productive towards the general theme/thrust of making it seem like that bloke didn’t give references for his claims (which he did… ). Journalism indeed!Recommend

  • syed hashim
    Oct 15, 2010 - 1:04AM


    Zaid Hamid’s claim was based on an article that appeared in 2008 in The News, wheras other local papers that carried the same news mentioned that her story was vague about detention, and conflicting in her narrative of her detention, which includes The Nation by the way.

    Zaid Hamid had two years to clear up the facts that no longer stand true and are discredited. Yet he repeats claims universally debunked, like her education, etc that form the basis of the fantasy told in the programme, Qasim, you are suggesting that if there is a reference to the belief that the Catholic Church believes the universe revolves around the earth, then it must be true if its a reference not updated by the facts, logic or science?

    Even Mushahid Hussain will not repeat the same now, since he has a current newspaper subscription and doesnt just follow what suits him. . Recommend

  • syed hashim
    Oct 15, 2010 - 1:23AM

    In addition during the programme once Zaid had been shamefully contradicted by Dr. Fauzia, Meher Bokhari did not ask Zaid to clarify, but he did so only to blame someone else for his lack of research ability. Recommend

    Oct 15, 2010 - 12:26PM

    Whenever the word media struck into my mind,it annoyed me everytime to see them mingling news.Now a days,with the passage of every minute media is reporting to the the public in a biased manner,which is nothing more than just point scoring.They dont know about the aftermath,it is bringing bad name as well as there neutrality is in danger.people know a days juz see the so called T.V program just to have fun. Recommend

  • Muhammad Luqman
    Oct 21, 2010 - 2:48PM

    Instead of stopping others from raising the issue of illegal detention of Ms. Aafia at the hands of Americans, we should also work for the freedom of this Pakistani woman. Recommend

  • ammad
    Oct 23, 2010 - 4:21AM

    fasi zaka is ready to lick american’s shoe n forcing us to do the sameRecommend

More in Pakistan