Occupy Central Hong Kong and 9mms of Karachi

I think nothing makes us feel more alive than pushing ourselves to the limits, dreaming big, digging for new experiences and getting romantically involved; the trials and tribulations of hard days work, animal attraction, wanderings in to realms that have no precedents but have rewards beyond our wildest imagination and equally intensive challenges in shapes and forms that cross the normal human threshold. At least in my philosophy, call me narcissistic and some have over the years, or even elitist but that is my point of view. For now.

I also happen to believe that these are the attributes of a good researcher.

So I’m in Hong Kong (HK) now folks the most vertical city in the world and one of the four asian miracles of the 20th century; grossly inflated real estate prices, thriving capitalist service economy, cheap sea food, pricey vegetables, centre of a political shit storm (tussles with China), rather behaved residents minus the wacky taxi drivers, massage parlours (yes there are many) and typhoons all, for an experimental doctoral program that spans across, Asia and Europe.

However this post is not going to be about my experience with sushi buffets, dancing fire dragons manned by 50 strong or selfie sticks (yes there are devices now that makes selfie taking more professional. You better believe it!). This post will attempt to bring a perspective of a Karachiite to the massive street protests staged by HK students against their government for universal suffrage and democracy, a right they believe is being denied to them by the central government in China.

One of the thousands of posters placed around HK. - Photo TAC
Some of the thousands of posters found all around HK these days – Photo TAC

I left for HK from Karachi on the afternoon of August 31. You would recall that prior night, Imran Khan and the maschismo, Allama Dr. Sir. Tahir UlQadri’s revolutionary and freedom marches had boiled to a hostile standoff with law enforcement agencies in Islamabad. Tear gas, rubber bullets and aerial firing were used to ward of protestors. The political climate once again brought the affairs of our fragile state to yet another precarious moment in time. Media outlets, political parties, including the omnipresent establishment, scrambled to score points; revising stances and shifting allegiance to suit the perceived winds of change.

As is customary in such volatile times – and there are many in Karachi, so many in fact that volatility has lost its traditional sense of meaning – fuel stations are closed, cell phone services are terminated, law enforcement presence is increased, shops and markets are shuttered, at least during the day and the ones that remain open for business are coerced by political parties. To say that the KSE index drops down would not be enough as the working class finds it difficult to report for duty when public transport is suspended thereby affecting the entire economy. The whole fabric of society is thus affected when people chose to stay under the safety of their homes. The massive class divide becomes apparent even here, when the silent majority of urban Karachi, politically exhausted remains homebound and waits for the chaos to pass as it usually does, while the poor and zealous take active part. Some get killed and become collateral in these recurring events which are essentially power struggles among the elites.

So when I visited the protest sit-in at HK’s central financial district I was overwhelmed by the sheer level of organisation among the youth, which forms the bulk of the Occupy Central movement, and their resolve. The demonstrators that fluctuate between 10 to 50,000 have vowed to protest peacefully and not affect the routine functioning of the government. Every morning they collect and clear the trash that has accumulated on the site, distribute food and water, provide gas masks and goggles for new arrivals and keep a steady spray of water to account for the heat.

Protesters at the Admiralty
Protesters at the Admiralty – Photo TAC

The general feeling of camaraderie becomes apparent when you participate in the hundreds of small conversations that are happening all over the site. Hong Kong like Pakistan was once a British colony and follows a legal system very similar to the common law system that Pakistan follows. In 1997 when the British formally handed the territory back to China, it was under the condition that the state would have universal suffrage and enjoy complete autonomy under a ‘one-country-two-system’ policy. So while HK has its own mini-constitution, independent judiciary, separate currency, law enforcement, electorate and legislators, it’s foreign policy and defence is under the control of the PRC government. The protests essentially are a part of the evolving nature of the executive authority of HK as it attempts to maintain its distinct identity while remaining part of China.

But I won’t start a political commentary here. Because, we students of political science are trained to look at matters objectively and as external observers which often dehumanises the process of change. Let me explain…

As I made my way through the heart of the protests, I saw children, adults, students alike camped together on the roads; sleeping, chatting, doing their home work etc. all very solemn however in the awareness that the future of their country and culture is at stake and genuinely believing that they can and will change the decision of the government. It didn’t matter that they represent a small percentage of the 7 million people living in HK, or that the PRC government and the Chief Executive both have announced not to budge on their initial ruling of vetting the candidates for the country’s highest office first by NPCSC. It dawned upon me how little credit I always give to the collective understanding of the people, always coming with prescriptions where in fact collective reasoning may prove just as beneficial if not more. Maybe this is what democracy stands for. The idea of a philosopher king following Plato’s school of thought which is a characteristic of authoritarian rule presumes an elitist perspective on governance. Maybe the existing order of HK represents this rule and maybe the state of HK has grown out of this form of governance?

Its a protest, not a party! - Photo TAC
Its a protest, not a party! – Photo – TAC

These people are not the sheep that follow greener pasture trails or the fear of the whip, or that most destructive force, ‘the wrath of God’ unlike in Pakistan. There belief is supported by prominent local scholars of law and urban studies who are also the leaders of this movement. So there are flyers shared online, on social media platforms and distributed as hard copy that attempts to answer questions and educate an average Hong Konger; Why is this crisis taking place? Who are the players involved? What can we gain if they meet our demands? What is being done to maintain civility, law and order? There is even a path within the massive sit-in that ensures thoroughfare and everyone respects it…

In stark contrast to the 9mm pistol demonstrations, in Karachi that bring the entire city life to a grinding halt, or those festive concerts and rhetorical performances that promise to change the country overnight. Some people have argued that brutal force is the only way to get anything important done in the city. But have we forgotten, the May 2005 earth quake where citizens of Karachi made a peaceful and collective effort to send massive supplies to effected areas? When women, men, policeman, officers and politicians alike joined hands without any prejudice towards a common cause? Its a pity that it takes a natural calamity for us to act civil.

And yet, I am writing now to draw parallels so that we may also aspire to be citizens of Karachi in a real sense. Take ownership of our actions and our community heavens know our bread and butter depends on it. It may take a generation to realise it but the awareness for the process must start now! It is possible yet.

Between the thoroughfare - Photo TAC
Thanks for coming, sit with us, fight with us – Photo TAC

Statement of Intent – PhD program at Hong Kong Baptist University

A poignant lesson I learnt in my academic, professional and personal development is that life should not be perceived as a long-term business plan, contrary to what we are dispassionately taught since childhood in Pakistan; prior to my Masters I would never have imagined a career in academia given my temperament but it was a series of anachronistic events that not only invoked in me a dormant passion for the knowledge economy but also convinced me of it’s logic.

I always had a penchant for the untold stories, the underdogs and the way society evolves with progress. So a chance trip to Turkey after saving enough money, to meet a pen pal became a life changing experience in 2011; a festive blend of East meets West, Turkey “opened my eyes,” to the vast similarities among different cultures and human nature in general. It made me understand that people everywhere have the same desires and wants. It also smashed some inaccurately construed perspectives about different cultures I had acquired through popular television.

At that time I was planning to enroll in a postgraduate program in management to complement my exiting faculties – earlier I had planned and secured Rs. 60,00,000 (~ $67,000) for a marketing campaign at Ahmed E.H. Jaffer Foundation’s boarding school of excellence The Hub School, and prior to that given the unprecedented task to revamp the business model for the website Brandsynario.com at Synergy (Pvt.) Ltd, notwithstanding pressure to join the family business full time – but upon my return I decided to pursue a burgeoning interest in journalism. I reckoned that communication sciences would inculcate in me a strong core understanding of reaching the audience; which is far more important for understanding marketing communication, particularly in an evolving pubic sphere in Pakistan where importance of elections, fundamental human rights and free speech have only recently gained traction after media liberalisation.

Thus communication science is a career path I have followed rigorously and whole-heartedly since. 

To learn more in this field I pursued a master’s program in Journalism and Media Communication at the University of Hertfordshire in Hatfield, United Kingdom. Participation in the event coverage of the first St Albans Film Festival, internship at the Eastern Eye – Britain’s foremost weekly for South Asian community in Central London – and the MA thesis on Pakistani media made me cognizant of the peculiarities of South Asians all over the world and the dearth of available literature in the field. 

My dissertation and successive PhD proposal are the two most cherished culminations of my master’s program. The dissertation report for which I spent my entire nine day holiday in Pakistan conducting elite interviews, reaching out to friends at Interflow Communication and Nielsen Saudi Arabia among other venues, taught me the intricacies of conducting rigorous research. It compelled me to dig deeper, read more and collaborate more.

My lucky break came when Professor Anatol Lieven at King’s College agreed to see me last November to offer his critique of my master’s thesis. My ambitions in academia gathered momentum from then onwards. Anatol was kind enough to introduce me to Professor Mathew McCartney at Oxford University who upon my insistence has agreed to co-supervise a doctoral program subject to enrollment at the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. However the strongest support for my PhD proposal came from Professor Daya Thussu at University of Westminster, Professor Pradeep Chhibber at University of California, Berkley and Professor Colin Sparks at your esteemed institution.

Upon my return from UK, I made a tough call to put on hold a lucrative position at an advertising firm to develop my proposal further. It was self-learning in its essence, a trait picked from the excellent faculty at Hertfordshire. Now that I apply for funding while I work at The News International (Jang Group) and prepare to teach media theory at SZABIST this fall, I know that every decision I take must bring me a step closer to a doctoral program.

If given the choice between research work purely in United States and United Kingdom or, partly in Hong Kong and United States, I would chose the later without hesitation; since media systems are inextricably linked with the political identity of a country it makes sense for Pakistani academics to study communication systems in countries such as China, Brazil, Poland, South Africa and India. Pure liberal democratic templates adopted from mature democracies are bound to fail in the global south. There is credibility in my statement; of the five telecommunication companies – the only industry where private foreign investment is officially allowed – operating in Pakistan, four are owned by investors in Russia, Middle East and China. It is highly likely that in future developments in the media industry of Pakistan, such nations will play an important role. The need of the hours thus is to study best practices in both schools of thought and that is why a dual degree program offered at HKBU is of intense interest for me.

My decision to apply for a PhD program was not an epiphany neither was it something I always knew I would take since childhood but something I have actualized over the years. It has been a journey of self-discovery and my four years of experience within the industry, in Karachi and London, puts me in a unique position to undertake this research. I sincerely hope that the admission’s committee will consider my application strongly.

 


I wrote this statement somewhere last summer to contest for a very eclectic and experimental four-year PhD program based across continents in Hong Kong, China and the United kingdom. And much to my bewilderment I was accepted for a full-funded position in Communication Studies in this incredible part of the world! Perhaps my statement will serve as a rough guide or even inspire fellow Pakistanis to dream big, cash in on their strengths and develop the foresight to traverse where others hesitate. I consider myself very very lucky.

 

The Rise of the Global South

The emergence of the Global South has become an increasingly popular colloquialism within the academic community. It refers to most of the countries of Africa, Central and Latin America and Asia as opposed to the Global North which makes up the developed part of North America, Europe and East Asia.

The term, traditionally synonymous with the third world now represents countries that have experienced rapid economic growth in the past three decades, even during times of recession. At present, if we consider an obvious indicator of growth – that South-South economic cooperation now exceeds South-North cooperation by $2.2 trillion i.e. over one quarter of global trade- and by UNDP 2013 estimates that 80% of the world’s middle class will be living in developing countries – it can be assured that the South will have a tremendous impact in reshaping international political and economic systems.

The launch of the New Development Bank (NDB) last month by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa collectively known as the BRICS nations is one such impact. The move is being looked upon as a practical measure to counter shortcomings of existing world development institutions – specifically the World Bank and the IMF –  which through their prejudice for the US and European national interests and harsh constitutionalities have always been a bone of contention for emerging economies.  

But the bank is a small chapter in a wider debate surrounding shifts in the global balance of power. This shift is not simply the result of better policies on infrastructure development, research investment and trade; it marks a broader ideological evolution in the world’s understanding of such systems by learning from South-South direct intellectual and cultural dialogue which was tradtionally always contextualized through the West.  

In a recent Time Magazine editorial Wall Street’s Values Are Strangling American Business, Rana Foroohar talks about how in highly globalized capitalistic markets, such as the US, the need to please the shareholders outweigh the needs of long term sustainable growth of companies. This result in markets influencing businesses more than vice versa; against what capitalist system originally sought to achieve. The financial crisis of 2007-2008 thus has increased the grasp of finance on corporate America.

Faroohar goes further by citing a McKinsey Global Institute report, that by 2025, 7 out of 10 largest global firms will be from emerging economies. Moreover, they will primarily be family owned!

Although the significance of the Global South gets lost in our World’s multipolar political rehtoric in the public sphere, the knowledge economy operates at a scientific level. Thus in conferences and lecture rooms, academics from the Global North are debating on poignant lessons that can be gleaned from researches based on South-South interactions.

For instance, Kanchan Chandra, Professor of Politics at NYU, taking Indian ethnic politics as a case study in her paper Ethnic Party and Democratic Stability, suggests a model that counters conventional wisdom that ethnic divisions destabilize democratic institutions. In fact she proposes ways in which certain dimensions of ethnicism in state institutions can enhance their efficacy for South Asian democracies.      

Similarly, Hearns-Branaman, lecturer at National Institute of Development Administration in Bangkok, on defining the political economy of media of China writes that post-1970s period has seen all Chinese news media become completely financially independent from the government while remaining an integral part of the government and adherence with the Communist Party’s line. This is in stark contrast to the widely held dystopian beliefs about media in China.

Such papers are a miniscule glimpse of the large body of excellent work that is being produced through South-South interactions. More importantly they have even greater significance for developing countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Chile, Poland and Nigeria where template solutions adopted from mature democracies are deemed to fail; where indegenous solutions along the lines of similar transitioning democracies are more relevant.           

If we take the example of our media industry, it’s not mere coincedence that out of the five telecommunication companies operating in Pakistan – perhaps the only area of the communication industry where private foreign investment is officially allowed – four have investors in Russia, Middle East and China. Furthermore, it is widely believed that the decision for electronic media liberalization was influenced by the vibrant Indian media.

It is highly likely that in future developments in our media industry, such nations will play an important role. It is thus imperative for Pakistani scholars and policy makers to rethink their position in the globalsphere by looking beyond the West. Three of the BRICS economies share our part of the continent and we share borders with two of them. There are fascinating propsects for infrastructure development, trade, cross-cultural dialogue and knowledge transfer usually dominated by a North-South aid paradigm.

However, we must approach the developing world with cautious optimism. Verily, unlike the North the political systems in the South are rather diverse and volatile. But Dr Brilliant Mhlanga, a research fellow at Brown University International Relations Institute, who sees interesting comparisons between the ethnic issues of Pakistan and South Africa says that that itself should be seen as a point of strength than a weakness. If anything, it (NDB) buttresses the view of ‘Unity in Diversity’, as opposed to unity in oneness.

For now we should see the NDB as coming to fruition of ideas whose inception dates back to the Bandung Conference of the 1950s. Perhaps, the non-alignment movement is relavent more than ever now.

175 Lyari youths awarded for honing English skills

Originally appeared on The New International

Sunday, June 29, 2014 Print Edition

By Ayaz Ahmed Siddiqui


The Pakistan American Cultural Centre (PACC) awarded 175 talented male and female youngsters of Lyari, aged between 16 and 25, with graduation certificates on Saturday after their completion of a specially-designed English language programme.

The objective of the six-month merit scholarship, which was organised in collaboration with the Karachi Youth Initiative, was to equip the youths with good communication and leadership skills and enable them to spread the message of peace, love and tolerance, said Madiha Rehman, the director of the programme.

The event began with KYI officials conducting a survey among the graduates to assess the extent of their positive behavioural change.

Bilal Ahmed, one of the graduates, said he was a student at the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed University in Lyari, but lacked presentation skills.

“However because of this course, I can now give a presentation with confidence in my class,” he added.

Ahmed plans to teach students who cannot afford education and wants to become a university lecturer one day.

A PACC faculty member told The News that in similar programme earlier, violent students reluctant to take “orders from female teachers” not only did so within five months of coaching but became more involved in domestic chores at home.

“We produce certain literature about harmony and tolerance that we disperse among these kids,” said Farhan Iqbal, the communication officer at the KYI. “The PACC teachers are first given training before they can start tutoring.”

As the ceremony unfolded, Rafiq Tabani, the chief guest and president of the PACC governing board, faculty members, parents and the graduates shared their experiences in the programme with impassioned anecdotes and life lessons.

Abu Talib, a parent, while commending the efforts of the PACC and the KYI told the audience that the media portrayed Lyari as if every child was involved in drug abuse and criminal activities. “My town is a place of national football players and boxing champions, I request the citizens of Karachi not to treat us like stepchildren,” said Talib who is a former boxer.

Rafiq Tabani, after distributing the certificates, congratulated the students and said 50 years ago when the PACC had started its mission to teach English to those who could not afford education, the highest number of applicant were from Lyari.

“Although such initiatives are a step forward to increase the productivity of the youth, much remains in terms of the socio-economic uplift of Lyari,” he noted.

Tabani said that while the PACC and the KYI were also working in other areas of Karachi including Korangi, even recruiting locals as its staff, their scope was limited to cultural activities.

What Electronic Media can learn from the Lawyer’s Movement

In the award wining journal article, Miscarriage of Chief Justice: Judicial Power and the Legal Complex in Pakistan under Musharraf, author Shoaib A. Ghias explores the expansion of judicial power of pro-Musharraf judges that ironically led to their confrontation with the regime. The author argues that instead of blindly supporting economic liberalisation in a period of economic growth, the Supreme Court expanded power by scrutinising certain questionable urban development, privatisation and deregulation measures in a virtuous cycle of public interest litigation. The premise of that article is poignant given the ruckus that has recently engulfed Pakistan’s electronic media industry. 

Two lessons are of utmost significance; first, the author contends that the basic political function of the bench in Pakistan’s military regimes had been legal legitimation of regime conduct. However, the pro-regime Chaudhry Court found a space to legitimize its independence in the form of public interest litigations in urban development, deregulation and privatization vis-a-vis the liberal economic policies of the regime. Actions such as suo motu against Capital Development Authority (CDA) and construction companies in the aftermath of the collapse of a high-rise residential tower in Islamabad in 2005 earthquake, the investigation of Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC) and sugar price hike by NAB under the directive of Chaudhry in 2006, annulment of Pakistan Steel Mill privatization by the court, all sought to question certain adverse effects of rapid de-regulation and target high level corruption. Such cases caught the nations attention through the media when Chaudhry Court used its clout to defy perceived expectations about judicial function in Pakistan. It was the investigation of missing persons in 2007 that finally led to the inchoate conflict of interest with the establishment and Chaudhry’s suspension, which morphed in to the Lawyer’s movement.

The reason for the success of this movement was not just Chaudhry’s astute political maneuvering but more significantly, his initiative to investigate specious policies that were against public interest. In fact it must be noted that suo motu powers were not new to Pakistan at the time but his court took the onus to utilize it for the common good.

The media of Pakistan must not only be ‘seen’ working for the common good, they must take concrete measures for it. Issues such as chronic water and electricity shortage, corruption, internal security, high population growth and intolerance are far more poignant for Pakistan’s future survival than settling petty scores within the status quo. The electronic media in its infancy can take the onus to utilize legally a journalistic code of conduct to work for the common good before it can earn the public trust to fight political adventurism.

Second, the author contends in that paper that patterns in research on the legal complex show that the autonomy of the bench and the bar, and their interdependence are not only a distinguishing feature of political liberalism but also a condition in the fight for it. Based on this theoretical framework the author concludes that the Pakistani case (Lawyer’s movement) shows how the bench influenced the legal complex by not only protecting the autonomy of lawyers and the legal complex but also by intervening in bar politics to consolidate pro-bench and politically liberal factions. In a nutshell, the ‘united’ legal complex under the banner of astute leadership and strong public and civic support, upheld an important tenant of democratization i.e. judicial independence.

The key emphasis here is unity. The divisions among Pakistan’s press regarding ideology, subordination, allegiances, policy on freedom of expression or otherwise and etcetera are quite well known in the industry. Now with the Hamid Mir stint they have regurgitated in the public sphere. Indeed, media systems of any nation are inextricably linked with, and thus aptly represented by her politics. But it is up to the collective wisdom of the electronic and print media to work together under a common code of ethics and a strategic intent to form a 4th state that is not a farce.

As for the political economy of the intensely saturated electronic news market of Pakistan, it is inevitable that some players may succumb to financial woes; if experiences of our rather mature advertising houses are taken as an analogy. There are countless players who initially started off as ad creatives for instance, but ventured in to commercial production, digital entrepreneurship, real estate marketing and public advocacy. There are many opportunities in the emerging Pakistani public sphere notwithstanding the introduction of 3G/4G technologies. It’s high time media barons and the establishment realize that the trust bestowed on them by the public cannot be held hostage over squabbles and personal vendettas.

‘Her’: film review

Is the idea of being romantically involved with a software really that bizarre? Is such a relationship any different from a long distance relationship? Or for that matter hundreds of friendships we have on social networks, with people, we rarely or ever meet in person

So this week I watched the latest, Spike Jonze saga that caught my attention at the 2014 Oscars namely, Her. And boy what a curious experience that was. Now before I crack on an obsequious monologue about the various aspects of Her let me state beforehand that I haven’t gone through the reviews accredited to this film except one from my cousin after I gave him a supposed teaser of the film:

Bro I really don’t understand this alternate lifestyle you are living” – my point being, I’m quite impartial to the general opinions on this film.

Image
Image taken from http://www.technologyreview.com, link: http://www.technologyreview.com/review/523826/an-ai-pal-that-is-better-than-her/

Right, so Her is set in the not too distant future where an eccentric middle aged guy, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), falls in love with his computer’s operating system, Samantha (voiced by the very beautiful, Scarlett Johansson). The film basically revolves around the burgeoning relationship of the two lead characters as they get to ‘know’ each other more – till there relationship morphs in to something that can only be ascribed to trails, tribulations and eventual ‘break-up’ of that most elusive of feelings called love.

Well that’s just how simple the plot is, but the films real crown jewels are its two very real, very visceral lead characters and the novelty of their relationship. Theodore is one of the top writers for a custom letter writing company that provides beautiful and eloquent letters for workaholics looking to charm their significant others. He lives alone in melancholy as he reminisces about his ex-wife in flashbacks of all the incredible times they had. I like the idea that he is not the usual iconoclastic writer around the block struggling to make ends meet or one past his glory. His writing maybe average but he has a penchant for writing from the depths of his heart which many around him appreciate.

Samantha is an inquisitive, cutting edge, consciously aware, voice activated operating system designed to exhibit artificial intelligence. Besides executing simple tasks of an intelligent assistant; increasing productivity, daily planning, archiving emails, setting reminders etc. she also takes care of the psychological state of her users by interacting with them. For instance when Theodore breaks down one night after a bad date Samantha tries to cheer him up or when she ‘takes him out’ in the city one evening. She plays the role of a very likeable girl you would constantly be talking to on the phone due to physical limitations, a fact obvious when we see shots of Theodore’s ecstatic face talking to his ear piece that depicts the interaction between the two.

While watching one can’t help but wonder when Theodore would finally come to his senses and get out of the whole façade. Over here Spike Jonze offers another convincing plot point which flows with the story; when Samantha tells Theodore that she can’t love him and him alone as she is in the middle of broadening her horizons and developing her artificial faculties, which is eerily similar to career conflicts in relationships between people.

Where the film falls short in cinematography it more than makes up for it in conceptualisation. It give us a glimpse of a near future and I am positive that one day soon we will hear of a real Theodore and a real Samantha. This is a cult classic!

Media as a Catalyst for Structural Change in Pakistan – MA Thesis Abstract

I quite literally stumbled upon the prospects of doing a PhD when halfway through my official editorial internship at the Eastern Eye newspaper I was informed by my MA coordinator that I will still have to write a dissertation as partial fulfillment of my MA program as well. Normally a student is given a choice to do either of the two but as it turned out I ended up with a lot of extra work. However, what started of as a mere accident turned out to be a blessing as the learning, networking, contact building and field experience I acquired in the process made my masters experience truly grand besides opening a whole new career opportunity in academia.

I secured a first class on my dissertation supervised by the very able Dr. Brilliant Mhlanga who is a mentor and a great friend. Here is an abstract of my dissertation. Please feel free to post a critique in the comments section. Cheers!

Thesis title: MEDIA AS A CATALYST FOR STRUCTURAL CHANGE IN PAKISTAN

ABSTRACT

This study is an investigation of the rise of the public sphere in Pakistan after the liberalization of media at the end of the Kargil conflict 1999, its implication for public participation in policy making and the potential for structural change of Pakistani institutions as a result. The basic notion of media theory is that politics and ideology of a country have direct consequences on the media power models in a society. If that is the case then does it logically follows that the reverse may also hold true? This is the premise of this investigation. To this effect problems of a colonial past unique to Pakistan and indeed South Asia are juxtaposed with the nature and development of Journalism in Pakistan before and after Independence in 1947 with particular emphasis on the political economy of newspaper and television media after promulgation of PEMRA Ordinance 2002. The study follows a qualitative research paradigm with an interpretive and constructivist epistemology by utilizing a combination of stakeholder mapping technique with a case study paradigm. The findings indicate that the paradigm shift in the mobilization of public opinion after 2001 has caused a significant amplification of public voices, that there is no doubt that private media has emerged as a vanguard for the publics especially under the lens of the Lawyers Movement in 2007 and that there is strong evidence to suggest that public policy is not as ambiguous and arbitrary as Pakistanis are led to believe. The assertions surmise that sorting the right balance in the nexus of power between a socially responsible and authoritative media can theoretically effect a similar healthy change in other institutions of the Pakistani State.

I will upload the link to the entire thesis very soon but if you have any specific queries you can email me directly at siddiqui.aayaz@gmail.com.

Pursuing a Career in Academia

The reason why many people write about themselves is to satisfy an inner desire to reflect and perceive their thoughts better. Indeed a certain tell tale sign of a blooming novice writer is the subtle reflection of autobiographical accounts in his or her work. And there is no obvious fledgling slave of the pen (or rather a keypad) as I am. The reason behind this often utilized technique is that it gives a tangibility to our otherwise visceral thoughts, just like saying something out loud makes it a ‘happening’. Thus it was with apprehension and mild irritation that I wrote the title for this post given my history of career hopping and the tremendous pressure of standing on my own two feet. Besides the odds against settling in a career of exactly your own choosing are exceptionally high. Am I really going to make it?

For those not well versed with the job description of an academic allow me to elaborate. In its essence an Academic is anyone engaged in higher education and research at a University or other institution with the ultimate objective of becoming a master in the chosen field. Lecturers, professors and the entire spectrum of people with similar titles fall under this profession. Now when we talk about academics we picture hunched back bald men wearing cheap tweed jackets raking of moth balls and pipe tobacco. People we have grown to despise and made fun off since primary school and It is with some chagrin that I admit to being party to some dreadful practical jokes on my school and college lecturers.

However you might be quite surprised to know that college and university professors earn a decent living especially those who are young and on top of their game.  International travel, publicity, fame and prestige, money, flexible working hours etc are some very attractive aspects of an academic career. That and knowing that the work you do contributes to the advancement and growth of society as opposed to sweating it out in an office cubicle makes it a wise career choice.

But as with any other profession it takes time to build. Reputation and personal branding are a very important aspect of the game besides keeping very up to date with developments in the field. People take years to realize these goals. But of course nothing worthwhile is achieved without chopping out a limb (metaphorically) and chewing up some grey matter (not so metaphorically). So as I spend my time these days in front of the computer, reading as many relevant journal articles and books as I can, scrutinizing over government reports, media texts and maintaining a correspondence with industry veterans in my quest to perfect my PhD proposal I too find myself faced with doubts whether I have enough optimism and charisma left to finish this great task.

I had mentally prepared myself for this gruel as I was heading back to Karachi; days of freely roaming the streets of London to converse with intriguing authors, starting the day with the weather report, catching up on the news in the tube amid people of assorted colors, shapes, sizes and I daresay looks, yes its quite refreshing to exchange an innocent flirty smile with a beautiful women during the morning commute gives a certain oomph to the day. All that is in the past now, its back to Karachi…

*Peep *beep *beeeeeeepppppp

Abay ghoor kia raha hai … agay bhar

Bap key road hai kia…

Hahah…

But despite these shortcomings of my home city I can’t help but think about the conversations with people on this subject; living in Pakistan you have time on your hands and when you are not constantly engaged in making round the clock living you can spend time planning and getting inspired, that dreaming big is the only way to dream but most of all instead of looking at this phase with bleak, uncertain and morose eyes one should look at it as raw, uncertain and full of opportunity. I stand firm.

 

 

Pff. Youtube is still banned! I might have to fill this space with a soundcloud plugin. Standby mates.

Alternate Relationships

Growing up we had such mystical illusions about love and sex especially if you were a South Asian. There is this standard model that our parents, forbearers and ancestors have raised us to live by, a code some might say; grow into adolescence where puberty is a topic that men are left to figure out on their own and women are told is a scared biological process that marks their transition into adulthood. In our twenties men are left to conquer the world, make their mark and stand on their own two feet with the added privilege of experimenting, breaking hearts and dealing with their libidos by any means necessary with the understanding that when the time comes the code of their fathers and their fathers before them must be observed by settling down with a mate till death do them part.

Women get a slightly twisted version of the same fate. In their twenties they are meant to concentrate and focus on completing their education, be bastions of chastity and be holier than thou as  they are the pride and honour of the family. They are taught to master their impulse and to conquer their libido for it is forbidden to indulge on those vile carnal desires.

Do we South Asians really know what it feels like to be free? To do what our hearts tell us, to trust in fate and take a leap of faith, to believe in something more profound than what we are taught as children. I don’t know how you will explain this, some may say we are brainwashed, some might say its just a matter of following our traditions while others might argue that its just a matter of listening to alternative opinion or justifying actions by experimenting in adulthood and honoring the code when the time comes to tie the knot.

The questions remains however, how many of us have what it takes to respect our own life choices and go all the way? How many of us want a successful husband with a house and two cars or a beautiful wife in the prime years of her biological clock to achieve happiness? Ok maybe most of us want the latter but is that the only successful path that life has to offer in its quest for culmination?…

AND THEY HAD THESE WONDERFUL CHILDREN WITH WHOM THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER …even reading this sounds banal isn’t it?

For me a relationship is something that fulfills a need; it supports us emotionally, physically and serves as a base camp to climb on towards our intended goal. Thus the best relationships are those which have a common agenda and work towards a common life purpose. But once that purpose is achieved what is next? The rational answer would be to move on to the next goal and start afresh. Our South Asian morality dictates however that we must hold fast to those commitments and carve out a way through the challenges. The truth is when we grow up we are foregoing all our rights of choice and personal happiness, those quintessential traits required to explore our truest potential as sentient beings.

Can you imagine what you wanted to be when you were growing up? An Astronaut? (ok that was a bit cliched) but how about an air hostess or a nurse or a veterinarian or even a soldier? I won’t ask about your vocation right now but imagine if you went through all the various financial and familial hurdles in your quest to realize your dreams. Maybe you didn’t become an astronaut but that was probably because you weren’t meant to be one, however you did became an astronomer and discovered the next Earth like planet! Maybe you didn’t become a veterinarian but that was probably because you weren’t smart enough however you did become a wildlife photographer.

The point I’m trying to make is that maybe life is not written. Perhaps there are no paths that you need to follow but ones that you create in your quest to realize who you are. And you do that by never wavering from your desires and having a laser sharp focus. If what I say right now makes sense then its important to understand that relationships should also be dealt with in the same manner as you do your dreams. To talk about divorce or open relationship or a trail separation would be disgustingly simple. But I believe that it is possible to fall in love with someone and wanting to spend the rest of your days with them but at the same time giving priority to your personal development; loving more than one person at the same time. There are varying degrees of feelings and intimacy a person can have for people.

Maybe this all seems a bit idealistic heck if it were up to me the world would be full of artisans and scientists. No one would be ordinary. All the constructs that we have created about society as we know it; religion, order, government, politics and financial markets would become defunct. Pedophiles and mass murderers would be in abundance while naked couples would be running around shanty towns chased by bearded men armed to the teeth with AK47s. A dystopian future where the assumption is that man’s soul is always open to corruption. This is most likely to be true I mean without restraint we are more likely to succumb to our most sadistic desires right?

Then what the heck am I talking about when the probability of us screwing things big time if left to our desires is 99%. But just for one second think and imagine that there is a 1% chance that a society where there are only artisans, poets and scientists forms a reality utterly fascinating. A world where there is no meaning of the word crime, disease, fornication and hatred. A world almost mystical where innocence is the most sought for, most commendable most rewarded attribute. Where relationships do not exist as we know it, where the more people you are intimate with the more love you spread and feel good about.

More Interesting Lessons – the Genie way

Now for some good news, I am moving to London in a few days would you believe? That has been my ambition since I landed on this rock, which by the way was exactly an year ago from today. I was a little perturbed last year while moving to Hatfield and you would know what I mean if you party in arguably the world’s greatest city for a few days only to get relocated to its obscure outskirts. Heck I am talking about a transition from the pristine London Underground to cows and green pastures. But as it turns out Hatfield and its adjoining areas aren’t that bad and the general camaraderie sort of rubs on to you when you spend enough time. Needless to say I had an incredible time here many incidents I have talked about already and some that will probably stay confined in my wacky mind.

So in an odd twist of events I find myself relocating by default and by the grace of whoever’s up there even found a place near Central London. These days I am spending quality time visiting various spots around Hertfordshire which hold a certain memory and its all a very nostalgic even melancholic experience. Each memory reminds me of the people I studied, worked, partied, fought and made bonds with, around hundred different nationalities which gave UK its unique character.  But not much time left on the visa and I am under pressure again to make the most of it. This time around I am not afraid. In fact I am almost apathetic to my career but in a good way. Let me explain:

Wonderful! Magnificent! Glorious!… Punctual! Punctual?!

Keeping Your Edge:

I think we as human beings are genetically wired to be impatient. Always shooting for the candy without waiting for the right time and being an urban dweller this wiring is especially poignant. Having spent most of my life so far in two of the biggest most cosmopolitan locations on this planet; Karachi and London this wiring is a particular mess in my chromosomes. However, spending time on my own and working on my dissertation has taught me the virtues of being patient and self-reflective. Number one lesson, nobody knows what they are going to do in the next five years or how they will reach their goals. I really don’t understand why they even teach this concept in business school it’s such a load of hogwash. Reality is you just give in your best shot and hope for the best. Its called keeping your edge or your cool if you are a millennial.

PHENOMENAL COSMIC POWERS! Itty-bitty living space!

Staying Positive and Healthy:

Let me tell you something and this is coming from a guy with an average build and up until a few years ago, a seriously numb outlook on life, exercise, exercise and exercise. I first started working out at the insistence of my then girlfriend and naturally the motivation was to impress her, look more attractive, increase pheromones all that bullshit. As was expected I dropped out within a few months because the motivation was not pure and therefore not strong. The second time I started was because I genuinely felt the need to improve my outlook on life and it worked like a charm. I found some fascinating changes in my life, proper sleeping cycles, bathroom routines, drastic cutting down of nicotine, caffeine and other intoxicants of all shapes and forms. I found myself getting less tired and simply happy. Good things started happening like increased productivity, increased social life etc. This may sound like a big cliche I’m probably only the billionth person on Earth talking about exercise but let me conclude the argument by saying that I always returned to my pessimistic comfort zone everytime I dropped works outs.  Also I had some very interesting and risque times in Hatfield during the months I was working out 😉

If in doubt – Just don’t do it:

At the risk of sounding cocky I want to say that I am smart if only because I think too much. Over thinking has been one of my greatest weaknesses and you know this is the first time ever I am boldly admitting it. Phew a big load of my chest. This problem had been a characteristic of my personality until this year; living alone puts annoying decisions in front of you every day and all you can do is weigh  in the obvious pros and cons. Well I have devised a system where if a decision has to be made I reflect whether I have ‘that lingering doubt’ at the back of my mind. If that doubt is the first thing I associate with a decision and if the feeling lingers after exploring certain obvious alternatives I drop the decision altogether. So far this approach has been working amazingly. I am by no means implying not to take risks. On the contrary this approach not only helps you weed out time wasting opportunities but ensures you jump quickly at the next potential opportunity; when you feel excited about doing something even when in doubt. Only this time around your feeling of elation and wonder is greater than doubt. This my friend is the cue to pounce on it like a wild animal.

Here’s the deal, if ya wanna court the little lady, ya gotta be a straight shooter. Do ya got it?

These are some more lessons I want to take with me when I move out. And as again, I am hopeful, naively optimistic, sadly misinformed, but with each passing year I realize I have shed a part of my shell and made another feeble albeit successful attempt to stand on my own. I know I am very close.

Lets listen to something alternative today: