CITY NOTES: Voices of reason fall silent

Journalists had a torrid time of it last week, for while they were engaged by the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) protests at the arrest of leader Saad Khadim Hussain Rizvi, they were also hit by the deaths of I A Rehman and Zia Shahid. Almost submerged was the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, which in more peaceful times, would have been the focus of our attention.
While the general public was anxious to learn of what had caused the TLP to go wild, and block their roads, and whether anybody was doing anything about it, two very different journalists were passing away.
Rehman was also a human rights activist, working for many years with the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP). However, it was as a journalist that he was known. He was not just a human rights activist, but he was also a peace activist.
Zia Shahid was not known as an activist, but first as an employee of the most heavily circulated newspaper of the day, and then as the owner of several publications himself, he was the standard-bearer of a brand of popular journalism that cannot be ignored.
It was not that Rehman was an elitist, or that Shahid was anti-intellectual. But they represented two different strands of journalism, and both were content with that. I claim to be an heir to both, not because I am particularly intellectual or popular, but because I learnt something about my profession from both. That populism is essential, because, as they say, who has seen the peacock dancing in the jungle? Intellection is also essential, because unless one has thought through one’s position, how can one have anything to dance about? Without thinking, can you dance?
But neither death should obscure the great discovery that the Interior Ministry made during the TLP protests, and which I suspect will be used in future whenever the interior minister sees fit. They ordered the shutdown of all social media after Friday prayers. Why did they not shut down mobile phones?
Of course, it was all Nawaz Sharif’s doing. In fact, I wonder why nobody has done anything to Sheikh Rasheed, who has shown by his complete silence how much of a patwari he is. Four people have been killed, all for the sake of the French ambassador. I wonder how he is feeling.
Poor Imran Khan, surrounded by traitors! Just look at Jehangir Tareen. He gathered even more Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and ex-PTI leaders and legislators at his court appearance on Saturday. One would have thought the judge would be more impressed by arguments from a good mouthpiece than the bald pates and potbellies on display. Imran himself has said that Tareen caused a huge loss to the national exchequer.
A little unfair for Tareen, I must say. Hopefully, there should be no hitch in his joining the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), should he be so inclined. Personally, I think he is being made to carry the can, just as Nadeem Babar is being made to carry the can for the fuel shortage. Now that Hammad Azhar has been made the energy minister, he can work on laying the blame where it lies, with Nawaz.
Is Nawaz responsible for the killing of Daunte Wright, who was shot in a Minneapolis suburb even as a police officer is on trial for the killing of George Floyd, because of whom the Black Lives Matter movement started? Wright was killed by a police officer reaching for a Taser pulling out a pistol and firing it. He was not suspected of a crime, just being pulled over for a suspected traffic violation. He was black. The policewoman was white.
Then there was the shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was shot in Chicago, while raising his hands and after dropping his weapon. He was black. The policeman was white. It almost seems that the whole Black Lives Matter movement has failed, and white cops all over the United States are going back to what seems the reason they joined the force: killing blacks.
Well, at least we do not have that problem here. We are all blacks. So, the cops just kill, without bothering about race. They do not bother about guilt either, but hey, do not sweat the small stuff.


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