Saturday, 7 June 2008

Terror, Opportunity and Justice

Written on Monday 02/06/08
Rawalpindi, Punjab - Pakistan
Islamabad, Capital Territory - Pakistan

It has been more than two days since I last visited a media outlet and that wasn't particularly productive either. On my agenda today is interviewing Ahmed Zaidan (Bureau Chief of Al Jazeera -Global TV Network Islamabad) and Imtiaz Gul (Bureau Chief of SAMAA - Urdu affiliate of CNBC - Islamabad). However, first stop of the morning is to the Pakistani Foreign Office, the very institution which was responsible for instigating my 6 day detention at Adiala jail in January. Let's see if they'll be instrumental in putting an actual criminal behind bars for a change i.e 'The Wily Fox' Bashir.

Basically, I need them to verify and stamp the Power of Attorney paper that my uncle had given me way back in November 2006. This is on top of the verification that the High Commission of Pakistan in London has already done. Whether or not the 'Bashir' issue will be resolved through legal means is beyond being a 'moot point' but I feel it necessary to cover all loopholes that may arise in any case. This is also an opportunity for me to vent my frustrations with an organ of the 'State'. I do wonder at times, "Do these government institutions have any idea of how much misery and suffering of millions of people has been caused by their lackadaisical approach over the past 60 years?"

While the foreign office official tries earnestly to explain that the situation cannot get better overnight, (a standard and oft-repeated piece of rhetoric) news breaks out that a bomb has exploded outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, causing a serious amount of fatalities. Our conversation ends with the official expressing his wish that if only there were more people like me in this society and that he must prepare for Yasin Malik's (JKLF chief in Indian-Administered Kashmir) meeting with the Foreign Minister, due within the next 15 minutes. "Sympathy doesn't alter reality though," I hurriedly exclaimed.

My thoughts return to the terror attack on the Danish embassy as I head towards the External Publicity Wing (EPW) of the Ministry of Information, which amongst other tasks, monitors foreign media references to Pakistan. It is beyond argument that this country has a negative image across the world. I would describe it as the manufacturing hub of global terror. It's myopic and 'faithful partnership' with America over the past 7 years has heaped misery on millions, who are forever determined to not only destroy what remains of the fabric of Pakistan but to teach America such a lesson that history will be obliged to never forget.

As a country, if you have no credible institutional framework to address people's grievances; where the idea of justice is mere fantasy; in a country where the masses are economically and ideologically vulnerable and where the political steering wheel is firmly in the hands of the Americans, do terror acts like today's come as a shock?

As a muslim, what disturbs me most is that in Pakistan; If I were looking to commit an 'act of terror', there are limitless opportunites and resources available for me to perpetuate the negative perceptions that many non-muslims have about muslims. On the other hand, my quest for peace, freedom of movement and socio-economic progress has fallen on deaf ears thus far. That's precisely why I'm aiming to fill a gaping void in mainstream media.

My visit to the EPW followed by the HPW (Home Publicity Wing) produces an almost identical tune:

"We appreciate what you're doing, we wish the youth of this country were like you, isn't mainstream media helping you? There's not much we can offer you in terms of assistance, no you can't record our interviews - we are public servants".
Etc. Etc.....

Despite the above, visiting these government institutions isn't bereft of purpose. Each representative has given me practical advice within their limitations and there is no doubt that they will raise my concerns with their superiors.

Visiting the 2 media outlets mentioned at the beginning of today's blog is now out of the question as their focus is glued to the Danish embassy. Such is the modus operandi of modern day media; the 'what' and 'how' narrative drowning out the 'why'.

This gives me some time to spend with someone who knows Bashir from childhood. He is adamant that I refrain from publishing what he is about to tell me. His explanation is that, although Bashir has cheated many people within his family and others in the 'local market', exposing him would disturb the societal equilibrium and cause un-needed and possibly fatal problems for him and his family.

Aah...Bashir can now also be described as a terrorist!

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