The gravity of a situation

As discussed in an earlier column in this space, the Zainab case wasn’t particularly an outlier. There would have been many instances of exactly the same crime not just in the same week but also on the same day. Reported in newspapers as well. But whether it was because of the emotional appeal of the images of the poor girl and the chaotic, mysterious nature of the news cycle, the case metastasised into a national furore. And rightly so.

This increased spotlight begat a feverish hunt for the perpetrator, with almost all of the ruling party’s legislators from Kasur staying in their city, vowing not to leave till the deed was done. After an exhaustive manhunt, utilising the Punjab Forensic Science Agency, the killer was finally caught.

Every second that the killer had not been apprehended was political calamity for the League and there must have been a sigh of relief when they finally managed to get hold of the fellow. Whether it should have been celebrated in the manner it was is another question. Just the way the political opposition was bound to play up politics around the issue, the government was bound to do some showmanship of its own. That much one can concede; politicians can’t be blamed for being politicians. What was grossly out of place, however, was the relaxed atmosphere of the Chief Minister’s press conference announcing the capture of the murderer. During the press conference, some lackey or the other cracked a joke and everyone on the stage, including the Chief Minister – but not the frazzled father of the victim – even started laughing.

The political class of the country otherwise takes to the manners and adaab of joys-and-bereavements like ducks to water. The appearances at khushi-ghum are the bulk of what constituency politicians throughout the breadth and expanse of the country do. They should have had a sense of time and place.

But the above cited insensitivity was nothing in comparison to the bizarre set of tweets by the Editor of the Pakistani license holders of Newsweek, Fasi Ahmed.

This immediately led to a maelstrom of critical tweets. Though he was too proud to backtrack, he tempered it with the claim that the sexual abuse of children is rampant in the country and that the Zainab case was no exception. Now though that is true, one wonders why he thought it was right to make the joke about pedophilia leading to art.

Given the social (and financial) capital of the fellow, someone online quipped how ill-at-ease Lahore’s liberati and literati were on the heels of his tweet; on the one hand, they needed to express their understandable revulsion but on the other hand, they needed their invitations to the afterparties of the Lahore Literary Festival, which he organised every year. The LLF has since announced that Fasih Ahmed “has recused himself from the LLF and the Board has unanimously accepted his resignation.”

It was surprising how some were even defending the fellow. The Taseers, another publishing family, not known for their cerebral quotient, were to be expected to be kowtowing to their well-connected friend, but the cautious tweets of support by actress and celebrity Nadia Jamil were a bit surprising.

 

 

 

Ms Jamil has, in the aftermath of the Zainab case, shown exemplary bravery by being forthcoming with her own story of sexual abuse. Initially, she had expressed her suspicion that the Newsweek editor’s twitter account had been hacked. Her friend put her out of that particular misery by tweeting: “My account had not been hacked. Relax”

Jamil still went on to say that it was going to be Fasih, and not one of his detractors, who will file more exposes of child sexual abuse in the country for Newsweek. The chances of that seem to be narrowing in the aftermath of Newsweek’s announcement that they will be reviewing their licensing deal with their Pakistani avatar.

There is no denying the fact that sexual abuse, of both boys and girls, is rampant in this country. Also, that there should be no sense of a satisfying conclusion now that Zainab’s killer has been caught. If these indeed are the points that Ahmed was wanting to make, even then, there was no excuse for the bile that he vomitted out on the social media site. Trying too hard to be edgy.

Finally, we end this column with another one of his stellar tweets in the now-infamous thread.

 

 

 

The sheer poverty of Pakistan’s elite can be mind boggling at times.

The Tube

Media Watch column is meant to offer commentary on the affairs of the media.



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