Friday, March 12, 2010

Newsweek Joins Pakistan's Media Revolution

With the planned September launch of its Pakistan edition, Newsweek magazine is the latest publication to join Pakistan's media revolution, according to MediaBistro.com. Newsweek Pakistan will be the first licensed international news magazine for the country and the eighth local edition under the Washington Post Co.-owned Newsweek brand. Other country editions published by Newsweek include those in Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Mexico, Poland, Russia and Turkey. In addition to featuring more local content, the country editions target local and international advertisers with special pricing to be competitive in the targeted media markets.

Newsweek Pakistan Edition

Newsweek Pakistan will be published under license by AG Publications, a privately-owned media company in Pakistan. Fasih Ahmed, who has reported for The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek International, will be the editor of Newsweek Pakistan. Ahmed won a New York Press Club award in 2008 for Newsweek's coverage of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Initially, there will be 30,000 copies of Pakistan edition printed each week.

Pakistan's Media Boom

The current media revolution sweeping the nation began ten years ago when Pakistan had just one television channel, according to the UK's Prospect Magazine. Today it has over 100. Together they have begun to open up a country long shrouded by political, moral and religious censorship—taking on the government, breaking social taboos and, most recently, pushing a new national consensus against the Taliban. The birth of privately owned commercial media has been enabled by the Musharraf-era deregulation, and funded by the tremendous growth in revenue from advertising targeted at the burgeoning urban middle class consumers. Analysts at Standard Charter Bank estimated in 2007 that Pakistan had 30 million people with incomes exceeding $10,000 a year. With television presence in over 16 million households accounting for 68% of the population in 2009, the electronic media have also helped inform and empower many rural Pakistanis, including women.



With an increase of 38% over 2008, the television advertising revenue for 2009 in Pakistan was Rs 16.4 billion ((US $200m), accounting for about half of the total ad market during the year. The TV ad revenue is continuing to rise as a percentage of total ad revenue, mostly at the expense of the print media ads. The biggest spenders in 2009 were the telecom companies with Rs 8 billion, followed closely by fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector with Rs. 7 billion, as reported by Pakistan's GeoTV channel. FMCG products, as opposed to consumer durables such as home appliances, are generally low cost and replaced or fully used up over a short period of days, weeks, or months, and within one year. Other important sectors contributing to ad revenue are financial services and real estate, but these sectors have experienced significant slowdown with the current economic slump.

According to Daily Times, Chairman Mushtaq Malik of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has said that the cable television sector “is the fast growing segment among the electronic media ventures”. In the first 100 days of the current government, he has claimed that new licenses for 16 satellite TV channels, 10 FM radio stations, and 232 cable TV channels have been granted. It is anticipated that this would lead to additional investment worth Rs. 2.5 billion, generating 4000 additional jobs in this sector. The cable television sector alone is employing some 30,000 people in the country.

Foreign media, such as the business channel CNBC Pakistan, have also found a niche with the stellar performance and increased viewer and investor interest in Karachi stock exchange in the last decade. The Gallup Pakistan estimates that the number of TV viewers age 10 and above has increased from 63 million in 2004 to 86 million in 2009. Though exact numbers are hard to find, it is estimated that the rapid growth of Pakistan's media market over the last decade has attracted significant investment in the range of billions of dollars, and produced hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. There are 150 advertising agencies and 74 production companies. Given the rising power of the media to shape Pakistani society, public opinion and government policy, it is important to have greater transparency on sources of investments and revenue in the media business.



FM Stations

More than 100 private FM radio stations have been licensed in the last ten years. Most of them are known for providing basic entertainment - easy listening, popular music, cooking recipes, etc. But some FM stations are also providing useful information through talk shows by experts on legal, psychological and health matters; a community radio station in Lakki Marwat near FATA has a show on modern farming techniques like drip irrigation. In Karachi, at a discussion on organ transplant and organ donation, a caller who identified herself as a doctor, pointed out that those who denounce the practice as un-Islamic forget that technically even blood is defined as an organ.

On a national level, television is the dominant communication medium in Pakistan. But radio listenership in Pakistan remains strong in certain areas of the country. This is particularly the case in rural areas and less economically developed provinces, according to audiencescapes.org.



Specifically, in the rural areas of the Baluchistan province, 46 percent of respondents said they listen to the radio at least weekly, rivaling rural television viewership at 47 percent. While in rural areas of the other three provinces surveyed (the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab, and Sind), radio listenership is strong but is still lower than TV viewership.

In regions such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA, not surveyed), where the Taliban has held control over certain areas for a significant period of time, radio transmissions are often people’s main source of entertainment and news, mainly because religious extremists disrupt television broadcasts through frequent sabotage. Mainstream newspapers are also not available; many villages are difficult to access and selling publications can be risky for the seller. In addition, within the FATA region and much of the NWFP, television sets are simply too expensive and access to electricity is spotty.

Print Media

Although broadcast and cable media are the primary sources of information for most Pakistanis, the press has a long history in the country and a contentious relationship with successive governments. The All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) boasts more than 262 member publications in print,. Overall estimates indicate that there are about 1,000 daily newspapers, most of which are in English or Urdu. A BBC survey in 2008 found that 42% of men and only 13% of women read newspapers regularly. Pakistan's press is among the most outspoken in South Asia, although its influence is limited by a literacy level of only 56%.



Internet

World telecoms body the ITU estimated in March 2008 that there were 17.5 million internet users, and the Internet access is continuing to grow rapidly. In addition to the established print, radio and television media websites, the Internet is also providing a platform for activists and emerging journalists to express their views through myriad online publications, blogs and social networking sites. With over 56% penetration of mobile phones in Pakistan, the widespread availability and affordability of modern communication technology has helped generate tremendous interest in the use of voice calls, photo or video uploading and text messaging to share news, opinions and ideas broadly.

Pakistan has a population of over 170 million and daily sales of only about 100,000 copies of English-language publications. The English language print media is dominated by local newspapers and magazines published by Dawn, Jang and Nawai Waqt media empires. The entry of Newsweek's Pakistan edition in the market will offer both local and international content, and is expected to start off with a print run of 30,000 copies, according to the Financial Times.

Book Publishing

The media boom in Pakistan has also brought attention to a new crop of Pakistani authors writing in English. Names such as Mohsin Hamid (The Reluctant Fundamentalist), Daniyal Mueenuddin (In Other Rooms, Other Wonders), Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows), Mohammad Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) and Nadeem Aslam (The Wasted Vigil) have been making waves in literary circles and winning prizes in London and New York, according to the Guardian newspaper.

Summary

I personally experienced the pervasive effects of Pakistan's media boom last summer when I visited the country. I saw multiple, competing channels catering to almost every niche, whim and taste---from news, politics, education, health, sports, comedy and talk shows to channels dedicated to cooking, fashion, fitness, music, business, religion, local languages and cultures etc. The media have had a profound influence on how many young people learn, talk, dress and behave, and emulate the outspoken media personalities, various experts, actors, preachers, singers, sportsmen, celebrities and fashion models. The growth in Pakistan's media market has resulted in more useful information, more advertising, more competition and more choice for the public.

Pakistan finds itself in the midst of many crises, ranging from a deep sense of insecurity and economic stagnation to low levels of human development and insufficient access to basic necessities of life such as proper nutrition, education and health care. My hope is that the mass media will effectively play a responsible role to inform and educate Pakistanis on the fundamental issues of poor governance in Pakistan, and help in shaping the debate and policies to solve some of the most serious problems facing the nation today.

Here's the cover of Newsweek Pakistan's debut issue:



Here's a video titled "I Am Pakistan":



Related Links:

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Poor Governance in Pakistan

Musharraf's Economic Legacy

The Real News From Pakistan

Pakistan's Economic Stagnation

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performance

Newsweek Pakistan Edition Launch

ITU Internet Access Data by Countries

Brief History of Media in Pakistan

The Power of TV: Cable TV and Women's Status in India

Eleven Days in Karachi

Pakistan Country Profile By BBC

Online Political Activism in Pakistan

Pakistan Media Cyberletter

Asian Television Advertising Coalition

Impact of Cable TV on Pakistani Women

83 comments:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's recent news on Pakistan's telecom sector expansion, as reported in Daily Times:

Despite inching towards a saturation stage, the telecom sector received $1.438 billion in year 2008 and $815 million in the following year - 2009 as FDI in different projects in the ministry and its attached departments.

The total Internet users of the country rose to 19 million with total broadband users rising to 413,809 million. Total direct and indirect jobs in the telecom sector are 1.36 million.

During the past two years, the total phone lines increased from 94.695 million to 103.801 million with mobile lines increasing from 88.019 million to 97.58 million, almost 59.6 percent upward slide, while the fixed lines declined from 4.416 million to 3.526 million, almost 2.2 percent downward slide. The democratic government, after taking over in February 2008, came forward with policy reforms and policy directives for the telecom sector for year 2010.

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Pakistan Telecommuni-cation Authority (PTA) Chairman Dr Mohammad Yasin opined that Pakistan’s telecommunication sector was growing faster, even more rapidly than that of India with over 63 percent teledensity, encouraging the FDI.

“Look, India is lagging far behind Pakistan with 37 percent teledensity as compared to 63.5 percent in Pakistan. Pakistan’s FDI policy is much more liberal than that of India to attract more investment in Pakistan’s telecom sector,” he added.

The PTA chief was of the view that the ever-growing teledensity of Pakistan is unleashing new vistas of opportunities to the foreign and local investors for better returns, especially in the field of data services.

“Services like mobile Internet, mobile banking and Internet Protocol Television hold fortunes for any wise investor,” he added.

The Telecom analysts around the world still believe in Pakistan to be a lucrative market and business monitor forecasts that mobile subscribers in Pakistan would hit 100-million mark by next year.

The sector has been growing at a rapid pace where growth rates have become the hallmark. Although a bit slower growth, of only 7 percent, was observed in mobile sector last year, this trend cannot be attributed only to saturation as there are factors like international financial crisis, devaluation of rupee, security situation and re-registration of SIM programme.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the latest BMI research report on Pakistan's Telecom market:

BMI forecasts that the mobile sector will achieve a total of 98.558mn subscribers at the end of 2009, after the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) and operators reported a total of 95.909mn subscribers in the market as of September 2009. Between YE08 and September 2009, the number of net additions totalled 6.002mn, which was significantly lower than the 13.339mn net additions in the YE07 to September 2008 period. Much of the difference is related to the government’s re-registration programme, as well as taxation on operators.
With the re-registration programme over, and operators involved in rebuilding their subscriber bases, BMI views growth of the mobile sector to continue over the next five years ended 2014. Operators such as Mobilink have focused their efforts on acquiring new subscribers, retaining the loyalty of existing subscribers, while also strengthening their brand image through key campaigns carried out during Independence Day and Eid. Second-ranked Telenor, which managed to overtake Ufone in Q209 and having previously been overtaken by the PTCL-owned mobile unit in Q308, has deployed attractive services such as its mobile banking, ‘easypaisa’, to encourage customers to its network.
The government has also reviewed the taxation policies in place on the mobile sector, and from which it gains a substantial chunk of its foreign direct investment (FDI) from. By strangling operators with higher taxes, it came to the realisation that neither operators, customers or the government would benefit. As of July 1 2009, the government reduced federal excise duty on mobile usage to 19.5% from 21%, as well as reduced the new SIM activation tax from PKR500 to PKR250. This is certainly good news and should help to build up the sector.
Furthermore, we have also noted that the PTA has sought to introduce MVNOs to the market. The licence fees have been set at US$5mn each. There appears to be little interest so far, given that there are no fewer than six operators, with competition between them particularly aggressive. Indeed, press reports report rumours of consolidation in the market, pointing to Telenor as a potential purchaser of Warid Telecom, although the Norwegian operator has denied the comments. It is not the first time, however, that talk of consolidation has occurred in the sector.
Meanwhile, we continue to witness the encouraging growth of the broadband market in Pakistan, breaking the half a million barrier in September 2009. This is being largely driven by the WiMAX technology, which has been rising at a faster rate than DSL, FTTH or EV-DO. With two-thirds of the Pakistani population residing in rural areas where there is a shortage of fixed lines, the need for wireless alternatives is clearly on the rise. In view of this, the government should accelerate the award of 3G licences, which had been expected in 2009, but is now expected in 2010.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Pakistan's consumer electronics market report:

Pakistan’s consumer electronics market, defined as the addressable market for computing devices, mobile handsets and AV products, is projected to be worth around US$1.6bn in 2010. Underlying demand will grow at a CAGR of about 7%, but spending will be restrained by a sizable grey market of smuggled or illegally assembled products.
The market’s considerable potential is currently depressed by a large grey market, poor IP protection, an unstable economic and security situation and weak distribution channels. Growth will be driven, however, by improved ICT infrastructure, and more credit availability. Reform of often high national and provincial taxes and tariffs on products ranging from computers to prepaid mobile cards would also boost the market.
Computer Computers accounted for around 18% of Pakistan’s consumer electronics spending in 2009. BMI forecasts Pakistan’s domestic market computer sales (including notebooks and accessories) of US$283mn in 2010, up from US$264mn in 2009. Computer hardware CAGR for the 2010- 2014 period will be around 7%. The abolition in September 2009 of a minimum sales tax on imported computers should boost the market.
AV AV devices accounted for around 40% of Pakistan’s consumer electronics spending in 2008. Pakistan’s domestic AV device market is projected at US$632mn in 2010. The market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 11% between 2010-2014, to a value of US$946mn in 2014. TV sets remain the core product in this category, but the growing availability of smuggled colour televisions is a market inhibitor.
Mobile Handsets Pakistan’s market handset sales are expected to grow at a CAGR of 1% to 18.8mn units in 2014, as mobile subscriber penetration reaches 91%. Revenue growth will be slower due to lower average selling prices (ASPs) of mobile handsets, with most handsets sold at a under US$40 price-point. Another issue is a declining growth rate of mobile subscriber penetration, which is now above 60%.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent excerpt from a piece by Dawn columnist Irfan Husain about Pakistan's middle class influencing nation's politics:

While external debt increased from $39bn in 1999 to $50bn in 2009, poverty levels have fallen by over 10 per cent since 2001. Indeed, there are now around 30 million Pakistanis who are considered to be in the middle class with an average income of $10,000 annually, while some 17 million are now bracketed with the upper and upper-middle classes.

Even though this does not approach China’s and India’s spectacular progress in this period, it does represent a solid advance. If one factors in the political turmoil the country has gone through, together with its ongoing insurgencies in the tribal areas and Balochistan, Pakistan’s progress has been impressive by any standard.

How do these numbers translate into day-to-day life in Pakistan? To examine the social transformation the country is undergoing, Jason Burke uses the Suzuki Mehran as a yardstick to measure change. In his ‘Letter from Karachi’ published in the current issue of Prospect, the Guardian reporter writes:

“In Pakistan, the hierarchy on the roads reflects that of society. If you are poor, you use the overcrowded buses or a bicycle. Small shopkeepers, rural teachers and better-off farmers are likely to have a $1,500 Chinese or Japanese motorbike…. Then come the Mehran drivers. A rank above them, in air-conditioned Toyota Corolla saloons, are the small businessmen, smaller landlords, more senior army officers and bureaucrats. Finally, there are the luxury four-wheel drives of ‘feudal’ landlords, big businessmen, expats, drug dealers, generals, ministers and elite bureaucrats. The latter may be superior in status, power and wealth, but it is the Mehrans which, by dint of numbers, dominate the roads.”

This growing affluence has already caused a major power shift, with the urban population now having a bigger say after years of being ruled by feudal landowners. As urbanisation gathers pace, Pakistan’s traditional power elite will increasingly come from the cities, and not from the rural hinterland. This will have a profound impact not just on politics, but on society as a whole. As Burke observes in his Prospect article:

“Politically, the Bhutto dynasty’s Pakistan People’s Party, mostly based in rural constituencies and led by feudal landowners, will lose out to the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif with its industrial, commercial, urban constituency. Culturally, the traditional, folksy, tolerant practices in rural areas will decline in favour of more modernised, politicised Islamic strands and identities. And as power and influence shifts away from rural elites once co-opted by colonialism, the few elements of British influence to have survived will fade faster.”

Often, perceptive foreigners spot social trends that escape us because we are too close to them to see the changes going on around us. For instance, Burke identifies the shift away from English, and sees ‘Mehran man’ as urban, middle class and educated outside the elite English-medium system. He sees Muslims being under attack from the West, and genuinely believes that the 9/11 attacks were a part of a CIA/Zionist plot. Actually, my experience is that many highly educated and sophisticated people share this theory.

Burke continues his dissection of the rising Pakistani middle class: “Mehran man is deeply proud of his country. A new identification with the ummah, or the global community of Muslims, paradoxically reinforces rather than degrades his nationalism. For him, Pakistan was founded as an Islamic state, not a state for South Asian Muslims. Mehran man is an ‘Islamo-nationalist’. His country possesses a nuclear bomb….”

Riaz Haq said...

Huma Yusuf blogs for Pakistan's Dawn.com site in Karachi and is a close watcher of new media in Pakistan. She says that in her country, new media has spawned a pithy brand of citizen journalism. The reason: “unlike Indians, we feel like we’re in a state of war”.

She says that during the Pakistan Emergency of 2006-7, Pakistan’s online population grew from 2.5 million to 18 million.

Click here for an MIT media labs paper she published on activism by Pakistan's online population.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report estimating Pakistan's ICT industry at $12 billion in Pakistan:

KARACHI (APP) - The overall size of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in Pakistan has crossed more than $ 12 billion, of which $ 1 billion is foreign direct investment (FDI).
This was stated by the Advisor to PM on Information Technology Sardar Latif Khan Khosa while speaking at the inauguration of 5th Information & Communications Technology Exhibition and Conference - CONNECT 2010 at Karachi Expo Centre here Saturday.
He said Pakistan has one of the fastest growing the tele-density in the world, accelerating at a rate of 63.5 percent, while the neighbouring India is just 37 percent.
Khosa said there are more than 95 million mobile connections in the country and are still growing in numbers. This is exponential growth as mobile telephone market has seen a 14-fold increase since the year 2000, he added.
He said this signifies the importance of ICT sector and the further potential it holds for country’s economy.
He said CONNECT brings to Pakistan a focused event in the dynamic fields of IT and telecom and provides a unique platform to the companies to showcase their products and services.
The Advisor called upon IT professional to reach out entire Pakistan and spread IT in every nook and corner so that the people can take benefit of this dynamic technology.
He also supported the idea for a greater cooperation and interaction between the government, industry and academia to get maximum benefits of information technology. The Advisor pointed out PPP provides a platform for the promotion of IT in the country under its manifesto which envisages support for right of information to the people. This is the vision of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for IT and other sectors, he added. Later, taking to media, Sardar Khosa said the government has again invited foreign IT companies to restart their business in Khyber-Pukhtunkhawa and Balochistan.
I have asked these companies to identify the quantum of damage to their infrastructure in Khyber-Pukhtunkhawa area due to on-going war on terror. They are also seeking a price differential for broad band expansion, but we have asked them to first start rehabilitation of their infrastructure and we have assured them to look into their demands.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a piece by Bloomberg's Hindol Sengupta, an honest Indian:

....Add this bookstore to the list of India-Pakistan rivalry. A bookstore so big that it is actually called a bank. The book store to beat all bookstores in the subcontinent, I have found books I have never seen anywhere in India at the three-storeyed Saeed Book Bank in leafy Islamabad. The collection is diverse, unique and with a special focus on foreign policy and subcontinental politics (I wonder why?), this bookstore is far more satisfying than any of the magazine-laden monstrosities I seem to keep trotting into in India. ...

Yes, that's right. The meat. There always, always seems to be meat in every meal, everywhere in Pakistan. Every where you go, everyone you know is eating meat. From India, with its profusion of vegetarian food, it seems like a glimpse of the other world. The bazaars of Lahore are full of meat of every type and form and shape and size and in Karachi, I have eaten some of the tastiest rolls ever. For a Bengali committed to his non-vegetarianism, this is paradise regained. Also, the quality of meat always seems better, fresher, fatter, more succulent, more seductive, and somehow more tantalizingly carnal in Pakistan. ....

Let me tell you that there is no better leather footwear than in Pakistan. I bought a pair of blue calf leather belt-ons from Karachi two years ago and I wear them almost everyday and not a dent or scratch! Not even the slightest tear. They are by far the best footwear I have ever bought and certainly the most comfortable. Indian leather is absolutely no match for the sheer quality and handcraftsmanship of Pakistani leather wear.

Yes. Yes, you read right. The roads. I used to live in Mumbai and now I live in Delhi and, yes, I think good roads are a great, mammoth, gargantuan luxury! Face it, when did you last see a good road in India? Like a really smooth road. Drivable, wide, nicely built and long, yawning, stretching so far that you want zip on till eternity and loosen the gears and let the car fly. A road without squeeze or bump or gaping holes that pop up like blood-dripping kitchen knives in Ramsay Brothers films. When did you last see such roads? Pakistan is full of such roads. Driving on the motorway between Islamabad and Lahore, I thought of the Indian politician who ruled a notorious —, one could almost say viciously — potholed state and spoke of turning the roads so smooth that they would resemble the cheeks of Hema Malini. They remained as dented as the face of Frankenstein's monster. And here, in Pakistan, I was travelling on roads that — well, how can one now avoid this? — were as smooth as Hema Malini's cheeks! Pakistani roads are broad and smooth and almost entirely, magically, pot hole free. How do they do it; this country that is ostensibly so far behind in economic growth compared to India? But they do and one of my most delightful experiences in Pakistan has been travelling on its fabulous roads. No wonder the country is littered with SUVs — Pakistan has the roads for such cars! Even in tiny Bajaur in the North West frontier province, hard hit by the Taliban, and a little more than a frontier post, the roads were smoother than many I know in India. Even Bajaur has a higher road density than India! If there is one thing we should learn from the Pakistanis, it is how to build roads. And oh, another thing, no one throws beer bottles or trash on the highways and motorways. ...

Riaz Haq said...

In a recently published book "Superfreakonomics", the authors cite two American economists' finding that cable TV in 2700 households empowered Indian women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school. Here are some more highlight from the book about India:

1. If women could choose their birthplace, India might not a wise choice to be born.

2. In spite of recent economic success and euphoria about India, the people of India remain excruciatingly poor.

3. Literacy is low, corruption is high.

4. Only half the households have electricity.

5. Only one in 4 Indian homes has a toilet.

6. 40% of families with girls want to have more children, but families with boys do not want a baby girl.

7. It's especially unlucky to be born female, baby boy is like a 401 K retirement plan, baby girl requires a dowry fund.

8. Smile train Chennai did cleft repair surgery. A man was asked how many children he had. He said had 1, a boy. It turned out that he had 5 daughters which he did not mention.

9. Indian midwives paid $2.50 to kill girl with cleft deformity

10. Girls are highly undervalued, there are 35 million fewer females than males, presumed dead, killed by midwife or parent or starved to death. Unltrasound are used mainly to find and destroy female fetuses. Ultrasound and abortion are available even in the smallest villages with no electricity or clean water

11. If not aborted, baby girls face inequality and cruelty at every turn,

12. 61% of Indian men say wife beating is justified, 54% women agree, especially when dinner is burned or they leave home without husband's permission.

13. Unwanted pregnancies, STDs, HIV infections happen when 15% o the condoms fail. Indian council of med research found that 60% of Indian men's genitalia are too small by international standards.

14. Indian laws to protect women are widely ignored. The government has tried monetary rewards to keep baby girls and supported microfinance for women. NGOs programs, smaller condoms, other projects have had limited success.

15. People had little interest in State TV due to poor reception or boring programs. But cable television has helped women, as 150 million people between 2001-2006 got cable
TV which gave exposure to world.

16. American economists found that the effect of TV in 2700 households empowered women to be more autonomous. Cable TV households had lower birthrates, less domestic abuse and kept daughter in school.

Riaz Haq said...

From Ayesha Siddiqa's description of the GeoTV anchor Hamid Mir's leaked conversation with an alleged TTP operative, it appears that Pakistani military. media and politicians are well versed in the art of the leaks to push their respective agendas.

Here are some excerpts from Siddiqa's recent post:

"The conversation should not surprise people as Hamid Mir has old links with the Islamiscts and the intelligence agencies. In the world of the armed forces information is difficult to access. Relatively better access to information comes at a price which Hamid Mir and many other journalists in the world, particularly Pakistan pay happily. There is not a single journalist, especially on the electronic media who comments on national security and is not fed by the military. I remember one very popular journalist who even writes for foreign press. He is considered an authority on military affairs. The poor chap cannot tell the front of a submarine from its back. Planting people in the media and intelligentsia is an old trick. The only matter of concern really is that how and why is the audio recording made available on the net? The real story is the disclosure rather than the conversation."

-------------------

"There is something that doesn't make sense in the story. Whats more important to remember are that the jihadis (aka Pakistani Taliban) are well-entrenched in Pakistan's intelligence system and even its establishment. No wonder, Pakistan's courts have been acquitting jihadis like Lashkare Jhangavi's Malik Ishaq. Recently, the courts acquitted those accused of involvement in the Marriott bombing case and the suicide attack against Lt. general Mushtaq Baig. These decisions could have been changed if the agencies were willing to sort out the jihadis. The segment within the agencies which supports jihad and jihadis has now strengthened. The army and its intelligence agencies now have a dependence on these jihadis. The questions which many ask is that why get their men killed. This is nothing new. There was similar friction in the case of the Algerian military and the Islamiscts. The reason that this particular battle in Pakistan is contained to a few people is because of the influence of the Islamiscts on the army."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's IEMR research report forecasting 135 million mobile phone subscribers in Pakistan by 2014:

(M2 PressWIRE Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Vancouver, -- IE Market Research Corp. (IEMR), the Canadian-based provider of market intelligence services, announced today the release of its 1Q.2010 Pakistan Mobile Operator Forecast, 2009 - 2014.

"The wireless penetration rate is still low in Pakistan at approximately 60% in 2009, and we expect that the country's wireless market will continue to show strong growth. Our model forecasts that total mobile subscribers in Pakistan will increase from 96 million in 2009 to 134.8 million in 2014," said Nizar Assanie, Vice President (Research) at IEMR. "Mobilink will continue to be the largest player in Pakistan's mobile operator space over the next five years. We expect that Mobilink will have 36 million mobile subscribers in 2014. Also, given the latest quarter numbers, our model predicts that Ufone will have 25.8 million, Telenor will have 29 million, and Warid will have 25.3 million mobile subscribers by the end of 2014." "ARPU levels remain low in Pakistan's mobile operator space. We expect that the industry average ARPU will remain in the range of US$ 2 - US$ 3 over the next five years. Our model predicts that, in 2014, Mobilink's monthly ARPU will be at highest among operators at US$ 2.64. The operator with the lowest monthly ARPU will be Warid Telecom with US$ 1.67 in 2014," said Mr. Assanie.

IEMR's Pakistan Mobile Operator Forecast covers up to 50 financial and operational metrics on wireless operators in Pakistan - Mobilink (Pakistan Mobile Communications Limited), Ufone GSM, China Mobile Ltd. (Zong, formerly Paktel), Instaphone, Telenor ASA, and Warid Telecom International. Notable highlights of the 1Q10 Pakistan Mobile Operator Forecast include: * In terms of shares of total subscribers, we expect that Mobilink's market share will decline over the next five years, from 30% in 2009 to 26.7% in 2014. On the other hand, we expect China Mobile Pakistan's market share to increase from 8% in 2009 to 13.7% in 2014. We also forecast that market shares at Ufone, Telenor, and Warid will be approximately 19.2%, 21.6% and 18.8% respectively in 2014.

* Given the excellent performance by Norway's Telenor in Pakistan's wireless market in the recent past, our model forecasts that its EBITDA margin (calculated as EBITDA / reported revenue) will be increasing from about 23% in 2009 to 35% in 2014. On the other hand, we think that Mobilink will maintain its EBITDA margin of approximately 35% over the forecast period, 2010 - 2014.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting excerpt from a piece about the use of technology in Pakistan written for CNET by a visiting Pakistani tech journalist Zamir Haider at Stanford University:

According to the Ministry of Finance's Economic Survey of Pakistan for fiscal 2005-2006, computer use in urban households is high. In comparison with the literacy rate--53 percent--at least 40 percent of Pakistanis are computer literate or have access to computers.

Mostly, these are Pentium II or Pentium III PCs, since laptops are expensive. PCs are now widely available at good prices, thanks to Chinese computers flooding the markets. Most of these machines are not big brands, but they do say "Intel Inside." As for laptops, they come from various brands like Dell, Toshiba, Compaq, Sony and Apple. Wireless Internet connections, on the other hand, are still rare.

Dialing up through the phone lines
In Pakistan, 99 percent of Internet connections are still over phone lines. Wi-Fi is generally seen only at five-star hotels and now at a few restaurants. People at home usually use Internet cards of various denominations starting from 10 rupees per hour (16 cents) to 100 rupees per 10 hours ($1.60). Connection speeds through Internet cards are generally poor.

Getting permanent Internet connections from an Internet service provider is expensive, but most businesses do get connections from these companies.

Mobile phones are the most common form of personal technology seen in Pakistan. Connecting to the Internet through mobile phones is getting popular now, but it probably will still take another a year or more to be as popular as it is here in California.

People here are excited about the coming of the Apple iPhone. That's what I hear people talking about when I go to any of the mobile phone outlets in San Francisco.

In Pakistan, people aren't that much different when it comes to mobile phones. They're fond of buying expensive cell phones not for technology purposes alone, but also largely to show off.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Business Recorder story about the launch of a new broadband company in Pakistan:

KARACHI (May 28 2010): Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Qubee, Mubashir Naqvi on Thursday announced the formal launch of Qubee broadband internet service in Pakistan. The Qubee service has begun in Karachi through its stores besides a network of local distributors, he said at press conference held at a local hotel. "The internet broadband growth has been forecast to reach about 4.3 million users by the end of 2013 in Pakistan at an unprecedented rate," he added.

Keeping in view the whole scenario, he said, there was a vast opportunity for wireless broadband providers to capitalise on the unexploited market in the country. Naqvi was of the view that the economic and social uplift of a country was altogether linked to the broadband access. Pakistan is amongst the most dynamic telecom economies in terms of internet growth, he cited the observation of United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 2010.

With an initial investment of 70 million dollar in Pakistan, he said, Qubee was planning to seize the opportunity of huge untapped market, adding, "Qubee is responsible for the direct employment of over 120 people in Karachi, which is set to grow to 250 people by the end of the year."

Naqvi said that Qubee would also be available in Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi by the end of the current year to expand its network base across Pakistan over the next few years. CEO Qubee observed that the demand for internet connectivity had never been high in the country, saying that the new broadband service would go fully to satisfy its customers with reliable and undistorted download within a range of affordable packages.

With the brand name Qubee is a wireless broadband internet service provider of Augere Holdings Plc, in Pakistan. It offers connectivity through a technology called WiMax [World-wide Inter-operability for Microwave Access]. The minimum package is Rs 750 a month with 512 Kbps speed and six GB downloading capacity, while the internet gadget is offered to costumers free of cost. The other packages range between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 with different speed slabs and download capacity a month, he told Business Recorder earlier.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a piece by Robert Fisk in the Independent newspaper about Israeli and western spin with repetition of the terror in the aftermath of Gaza Flotilla massacre by the Israeli commands. This could easily be applied to the Indian and western propaganda against all things Pakistan or Muslim:

Following the latest in semantics on the news? Journalism and the Israeli government are in love again. It's Islamic terror, Turkish terror, Hamas terror, Islamic Jihad terror, Hezbollah terror, activist terror, war on terror, Palestinian terror, Muslim terror, Iranian terror, Syrian terror, anti-Semitic terror...

But I am doing the Israelis an injustice. Their lexicon, and that of the White House – most of the time – and our reporters' lexicon, is the same. Yes, let's be fair to the Israelis. Their lexicon goes like this: Terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror, terror.

How many times did I just use the word "terror"? Twenty. But it might as well be 60, or 100, or 1,000, or a million. We are in love with the word, seduced by it, fixated by it, attacked by it, assaulted by it, raped by it, committed to it. It is love and sadism and death in one double syllable, the prime time-theme song, the opening of every television symphony, the headline of every page, a punctuation mark in our journalism, a semicolon, a comma, our most powerful full stop. "Terror, terror, terror, terror". Each repetition justifies its predecessor.
Most of all, it's about the terror of power and the power of terror. Power and terror have become interchangeable. We journalists have let this happen. Our language has become not just a debased ally, but a full verbal partner in the language of governments and armies and generals and weapons. Remember the "bunker buster" and the "Scud buster" and the "target-rich environment" in the Gulf War (Part One)? Forget about "weapons of mass destruction". Too obviously silly. But "WMD" in the Gulf War (Part Two) had a power of its own, a secret code – genetic, perhaps, like DNA – for something that would reap terror, terror, terror, terror, terror. "45 Minutes to Terror".

Power and the media are not just about cosy relationships between journalists and political leaders, between editors and presidents. They are not just about the parasitic-osmotic relationship between supposedly honourable reporters and the nexus of power that runs between White House and State Department and Pentagon, between Downing Street and the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, between America and Israel.

In the Western context, power and the media is about words – and the use of words. It is about semantics. It is about the employment of phrases and their origins. And it is about the misuse of history, and about our ignorance of history. More and more today, we journalists have become prisoners of the language of power. Is this because we no longer care about linguistics or semantics? Is this because laptops "correct" our spelling, "trim" our grammar so that our sentences so often turn out to be identical to those of our rulers? Is this why newspaper editorials today often sound like political speeches?

For two decades now, the US and British – and Israeli and Palestinian – leaderships have used the words "peace process" to define the hopeless, inadequate, dishonourable agreement that allowed the US and Israel to dominate whatever slivers of land would be given to an occupied people. I first queried this expression, and its provenance, at the time of Oslo – although how easily we forget that the secret surrenders at Oslo were themselves a conspiracy without any legal basis.

Riaz Haq said...

On a national level, television is the dominant communication medium in Pakistan. But radio radio listenership in Pakistan remains strong in certain areas of the country. This is particularly the case in rural areas and less economically developed provinces, according to audiencescapes.org.

Specifically, in the rural areas of the Baluchistan province, 46 percent of respondents said they listen to the radio at least weekly, rivaling rural television viewership at 47 percent. While in rural areas of the other three provinces surveyed (the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), Punjab, and Sind), radio listenership is strong but is still lower than TV viewership.

In regions such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA, not surveyed), where the Taliban has held control over certain areas for a significant period of time, radio transmissions are often people’s main source of entertainment and news, mainly because religious extremists disrupt television broadcasts through frequent sabotage. Mainstream newspapers are also not available; many villages are difficult to access and selling publications can be risky for the seller. In addition, within the FATA region and much of the NWFP, television sets are simply too expensive and access to electricity is spotty.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from NY Times story about declining power of Pakistan's feudal class:

For years, feudal lords reigned supreme, serving as the police, the judge and the political leader. Plantations had jails, and political seats were practically owned by families.

Instead of midwifing democracy, these aristocrats obstructed it, ignoring the needs of rural Pakistanis, half of whom are still landless and desperately poor more than 60 years after Pakistan became a state.

But changes began to erode the aristocrats’ power. Cities sprouted, with jobs in construction and industry. Large-scale farms eclipsed old-fashioned plantations. Vast hereditary lands splintered among generations of sons, and many aristocratic families left the country for cities, living beyond their means off sales of their remaining lands. Mobile labor has also reduced dependence on aristocratic families.

In Punjab, the country’s most populous province, and its most economically advanced, the number of national lawmakers from feudal families shrank to 25 percent in 2008 from 42 percent in 1970, according to a count conducted by Mubashir Hassan, a former finance minister, and The New York Times.

“Feudals are a dying breed,” said S. Akbar Zaidi, a Karachi-based fellow with the Carnegie Foundation. “They have no power outside the walls of their castles.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/29/world/asia/29feudal.html?_r=1&hp

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story in Express Tribune about the launch of Newsweek Pakistan edition:

KARACHI: Media insiders expect cut-throat competition in the English print media market as two new publications enter the once stagnant market that has already witnessed one launch this year (The Express Tribune). The first is the Pakistan edition of US based Newsweek Pakistan which is set to launch today despite facing ongoing losses in the international market.

It, along with many other media entities including the New York Times (a partner paper of The Express Tribune in Pakistan) faces a difficult future as the rise of the internet coupled with the decline of a newspaper reading population in Western nations has battered their profit margins.

The second newspaper set to launch later this year is Pakistan Today, a daily newspaper to be published from Lahore by former publisher of The Nation, Arif Nizami.

Editor of Newsweek Pakistan, Fasih Ahmed says the localised version of the international current affairs magazine will have double the print run as compared to that of the international edition. “Newsweek has been around in Pakistan for years,” he says “we are not taking a risk.”

This is the eighth international edition of the magazine as Newsweek has been spreading its wings in the face of massive losses.

The English-language weekly had been on the block for over three months ever since the Washington Post Company announced $30 million in losses last year alone, until 91-year-old audio equipment magnate Sidney Harman agreed to buy the flailing publication earlier this month.

Alongside the sale, there has been a departure of key editors, the most notable being Fareed Zakaria, who has left Newsweek to join its competitor Time magazine as a contributing editor and columnist.

However, Ahmed says the change in ownership will have no impact on the new magazine’s fortunes in Pakistan. “Unlike Newsweek Asia which is currently available in the market, the magazine is to offer readers thirty percent global news with seventy percent homegrown, local coverage.” Ahmed says it is the same ratio that is followed by all of Newsweek’s 11 international editions distributed in more than 190 countries.

Owais Aslam Ali, chairman of Pakistan Press International expects other international publications to follow suit. “Eastern markets are more viable,” he says. “International newspapers and magazines have brand value which they can use to their advantage. They can go much further with lesser investment.”

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie (Burnt Shadows) talked about Pakistani music with Steve Inskeep of NPR Morning Edition this morning.
Here's the NPR website report of this interview:

"Disco Deewane" means "disco crazy" in Urdu. It's also the name of a song by the brother-sister duo Nazia and Zoheb Hassan, a hit in Pakistan in 1981.

But its words spurred religious tension as Pakistan's government became even more conservative. Pakistani-born writer Kamila Shamsie remembers the music video, in which government censors wouldn't let cameras film the sensuous Nazia from the waist down.

"You had this woman and this man, who were sort of out there talking about the craziness of disco," Shamsie says. "And about a certain kind of social liberation that went away."

Many Muslims in Pakistan practice variations of Sufism, a less rigid form of Islam that's very open to music and dance. Facing waning popularity in the late 1970s, then-dictator Muhammad Zia-ul Haq ushered a more extreme Islam into the law and culture of the country.

Pop music managed to prevail. Despite heavy government censorship in 1987, Pakistani television held a competition for its viewers to come up with a patriotic song. The winning track was "Dil Dil Pakistan" from the pop group Vital Signs. It became an instant hit.

"It felt really refreshing and it felt subversive, which is ridiculous if you actually look at the lyrics," Shamsie says.

Two prominent members of Vital Signs parted ways with the group in the early 1990s, taking different directions in both music and religion. Salman Ahmad formed Junoon, a Sufi rock group which achieved widespread popularity in Southeast Asia in 1997 with their chart-topping hit "Sayonee." Meanwhile, frontman Junaid Jamshed began singing religious music and denounced pop as "un-Islamic."

"There are so many different variations of Islam," she says. "I think within the music and the stories of Salman Ahmad and Junaid Jamshed, you can see two of the more dramatic ways in which that search for religious belief can play out."

Riaz Haq said...

“Media Subdues The Public. It’s So In India, Certainly”, says Noam Chomsky, Prof Emeritus of Linguistics and Media a MIT.

Here are a few quotes from an Outlook India interview with Noam Chomsky:

"I spent three weeks in India and a week in Pakistan. A friend of mine here, Iqbal Ahmed, told me that I would be surprised to find that the media in Pakistan is more open, free and vibrant than that in India.

In Pakistan, I read the English language media which go to a tiny part of the population. Apparently, the government, no matter how repressive it is, is willing to say to them that you have your fun, we are not going to bother you. So they don’t interfere with it.

The media in India is free, the government doesn’t have the power to control it. But what I saw was that it was pretty restricted, very narrow and provincial and not very informative, leaving out lots of things. What I saw was a small sample. There are very good things in the Indian media, specially the Hindu and a couple of others. But this picture (in India) doesn’t surprise me. In fact, the media situation is not very different in many other countries. The Mexican situation is unusual. La Jornada is the only independent newspaper in the whole hemisphere."

"As soon as the plan to invade Iraq was announced, the media began serving as a propaganda agency for the government. The same was true for Vietnam, for state violence generally. The media is called liberal because it is liberal in the sense that Obama is. For example, he’s considered as the principled critic of the Iraq war. Why? Because, right at the beginning, he said it was a strategic blunder. That’s the extent of his liberalism. You could read such comments in Pravda in 1985. The people said that the invasion of Afghanistan was a strategic blunder. Even the German general staff said that Stalingrad was a strategic blunder. But we don’t call that principled criticism."

"Perhaps the period of greatest real press freedom was in the more free societies of Britain and the US in the late 19th century. There was a great variety of newspapers, most often run by the factory workers, ethnic communities and others. There was a lot of popular involvement. These papers reflected a wide variety of opinions, were widely read too. It was the period of greatest vibrancy in the US. There were efforts, especially in England, to control and censor it. These didn’t work. But two things pretty much eliminated them. One, it was possible for the corporate sector to simply put so much capital into their own newspapers that others couldn’t compete. The other factor was advertising; advertiser-reliance. Advertisers are businesses. When newspapers become dependent on advertisers for their income, they are naturally going to bend to the interest of advertisers.

If you look at the New York Times, maybe the world’s greatest newspaper, they have the concept of news hole. What that means is that in the afternoon when they plan for the following day’s newspaper, the first thing they do is to layout where the advertising is going to be, because that’s an important part of a newspaper. You then put the news in the gaps between advertisements. In television there is a concept called content and fill. The content is the advertising, the fill is car chase, the sexy or whatever you put in to try to keep the viewer watching in between the ads. That’s a natural outcome when you have advertiser-reliance."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Beena Sarwar in the Guardian recently:

India and Pakistan may be neighbours but it's surprising how little they really know about each other. Their rich common heritage is easily forgotten amid mutual baiting and negative stereotyping, and it's difficult to imagine them ever being truly at peace until these obstacles have been overcome.

"I'm really surprised to see so many women ... I thought you would be all covered in burqas," said a journalist at the Indian Women's Press Club when the Pakistani contingent arrived last April on a visit organised by Aman ki Asha (a joint initiative for peace by the Times of India and Pakistan's Jang media group).

Indians who visit Pakistan are invariably pleasantly surprised by the openness, helpfulness and hospitality of Pakistanis. It is hard for them to believe there is so much vibrant art, fashion, music, dance, media, literature and theatre. They are moved by the outstanding work that people are doing, often voluntarily, in fields ranging from women's and human rights to education and medical care.

Many Pakistani men, women and children participate in the fortnightly Critical Mass cycling events in Karachi; there's a Critical Mass in Lahore, too. Music lovers in both cities organise the well-attended annual All Pakistan Music Conference that showcases classical musicians, singers and dancers. Pakistan hosts the largest privately organised annual puppet festival in the world. The festival organisers (the Peer Group) also arrange annual music, dance and theatre festivals.

Pakistanis also proved, during the restrictive military regime of Gen Zia-ul-Haq, that it is possible to have a lively theatre scene, including productions staged in backyards and open spaces in poor localities. Some activist groups, such as Ajoka Theatre and Tehrik-e-Niswan, still do this to raise awareness.

The few theatres we have in Pakistan remain solidly booked. Indian journalists who saw a local production of the West End hit musical Mama Mia in Lahore were stunned by the talent, and by the slickness of the production by the group which had put on Chicago the previous year.

But far too few opinion-makers from India and Pakistan are able to visit the other country. Trapped in a long history of hostilities, our governments are reluctant to grant visas to each other's citizens, even journalists. Their reciprocal protocol only allows two journalists from the other country to live and work in their capital cities, Islamabad and New Delhi – and they must obtain special permission to go elsewhere.

Despite the shared border, languages, food, music and cultural traditions, we don't even have the option of a tourist visa for each other's citizens. When visas are granted, they are reminiscent of the cold war era tendency to grant city-specific, single entry visas limited typically to a fortnight or a month. Visitors must report to the police within 24 hours of arrival and departure.

Our cell phones, on roaming anywhere else in the world, stop working when we step into each other's country.

We've banned each other's newspapers and television news channels – ridiculous in this age of internet access. India doesn't allow Pakistan's cooking, sports or entertainment TV shows or live link-ups to Pakistani TV channels. Pakistan is more relaxed on this score and allows India's extravagant soap operas – but many here (particularly in the military and the bureaucracy) still operate on the premise that India is enemy number one.

Riaz Haq said...

Beena Sarwar's Guardian Op Ed contd:

We've banned each other's newspapers and television news channels – ridiculous in this age of internet access. India doesn't allow Pakistan's cooking, sports or entertainment TV shows or live link-ups to Pakistani TV channels. Pakistan is more relaxed on this score and allows India's extravagant soap operas – but many here (particularly in the military and the bureaucracy) still operate on the premise that India is enemy number one.

Even as Pakistan reels from unprecedented floods that submerged one-fifth of the country and affected 20 million people, officials are dithering over allowing relief and aid workers from India.

European states came together despite a long history of bloodshed and hostility because it made economic sense to do so. For India and Pakistan too, co-operation and trade make sense. Businessmen and women recognise this, and they endorsed economic ties at a large meeting in May organised by Aman ki Asha.

In an age of nuclear weapons and unmanned drones how much sense does it make to keep armies amassed at the borders? Our people – one-fifth of the world's poor – need schools, hospitals, shelters, infrastructure, not more missiles and bombs.

It is only by opening the India-Pakistan border to each other's travellers, to commerce and to our shared culture that we can combat the negative stereotypes that feed mutual hostility and militarism in the subcontinent.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a piece by Beena Sarwar on secularism debate in Pakistan:

First of all, the very fact that this discussion is taking place in a mainstream newspaper -- even though it is in English, which limits its outreach -- is something to appreciate.

Secondly, the discussion is taking place at a time when Pakistan, indeed the world, finds itself polarised as never before. Never before have we seen such extremes jostling for ascendency at the same time. In Pakistan, the extremes are most visible in the attire people, particularly women, wear out on the streets (from jeans to burqas), the gatherings and functions they attend (from religious gatherings to musical evenings, fashion shows and wild underground parties), what they are reading (religious literature to Communist readings that would have landed them in jail in the Zia years), the television and films they are watching (religious shows to uncensored films on DVD, and Indian films at mainstream cinemas), and how they express their views (through writings, art, music, seminars and peaceful candlelight demonstrations to violent protests and suicide bombings).

The entire gamut is there, from the extreme left to the extreme right, from wild permissiveness to ultra-conservatism -- the latter apparently on the rise not just in Pakistan but around the world. In fact, this ascendency of the Right is so strong that the demons of religion-based militancy unleashed during the Zia years can take down even those who adhere to the late General's world views: a Zaid Hamid can lose even as Gen Zia wins, as the UK-based researcher Anas Abbas interestingly posited it. The charismatic right-wing cult leader, who had sucked into his fold youth icons like the fashion designer Maria B and rock singer Ali Azmat, had to go into hiding not because progressive Pakistanis prevailed against his virulent pan-Islamist, anti-India world view, but because he offended his own.

This is a time when the 'blasphemy laws' as they are applied in Pakistan are causing a worldwide uproar because of the injustice they perpetuate; ......

We're talking about secularism at a time when supposedly educated people, including parliamentarians and politicians are 'warning' the government not to tamper with these blasphemy laws, or else face the 'consequences'. It is ironic that such a warning was issued recently by Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, President of the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q)....
We can now have this debate in the pages of this English-language newspaper, 20 years after Gen. Zia's departure, because those who hold these violent beliefs consider us to be irrelevant. So is the situation hopeless for people like us? No, because these discussions are not taking place in a vacuum. There is a lot of questioning going on in Pakistan at various levels about religion and its role in the state. These discussions are taking place in many languages and at many fora. Thousands if not millions of activists, political workers and ordinary citizens in Pakistan share the belief that religion should be a private matter, which should not be imposed violently.

The rise of the Internet -- according to one estimate, as many as 18 million Pakistanis have Internet access -- means that people have other alternatives to share information that the dominant news media sidelines. Blogs or facebook pages like SecularPakistan or SayNoToTheStateReligion may not have millions of followers but their readership is growing. Amidst the cacophony of jihadist views that regularly find space on radio and television networks are also voices that courageously question the role religion has been given in Pakistan. The trickle may not become a flood anytime soon, but neither is it about to dry up and disappear.

aamsvad said...

Happy New Year, Riaz!
A prosperous and peaceful 2011 for all!

Riaz Haq said...

Here's The Express Tribune piece on "changing face of retail" driven by the growth of middle class and FMCG sector in Pakistan:

The retail sector in Pakistan, long dominated by thousands of small corner shops, is about to go through a dramatic facelift as consumers become more discerning and demand greater choice.

The advent of hypermarkets and wholesalers such as Carrefour, Metro Cash & Carry and Makro has given Pakistanis a taste for a consumer choice driven shopping experience which is likely to deepen the market for consumer goods throughout the country and alleviate what has hitherto been the central problem in developing that sector: logistics.

A fragmented market

According to the Small & Medium Enterprise Development Authority, there are over 125,000 retail outlets all across Pakistan. Approximately 94 per cent of these are miniscule corner shops and small retail outlets in cities and villages. Perhaps most critically, there is no nationwide chain of retail or even wholesale outlets.

This poses a significant challenge for most businesses looking to enter the food and agribusiness sector. Despite the fact that Pakistanis spend close to $36 billion a year on food and other retail shopping, businesses find it very difficult to reach the mass market of Pakistani consumers simply because it is not a single marketplace but tens of thousands of little shops.
---
What it all means

The existence of these chains means that Pakistanis are about to be inundated with outlets that seek to create a better shopping experience and offer consumers more choice. The larger these chains become, the more those choices they offer will be produced locally.

If food production companies can have lower distribution costs and easier access to a wider swathe of the consumer market, they are more likely to expand existing lines of business and introduce newer markets. In other words, food producers will go from selling raw commodities to selling higher value goods which will not only expand consumer choice but will also increase the productivity of the Pakistani workforce and thus their incomes.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a report on Pakistan's retail sector:

The ongoing shift in population from rural to urban areas has underpinned the expansion of the retail sector. Strong real GDP growth until fiscal year 2006/07 (July-June) provided the foundation for years of double-digit growth in net retail sales in US dollar terms. However, net retail sales contracted by 1.2% in 2008. Sales then grew by only 5.7%, to US$75bn, in 2009, as the inflationary surge of 2008, which reduced spending power, abated only moderately. In local-currency terms retail sales growth in 2009 is estimated at 22.7%, owing to depreciation in the value of the Pakistan rupee against the US dollar. A gradual shift towards more formal retail facilities will facilitate the expansion of sales in 2012-14, but this process will be slow and confined to urban areas. (In 2010-11 retail sales expansion will be subdued, as overall private consumption growth slows sharply owing to the catastrophic floods that struck Pakistan in August-September 2010. Electronic retailing is almost non­existent in Pakistan because of the low levels of Internet penetration and credit-card use in the country.

Consumer finance accounted for 4.2% of the total stock of credit in the country in June 2010, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP, the central bank). Credit for purchases of consumer durables was down by 25% year on year..... Because of their limited financial resources, most retailers sell on a cash-only basis. This is gradually changing, and credit-card use is likely to become an increasingly important element of personal finance in the long term. However, in the short to medium term credit-card use will be constrained by the poor economic climate: outstanding credit-card loans were down by 25% year on year in June 2010. Large, centralised shops have not been popular in Pakistan, as low levels of car ownership mean that people prefer "corner shops" near their homes. More importantly, frequent and often prolonged power failures reduce the advantages of refrigeration, leading to a preference for fresh goods bought for immediate consumption from neighbourhood retailers. Online retail sales are negligible, owing to the country's extremely low levels of Internet penetration and credit-card ownership and the absence of Internet merchant accounts to facilitate online credit-card transactions.

The retail market is highly fragmented and underdeveloped. There are over 125,000 retail outlets across the country, according to the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Authority, but around 95% of these are tiny corner shops. The few supermarkets that exist are concentrated in Karachi and Lahore. USC is the largest supermarket chain by far, with 5,850 outlets throughout the country in 2009, according to Planet Retail, an international industry consultancy. The other major chains are Whitbread (with 17 outlets in 2009), GNC (with six outlets), Metro (five outlets) and Carrefour (one outlet). However, even USC's market share is virtually insignificant in terms of retailing as a whole, according to Planet Retail, accounting for only 1.2% of total grocery spending in the country. The vast majority of retailers in Pakistan are small family-run shops, and this will remain the case throughout the forecast period (2010-14).

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan PTCL has recieved consumer choice award for its EVO 3G service, according to Pak Observer:

Karachi—Pakistan Telecommunication Company LTD (PTCL) has won Best Consumer Choice Award 2010 for its product “EVO”, that is the fastest wireless broadband service with the widest coverage, in over 100 cities of the Pakistan. Pakistani consumers have chosen EVO a world class and exclusive device as a recipient of, Consumers Choice Award in the category of Best Wireless Broadband. Federal Minister Makhdoom Amin Faheem presented the shield to SEVP South Abdullah Youseff. The Consumers Choice Award is celebrating its 6th successful year in the country and has become the most recognized and prestigious event of the country’s business calendar.

PTCL has always laid special focus on delivering the best to its customers by providing the most affordable means of communication and a truly reliable and technology wise superior network. With the substantial market share, loyal subscriber base and the recognition as the only integrated telecommunications service provider, PTCL continues to set excellence benchmarks in the Telecom Industry of Pakistan. The commercial launch of EVO Nitro 3G offering speed upto 9.3 mbps,which is unexampled and one and the only fastest and most widely available wireless service in Pakistan that meets needs of the next generation for ultimate speed along with superior, matchless and extraordinary performance.

PTCL President and CEO - Walid Irshaid while acknowledging this achievement, highlighted pragmatic approach of PTCL and stated that PTCL understands the changing dynamics of the telecommunication sector and is working towards foreseeing our customer’s needs and fulfilling them. The selection of EVO in the category of Best Wireless Broadband in Consumer Choice Award for ‘2010’ is an acknowledgement of that. EVO 3G Wireless Broadband is Pakistan’s fastest on the double wireless internet offering its customers superior, venerable, advanced and a cutting edge 3G internet experience with its unprecedented speed. It has revolutionized the three simple steps just plug in-click-connect of wireless connectivity for our valued customers. Pakistan is the first country in the world of telecommunication to commercially launch EVO 3G Nitro, the fastest wireless broadband with seamless roaming having speed up to 9.3mbps.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report on the launch of web-based Maati TV in Pakistan:

LAHORE: Music Art and Technology Informatrix (Maati Tv) will mainly serve as a platform for the youth to share their stories of social and development sectors.

The web television will work on the principle of non-corporate parallel media. A project of Interactive Resource Centre (IRC) in collaboration with the South Asian Partnership Pakistan (SAP-PK) and the Church World Service Pakistan/Afghanistan (CWS), Maati TV will initially have its correspondents in 20 districts and different educational institutions across the country.

In Punjab, Maati Tv will have its correspondents in Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur and Faisalabad. In Sindh the correspondents will be located in Karachi, Hyderabad, Dadu and Juhi. Balochistan will have its representatives in Quetta and Jaffarabad while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa it will have correspondents in Mardan, Peshawar and Kohat. The web television will also have representation in Gilgit and Hunza.

The correspondents from these districts will make documentaries on social and developmental issues which will be uploaded on the website. The head office of the web television will be in Karachi.

Executive Director of the IRC Muhammad Waseem told The Express Tribune that the organisation has trained the correspondents in documentary making, “We have worked in different educational institutions on peace building and students will also make documentaries on different social and developmental subjects. We have provided cameras and editing units to our correspondents and their documentaries will mainly only be three-minute long.” The youth does not have a platform to speak about social problems and this television will provide them with a platform to get involved in the social building process, he added.

Programme Manager IRC Nasir Sohail said, “Maati TV will be like Democracy Now, a non-corporate media in the US, we have also added the option of blogging in it. People can write their blogs or articles and we will generate debates on our documentaries or our blogs”.

When asked about data management of the site, he said, “We will have multi servers. We have this thing in mind and have sorted this out. Honorarium would be given to the correspondents for making each documentary”.

The television will also incorporate cell phone videos. “There will be a section in which we will have mobile phone videos. People can make documentaries on any social issue and we will upload them,” said Waseem.

Flood relief activities

Maati TV will focus on the rehabilitation work in flood-hit areas through a special segment. “The locals in the flood hit areas will serve as watchdogs. They will make documentaries on the relief activities and we will upload them on our website,” said Waseem. By 2012, 70 percent population of Pakistan is going to be under 30 and that is our target audience. When asked about the financial feasibility of the project he said, “We intend to have google ads and meet our expenses from there. Another option is that we will focus on corporate social responsibility and generate funds for it. If things go as per plan this project should become self sustaining in a year.”

Riaz Haq said...

Sesame Street is launching an adaptation of its children's tv show produced in Urdu for Pakistani audience, according to the Guardian newspaper.

There's no Cookie Monster, no Big Bird and no Count von Count.

But Pakistani children will soon start experiencing what millions in the west have done for more than four decades – the joys of Sesame Street.

In a $20m (£12m) remake of the classic American children's programme, the setting for the show has moved from the streets of New York to a lively village in Pakistan with a roadside tea and snacks stall, known as a dhaba, some fancy houses with overhanging balconies along with simple dwellings, and residents hanging out on their verandas.

The Pakistani version, in which characters will speak mostly in Urdu, will feature Rani, a cute six-year-old Muppet, the child of a peasant farmer, with pigtails, flowers in her hair and a smart blue-and-white school uniform. Her curiosity and questions about the world will, it is hoped, make her a role model for Pakistani children.


Sesame Street International already co-produces 18 localized version, including those in Bangladesh and India, and reaches millions of children in 120 nations around the world.

Riaz Haq said...

Supreme Court of Pakistan has ordered the govt to restore Geo Super's satellite license immediately.

Having lost the court battle, the PPP govt and PEMRA are now likely to respond by encouraging significant competition in sports coverage by giving terrestrial transmission licenses to Geo's competitors to hurt Geo's profits.

It'll be a good outcome for consumers and advertisers alike. It will give them more choices in sports media space. It'll improve and increase sports coverage overall...and encourage more youths to participate in athletics and sports.

Anonymous said...

nice article...

List of Pakistani publishers can be found here http://www.bookexchange.com.pk/publishers.php

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post Op Ed on social media in Pakistan:

“Social media has actually created a dialogue of opposing thoughts and tries to bring them together to some sort of understanding,” said the Teeth Maestro, a 36-year-old whose real name is Awab Alvi.

There’s no revolution in the works like in Egypt, where young people used Facebook, Twitter and other web tools to organize protests.

But the use of such Internet tools is rising so rapidly in Pakistan that even U.S. officials have taken notice, recently co-sponsoring the country’s first international social media summit. Held in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, it attracted some 200 people.

Pakistan, a country of roughly 187 million, has roughly 20 million Internet users. Its penetration rate is a bit higher than neighbor India but a bit lower than fellow Muslim country Indonesia, according to http://www.internetworldstats.com.

There are at least 4.3 million Facebook users in Pakistan, while Twitter is the ninth most popular web site in the country, according to statistics presented Saturday at the summit.

To be sure, plenty of Pakistan’s bloggers promote anti-U.S. conspiracy theories and Islamist, even pro-militant agendas. One group created an alternative to Facebook catering to Muslims, unhappy with what they say was offensive material on the regular site.

The overall numbers are skewed toward wealthier, educated city dwellers, and most of the Pakistani blogosphere is in English, though Urdu-language use is growing, experts said. But although social media lovers don’t represent Pakistan’s masses, they do represent many of “the elite” who hold the levers of power.

In many small ways, Pakistan’s social media activists already have been making their presence felt.

One of the more famous social media users in Pakistan is Sohaib Athar, the man who unknowingly live-tweeted the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden in May, gaining tens of thousands of new followers and providing witty insight into a stunning news event.

There also have been videos posted on the Internet showing the alleged brutality of the armed forces in Pakistan, outraging civilians and leading to investigations (though rarely with any publicized results). And during nationwide floods in 2010, social media activists helped raise money.

The blogs in particular give Pakistanis a chance to vent, no matter what their philosophy.

Alvi, the dentist, recently posted an entry about the shooting of an unarmed young man by security troops in Karachi. The incident was caught on tape, posted to YouTube and played on television, making him wonder what it would take for the masses to rise up and end such brutalities.

“Could this blatant killing of a young individual (regardless of his innocence or guilt) be the trigger?” he wrote. “Or are we still too occupied at allowing these political and military crooks run our country to smithereens?”

Pakistan’s TV and radio stations remain the dominant force in shaping public discourse, followed by newspapers — especially Urdu-language ones. But employees of mainstream outlets note they still have to worry about some restrictive laws that are less likely to affect social media users.

“We have buildings and offices — we can get burned, we can get bombed,” said Kamal Siddiqi, editor of The Express Tribune newspaper.

He said blogs were a very popular part of his paper’s online edition, a sign of how the mainstream media and the social media are blending.

Pakistani social media activists said they too worry about their security, with some noting wryly that the Internet is also a place for militants to recruit suicide bombers and post tapes of beheadings.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan: Nation on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Fatima Bhutto

Here's a link to an interesting video of Fatima Bhutto speaking at Sydney Writers Festival:

http://blip.tv/slowtv/pakistan-nation-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown-fatima-bhutto-5236151

About this episode
TV-UN

Pakistan is a country plagued by natural disasters, endemic political corruption, religious fundamentalism and is claimed by many to be the central headquarters of Islamist terrorism. And it’s a nuclear power. Fatima Bhutto, scion of the Pakistani political family, addresses the current state of her country in her Opening Address at the Sydney Writers' Festival 2011.Fatima Bhutto is an Afghan-born Pakistani poet and writer. She is the granddaughter of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and niece of Benazir Bhutto (both assassinated). She is active in Pakistan's socio-political arena but has no desire to run for political office. She currently writes columns for ‘The Daily Beast’, ‘New Statesman’ and other publications.May 2011

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on the music industry woes in Pakistan:

Let’s start with the record labels. There is only one active record label in Pakistan at present: Fire Records. With more than 50 artists under its belt, Fire Records enjoys a monopoly over the industry. The other big players of the industry (The Musik Records, EMI and LIPS Music — not counting Alif Records and Riot Records which only cater to individual artists) are currently dormant.
-------
However, when you read the fine print of the contract, it featured a few conditions.

For starters, the package included no monetary compensation for almost all artists. Secondly, an artist had to give up his/her rights to the music. This meant that Fire Records vetoed every decision including which song to launch when, which video to make when and when to distribute the album. Moreover, all artists signed under Fire Records could have their videos aired only exclusively on Fire Records’ sister television channels (AAG, Geo TV, etc.) unless royalty payments were made by other channels.

With blatantly anti-competitive practices, Fire Records became the sole lifeline for these top 50 artists of Pakistan. So, unsurprisingly, when Fire Records decided to decrease its output of new releases in the market, the whole industry suffered.

A good example is that of the band Mauj. Having released their first single “Khushfehmi” in 2004 to widespread acclaim, and then “Paheliyan” in 2008, the band signed on with Fire Records in January 2009 with a ready-made album in hand. However, the record company decided to postpone the album’s release. The fans waited, the band complained, and illegal free downloads soared on the web. It wasn’t until a year later in January 2010 that the album finally saw a release. But by then a lot of water had passed under the bridge – it was too late. The craze had already died.

Call suffered a similar fate. With their album ready in 2008, they had to wait till February 2011. “Laree Chootee” had truly missed the bus by then.
-----
Fire Records, the largest investor in the record label business, is also facing the crunch. In the words of the Operations Manager at Fire Records: “The days where an album could easily sell a 100,000-plus copies are over. Even mass appeal albums of artists like Shazia Manzoor are struggling to hit the lower thousands. There are very few returns to be made in an environment such as this”.

Other factors affecting record labels is the refusal of TV channels to pay any royalties on videos, and the increased influx of Bollywood songs being played on local channels which is directly hampering consumer demand for local music.
-----------
Conventionally, record labels engage with distributors and have joint investment and revenue sharing models. This is not true in Pakistan. Artists such as Jal, Ali Azmat, Ali Zafar and many others have to directly engage with Sadaf Stereo and Sound Master for the distribution of their albums. These agreements are often not legally binding contracts but simply a take it or leave it offer in which the artists are paid up front. Consequently, the artists receive no royalty per sale, have no say in where and when the albums will be placed, and cannot keep track of the quantity sold. The lack of respect for legal contracts by distributors reflects the general lack of respect for intellectual property and copyright in our country.
------------
While some established artists have managed to explore new markets through Indian record labels, new artists have struggled to overcome these enormous hurdles. Take the example of Qayaas, an amazing new band from Islamabad who produced their own album, made their own videos, and personally distributed their own printed albums to stores across Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from an interesting Newsweek Pakistan Op Ed by Mahreen Zahra-Malik:

In Pakistan, media is a regulated business—at least in theory, since the governing laws are not worth the paper they are printed on. Editors, publishers, and TV executives insist on “self-regulation,” which is code for taking editorial decisions with an eye to the bottom line. The timeworn local tradition of a secret government fund to plant official platitudes across media platforms continues without questions or concerns of integrity. There are advertorials. There are potted phone-ins on talk shows. There are bribes. There are bribes by other names (“foreign tours”). There is cheerful disregard for the country’s feeble antidefamation laws. Yes, wagging fingers at Fleet Street represents an utter lack of self-awareness.

Let’s be clear. There is no such thing as a free press in Pakistan. For each story that is run every now and then to give the appearance of no-fear, no-favor journalism, there are a dozen that never make it—and only sometimes for legitimate reasons. One cannot authoritatively judge Pakistan’s power-drunk but self-preserving media without looking at the stories which are not being reported.

Some media organizations—including in the U.S. and Europe—serve as an ostensible insurance policy for big business, which is fair enough but hardly a foolproof strategy. Often journalists will pontificate and preach about their personal and professional virtue and valor merely to elude the fact that the news organizations they work for—however concerned for the public they may be—are, in fact, commercial enterprises. Media bosses know the cardinal rule well: Do not piss off paying advertisers. In Pakistan, the biggest advertiser is the government. The only complaint you will ever hear from a Pakistani media mogul in his (or her) less guarded moments about this inconvenient fact is that the government isn’t spending nearly enough. Some skinflint news channels and broadsheets have been known to go for the government’s jugular, not in a bid to expose wrongdoings, but to bare fangs and drum up their nuisance value. In the ensuing battle of kings versus kingmakers, what chance does truth stand?

Journalism in Pakistan has come to stand for all-caps scandal-mongering and sensationalism. Political news is the celebrity gossip of our media times. In zealous obeisance before ratings, the cannot-fail business model turns on appealing to the worst in people’s nature: reckless gossip, wild conspiracy theories, fervid and populist rejectionism. Raw emotions help rake it in. The result is a media landscape shorn of any real credibility, barren and bleak. At least in the U.S., there is a Keith Olbermann for every Bill O’Reilly, and there are solid, truly instructive platforms like PBS, NPR and even C-Span. We, on the other hand, have lemmings.

It’s a scandal. Ultimately, it’s audiences and advertisers who enable Pakistan’s media and who are responsible for its self-destructive degeneration. Raised on a bilious diet of distortion and dogma, people buy dailies or tune in for cheap entertainment. And they expect to get what they pay for: salacious half-truths and provocative stories that will elicit a dinnertime rant and then they’re done. But there is always that little bit of hope. After Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer’s assassination, advertisers were corralled into boycotting a local news channel. It worked, and the inflammatory P.Y.T. host was given the heave-ho. But is it really another matter that she resurfaced weeks later on a rival channel?


http://www.newsweekpakistan.com/the-take/370

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg report on rising consumer spending and growing FMCG sector in Pakistan:

...“The rural push is aimed at the boisterous youth in these areas, who have bountiful cash and resources to increase purchases,” Shazia Syed, vice president for customer development at Unilever Pakistan Ltd., said in an interview. “Rural growth is more than double that of national sales.”
--------------
Nestle Pakistan Ltd., which is spending 300 million Swiss francs ($330 million) to double dairy output in four years, boosted sales 29 percent to 33 billion rupees ($377 million) in the six months through June.

“We have been focusing on rural areas very strongly,” Ian Donald, managing director of Nestle’s Pakistan unit, said in an interview in Lahore. “Our observation is that Pakistan’s rural economy is doing better than urban areas.”

The parent, based in Vevey, Switzerland, aims to get 45 percent of revenue from emerging markets by 2020.
---------------
Haji Mirbar, who grows cotton on a 5-acre farm with his four brothers, said his family’s income grew fivefold in the year through June, allowing him to buy branded products. He uses Unilever’s Lifebuoy for his open-air baths under a hand pump, instead of the handmade soap he used before.
------------
Sales for the Pakistan unit of Unilever rose 15 percent to 24.8 billion rupees in the first half. Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan Ltd.’s sales increased 29 percent in the six months through June to 7.6 billion rupees, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
-----------
Unilever is pushing beauty products in the countryside through a program called “Guddi Baji,” an Urdu phrase that literally means “doll sister.” It employs “beauty specialists who understand rural women,” providing them with vans filled with samples and equipment, Syed said. Women in villages are also employed as sales representatives, because “rural is the growth engine” for Unilever in Pakistan, she said.

While the bulk of spending for rural families goes to food, about 20 percent “is spent on looking beautiful and buying expensive clothes,” Syed said.

Colgate-Palmolive, the world’s largest toothpaste maker, aims to address a “huge gap” in sales outside Pakistan’s cities by more than tripling the number of villages where its products, such as Palmolive soap, are sold, from the current 5,000, said Syed Wasif Ali, rural operations manager at the local unit.
--------------
Unilever plans to increase the number of villages where its products are sold to almost half of the total 34,000 within three years. Its merchandise, including Dove shampoo, Surf detergent and Brooke Bond Supreme tea, is available in about 11,000 villages now.
-------------
Pakistan, Asia’s third-largest wheat grower, in 2008 increased wheat prices by more than 50 percent as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to boost production of the staple.

“The injection of purchasing power in the rural sector has been unprecedented,” said Sherani, who added that local prices for rice and sugarcane have also risen.
----------
Increasing consumption in rural areas is forecast to drive economic growth in the South Asian country of 177 million people, according to government estimates.

Higher crop prices boosted farmers’ incomes in Pakistan by 342 billion rupees in the 12 months through June, according to a government economic survey. That was higher than the gain of 329 billion rupees in the preceding eight years.
-------------
Telenor Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd. is also expanding in Pakistan’s rural areas, which already contribute 60 percent of sales, said Anjum Nida Rahman, corporate communications director for the local unit of the Nordic region’s largest phone company.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg report on rising consumer spending and growing FMCG sector in Pakistan:

...“The rural push is aimed at the boisterous youth in these areas, who have bountiful cash and resources to increase purchases,” Shazia Syed, vice president for customer development at Unilever Pakistan Ltd., said in an interview. “Rural growth is more than double that of national sales.”
--------------
Nestle Pakistan Ltd., which is spending 300 million Swiss francs ($330 million) to double dairy output in four years, boosted sales 29 percent to 33 billion rupees ($377 million) in the six months through June.

“We have been focusing on rural areas very strongly,” Ian Donald, managing director of Nestle’s Pakistan unit, said in an interview in Lahore. “Our observation is that Pakistan’s rural economy is doing better than urban areas.”

The parent, based in Vevey, Switzerland, aims to get 45 percent of revenue from emerging markets by 2020.
---------------
Haji Mirbar, who grows cotton on a 5-acre farm with his four brothers, said his family’s income grew fivefold in the year through June, allowing him to buy branded products. He uses Unilever’s Lifebuoy for his open-air baths under a hand pump, instead of the handmade soap he used before.
------------
Sales for the Pakistan unit of Unilever rose 15 percent to 24.8 billion rupees in the first half. Colgate-Palmolive Pakistan Ltd.’s sales increased 29 percent in the six months through June to 7.6 billion rupees, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
-----------
Unilever is pushing beauty products in the countryside through a program called “Guddi Baji,” an Urdu phrase that literally means “doll sister.” It employs “beauty specialists who understand rural women,” providing them with vans filled with samples and equipment, Syed said. Women in villages are also employed as sales representatives, because “rural is the growth engine” for Unilever in Pakistan, she said.

While the bulk of spending for rural families goes to food, about 20 percent “is spent on looking beautiful and buying expensive clothes,” Syed said.

Colgate-Palmolive, the world’s largest toothpaste maker, aims to address a “huge gap” in sales outside Pakistan’s cities by more than tripling the number of villages where its products, such as Palmolive soap, are sold, from the current 5,000, said Syed Wasif Ali, rural operations manager at the local unit.
--------------
Unilever plans to increase the number of villages where its products are sold to almost half of the total 34,000 within three years. Its merchandise, including Dove shampoo, Surf detergent and Brooke Bond Supreme tea, is available in about 11,000 villages now.
-------------
Pakistan, Asia’s third-largest wheat grower, in 2008 increased wheat prices by more than 50 percent as Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani sought to boost production of the staple.

“The injection of purchasing power in the rural sector has been unprecedented,” said Sherani, who added that local prices for rice and sugarcane have also risen.
----------
Increasing consumption in rural areas is forecast to drive economic growth in the South Asian country of 177 million people, according to government estimates.

Higher crop prices boosted farmers’ incomes in Pakistan by 342 billion rupees in the 12 months through June, according to a government economic survey. That was higher than the gain of 329 billion rupees in the preceding eight years.
-------------
Telenor Pakistan (Pvt) Ltd. is also expanding in Pakistan’s rural areas, which already contribute 60 percent of sales, said Anjum Nida Rahman, corporate communications director for the local unit of the Nordic region’s largest phone company.

Riaz Haq said...

Radio Pakistan has archived a treasure trove of 3.5 million minutes of its broadcast, including historic speeches and interviews of national leaders, that are now available on the internet, according to Pakistan Today:

Broadcast transmissions of Radio Pakistan could be accessed via the internet and mobile streaming throughout the world and all past archives would be available on Youtube. The websites are available both in Urdu and English languages but they also give access to different programmes in 22 regional languages. The director general of the PBC said the new web portal, mobile streaming, video streaming and the Youtube project were aimed at connect the country’s youth to Radio Pakistan, which had been the most reliable medium of information. The new website www.radio.gov.pk is a dynamic site and all data is linked to Twitter and Facebook, Solangi said.
The new website was developed by the staff of the Radio Pakistan without any external funding and technical help. The website has a separate page for the programme side that contains online access to different programmes. The website covers sports, business, showbiz, and daily weather reports. The website also provides links to FM 101, FM 93, PLANET 94, FM 93 and some of the regional stations. The site could be accessed via cell-phone as well.
The archives include speeches of the foreign heads of state, speeches of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Quaid-i-Millat Liaqat Ali Khan, Mather-i-Millat Fatima Jinnah, Zulifkar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhuttoo, dramas and documentaries.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2011/07/radio-pakistan-goes-online/

http://www.radio.gov.pk/newsdetail-1386

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on the airing of the first episode of Sim Sim Humara in Pakistan:

The first episode of the Pakistan Children Television’s programme “Sim Sim Hamara”, an educational and capacity-building TV series for children, will be aired on Dec 10 at national TV.

The TV series will be a high-quality early education resource for a large number of children who lack access to formal education opportunities.

“Sim Sim Hamara” is the Pakistani adaptation of the engaging programme “Sesame Street”, created by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, New York, and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The theatre group will create a total of 130 episodes of the “Sim Sim Hamra” broadcast on PTV Home.

Seventy-eight of these episodes will be produced in Urdu and 52 in national languages. The first episode will be aired at 5:30pm on Dec 10 and the repeat telecast will be at 9:30am next day. The moving spirit behind the project, Faizan Pirzada told Dawn that “along with language and numeracy skills, this new educational show will promote basic life skills, healthy habits, mutual respect and love for learning. The show’s locally-developed puppet stars include Rani, a six-year old school girl with a keen interest in natural sciences and a love of reading, Munna, a five-year old boy with big dreams and a flair for mathematics and numbers, Baily, a fluffy, hardworking donkey who aspires to be a pop star, Baji, a colourful, spirited woman with a passion for food, family, fun and tradition, and Haseen-o-Jameel, a crocodile who has a wonderful way with words, rhymes and songs.”

Throwing light on the background of the project, one of the heads of the PC TV, Faizan Pirzada said Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop, in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, held a national content seminar and four provincial workshops to gather educational advisers from various fields to provide direction for the educational framework for the Pakistan Children’s Television project.

He said the participants included representatives from both regional and federal government entities, academicians, performing artists, civil society members working with children, representatives from Sesame Workshop, USAID and the federal education secretary.

He said there’s a need to impress upon children and families the fact that learning happens in both formal and non-formal environments. PC television is using authentic examples from the real world, such as observing a family member count change at the grocery store, weighing produce on scales at the vegetable market, reading prayers from the Holy Quran and other holy texts, and measuring ingredients for ‘roti’ as a basis for storylines and materials that promote a lifelong love of learning.


http://www.dawn.com/2011/12/02/educational-tv-serial-for-children-from-dec-10.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report tiled "Nokia Sees Pakistan Becoming a High-Growth Market":

KARACHI: Foreign delegates and local entrepreneurs discussed challenges facing businesses, sought greater industry-academia collaboration and highlighted business models to succeed in an emerging market at the 12th Management Association of Pakistan (MAP) Convention on Leadership Challenges for Business Success here on Wednesday.

Emerging markets will account for 80% of the world’s growth the next decade and Pakistan will be an important emerging market in future, Senior Vice President of Nokia India, Middle East and Africa Shivakumar said in a speech titled “Winning in emerging markets”.

Speaking to a conference packed with businessmen, Shivakumar – who is also the senior vice president of All India Management Association (AIMA) – said growth in developed economies has slowed down dramatically and the world is now looking at emerging markets, which account for 42% of population and 13% of income.

Pakistan is listed in four categories of emerging markets including Dow Jones 35 and emerging and growth level economies (EAGLES), he said. “Pakistan will be an important high-growth emerging market.”

In order to succeed in an emerging economy, he said, it is important to understand its segments and consumers. The emerging market consumers – most of whom live under $2 a day – are value-sensitive and not price-sensitive, he said and added entrepreneurs have to work on their business models to accommodate that segment of consumers who believe in the doctrine of “pay more, get more” and “pay less, get less”.

Sharing his experiences, he said, there are three things that he applied and succeeded. “Always put the country’s interest first, keep fixed costs very low and turn as many cost variables as possible,” he said.

“Never cut the features and offer your product at half the price. Consumers don’t want an incomplete product.”

Speaking to the participants earlier on, event’s chief guest and State Bank of Pakistan Governor Yaseen Anwar said it is time for all business leaders and managers to take the lead. Leaders must be more aware of the challenges facing the country – inflation, unemployment and power crisis.

There are no shortcuts to sustained economic development, Anwar said. “We need to develop the right strategies and then translate these strategies into action.”

AIMA President Rajiv Vastupal also addressed the event, saying IMF has lowered growth projection for both 2011 and 2012. “Today’s corporate leaders must focus on innovation to counter the global economic challenges,” he said. He elaborated the successful example of Apple’s iPad, which was launched during recession and earned a great success.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/306766/nokia-sees-pakistan-becoming-a-high-growth-market/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Nation about the use of mobile phones to deliver teacher training and resources:

ISLAMABAD - Nokia and UNESCO Islamabad have launched “Mobile Learning Project for Teacher’s Professional Development” on Thursday as formal collaboration took place in the presence of senior government officials, Nokia and UNESCO representatives.
As part of this programme, UNESCO and Nokia are joining hands, where Nokia is providing a technology solution known as Nokia Education Delivery to the UNESCO project ‘use of ICT for professional development of public school teachers’ in remote areas.
In Pakistan, through the project, Nokia will help UNESCO to enable the delivery of high- quality educational materials to teachers who lack training and resources.
Through mobile phones teachers will be given an opportunity to train themselves. Nokia developed the Nokia Education Delivery programme to allow using a mobile phone to access and download videos and other educational materials from a constantly updated education library.
Speaking about the project, UNESCO Director, Kozue Kai Nagata said, “In 21st century public-private partnerships are enjoying growing attention and support as a new and sustainable modality for development.
We are confident to collaborate with Nokia to provide us with the best platform to train public school teachers. Nokia Education Delivery programme is fit to match our need of delivering quality training to a large number of public school teachers across Pakistan through the project named “Mobile Learning for Teachers”.
Amir Jahangir, President AGAHI and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, shared his views on the launch that “Pakistan is a knowledge starved country, where universal education has its own challenges. To meet the target of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on education, Pakistan needs to address its education challenges through innovation and technology which can reach to a larger population with cost effective solutions”.
This unique pilot project for Pakistan has been initiated by UNESCO and AGAHI while Nokia Pakistan will enable the project implementation by providing not just Nokia devices but a complete solution via its Nokia Education Delivery programme.


http://nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Business/23-Dec-2011/Nokia-Unesco-join-hands

Riaz Haq said...

Has the explosion of media in India been a mixed blessing? asks BBC's Soutik Biswas:

With more than 70,000 newspapers and over 500 satellite channels in several languages, Indians are seemingly spoilt for choice and diversity.

India is already the biggest newspaper market in the world - over 100 million copies sold each day. Advertising revenues have soared. In the past two decades, the number of channels has grown from one - the dowdy state-owned broadcaster Doordarshan - to more than 500, of which more than 80 are news channels.

But such robust growth, many believe, may have come at the cost of accuracy, journalistic ethics and probity.

The media has taken some flak in recent months for being shallow, inaccurate and sometimes damagingly obtrusive. Former Supreme Court judge and chairman of the country's Press Council, Markandey Katju, fired the first broadside, exhorting journalists to educate themselves more. Predictably, it provoked a sharp reaction from the media.

Economist Amartya Sen is the latest to join the list of critics after being wrongly quoted in the mainstream media a couple of times recently. There are at least two huge barriers, writes Dr Sen in a recent article, to the quality of Indian media.

One is about professional laxity which leads to inaccuracies and mistakes. The other, he says, is a class bias in the choice of what news to cover and what to ignore.

Dr Sen offers unexceptional solutions to ensure accuracy - newspapers should publish corrections (a few like The Hindu and Mint already do) and journalists should be given more training. He suggests that reporters should make use of recorders during interviews rather than take rushed notes for accuracy - in fact, many reporters do use recorders and even when they don't, they usually do take correct notes. But stories can sometimes get mangled on their way to publication, resulting in inaccurate headlines.

Dr Sen's worry about lack of training is more pertinent. Most Indian newsrooms have no legacy - or practice - of editorial training. They still host energetic, sharp and argumentative journalists. But analysts say many newsrooms do lack rigour and there is a crying need for some serious, consistent training in fact checking and reporting ethics.

Dr Sen's other grouse about the class bias in Indian newsrooms is valid but again unexceptional....

Does this also have to do with low minority participation in newsrooms?

A 2006 study by the Delhi-based Centre for the Study of Developing Societies found that of the 315 key decision-makers surveyed from 37 Hindi and English publication and TV channels, almost 90% of decision makers in the English language print media and 79% in television were from the upper castes. There is virtually no representation of Dalits (formerly known as untouchables), who comprise some 20% of India's population and live on the margins. This accounts for a serious lack of diversity in Indian media.
------------
A 71-page Press Council investigation named leading newspapers that had received money for publishing information disguised as news in favour of individuals, including senior politicians. Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, an independent journalist who was one of the investigators, says a lobby of big publishers pushed the Press Council to water down the report. Even Vice President Hamid Ansari regretted the development, saying that the Press Council's inability to come out with the report was "a pointer to the problems of self-regulation and the culture of silence in the entire industry when it comes to self-criticism".

How do you stop this? Journalists like Mr Guha Thakurta argue for increased transparency, self-regulation and competition regulation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-16524711

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story about unruly Pak media:

One morning last week, television viewers in Pakistan were treated to a darkly comic sight: a posse of middle-class women roaming through a public park in Karachi, on the hunt for dating couples engaged in “immoral” behavior.

Panting breathlessly and trailed by a cameraman, the group of about 15 women chased after — sometimes at jogging pace — girls and boys sitting quietly on benches overlooking the Arabian Sea or strolling under the trees. The women peppered them with questions: What were they doing? Did their parents know? Were they engaged?

Some couples reacted with alarm, and tried to scuttle away. A few gave awkward answers. One couple claimed to be married. The show’s host, Maya Khan, 31, demanded to see proof. “So where is your marriage certificate?” she asked sternly.

This hourlong spectacle, broadcast live on Samaa TV on Jan. 17, set off a furious reaction in parts of Pakistan. Outrage sprang from the Internet and percolated into the national newspapers, where writers slammed Ms. Khan’s tactics as a “witch hunt.”

“Vigil-aunties,” read one headline, referring to the South Asian term “aunty” for older, bossy and often judgmental women.

Now, the protests are headed to court. On Friday, four local nongovernment organizations will file a civil suit against Samaa TV in Pakistan’s Supreme Court, hoping to galvanize the country’s top judges into action.

“Journalists don’t have the right to become moral police,” said Adnan Rehmat of Intermedia, a media development organization that is among the petitioners. “We need to draw a line.”
------------
The media revolution has transformed social and political boundaries: in 2007, feisty coverage played a central role in pushing Pervez Musharraf toward the exit; in recent weeks it helped guard against a possible military coup.

But television is also a lucrative business controlled by powerful, largely unaccountable tycoons. Last year Pakistan’s television stations had advertising revenues of more than $200 million, according to Aurora, an industry journal — 28 percent more than the previous year.

Amid stiff competition for viewers, channels have relied on populist measures — rowdy political talks shows and, in recent times, vigilante-style “investigative” shows modeled on programs in neighboring India.

Some have a noble objective: holding to account crooked public servants, police officers and even fellow journalists. But others have veered into territory that could be described as Pakistan’s answer to Jerry Springer — voyeuristic, mawkish and intrusive.

In recent months, one reporter screamed at a man accused of child rape as he awaited trial outside a courthouse; another hectored a man said to be a self-confessed necrophile inside a jail cell; and a TV reporter “raided” a gathering of whisky drinkers, even though alcohol flows freely at many media parties.
------------
But on Wednesday, Samaa TV issued a formal apology for her show, followed by a short clip of Ms. Khan, sitting on a bed, offering an apology of sorts. “I never intended to make you teary-eyed or hurt you,” she said.

The furor has renewed long-standing demands for media regulation. With the state-run Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority seen as ineffective, the organizations approaching the Supreme Court on Friday hope the judiciary can help. “We need to hold the media to account,” Mr. Rehmat said.
--------------
“My real worry is that Pakistan is moving rightwards, and this time the face won’t have a beard,” said Mr. Nasir, the former head of Dawn News television. “And before people know it, they won’t know what’s hit them.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/27/world/asia/for-many-in-pakistan-a-television-show-goes-too-far.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AP report on launch of local version of an international glossy magazine in Pakistan:

Pakistan is better known for bombs than bombshells, militant compounds than opulent estates. A few enterprising Pakistanis hope to alter that perception with the launch of a local version of the well-known celebrity magazine Hello!.

They plan to profile Pakistan’s rich and famous: the dashing cricket players, voluptuous Bollywood stars and powerful politicians who dominate conversation in the country’s ritziest private clubs and lowliest tea stalls. They also hope to discover musicians, fashion designers and other new talents who have yet to become household names.

“The side of Pakistan that is projected time and time again is negative,” said Zahraa Saifullah, the CEO of Hello! Pakistan. “There is a glamorous side of Pakistan, and we want to tap into that.”
--------------
Pakistan already has a series of local publications that chronicle the lives of the wellheeled in major cities like Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, especially as they hop between lavish parties. But the producers of Hello! Pakistan hope the magazine’s international brand and greater depth will attract followers.

Hello! was launched in 1988 by the publisher of Spain’s Hola! magazine and is now published in 150 countries. It’s well-known for its extensive coverage of Britain’s royal family and once paid $14 million in a joint deal with People magazine for exclusive pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s newborn twins.

The market for English-language publications in Pakistan is fairly small. Most monthly and weekly magazines sell no more than 3,000 copies, said Khan, the consulting editor. But they hope to tap into the large Pakistani expatriate markets in the United Kingdom and the Middle East as well.

Hello! Pakistan will be published once a month and will cost about $5.50, twice as much as what many poor Pakistanis earn in a day. The first issue will be published in mid-April and will focus on the Pakistani fashion scene.

Saifullah, who grew up watching her mother and grandmother read Hello! as she hopped between London and Karachi, said it took her two years to convince the magazine to publish a local version in Pakistan....


http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/say-hello-to-pakistans-glamorous-side-as-famous-celebrity-magazine-launches-in-the-country/2012/03/24/gIQAtkbIYS_story.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a PRI report on journalism in Pakistan:

Lawrence Pintak, dean of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University, is advising journalism students at four universities in Pakistan’s tribal regions, where the Taliban is strongest.

A professor at one of the universities told him, “we need to include conflict safety training in our curriculum,” because students face roadside bombs and Taliban threats while on class assignments, and professors are killed and kidnapped. Campus radio stations are visited regularly by military intelligence and numerous journalists have been threatened, beaten or killed for their work.

Even with the dangers, Pintak said journalism is flourishing in the region, with many men and women signing up for the programs.

Pintak said young Pakistanis are pursuing journalism, “because they want to have a voice. Journalism is another way for them to impact their communities and their country.”

Students have been given radio stations, in part, through USAID, which trains student journalists and act as a force to counter Mullah Radio, extremist pro-Taliban and Sharia law broadcasts.

In both urban and rural tribal areas, Pintak said access to news is thriving. There's also increased opportunities for women.

"The one difference is that the male students may go off to do an internship at a major news organizaton, and, in many cases, the familes don't want the women to leave," he said.

Female students are encouraged to do their internships in the campus radio stations if their families do not want them traveling to the cities.

Their families have reason to fear large cities, as many journalists who have been killed in Pakistan were killed in Karachi and Islamabad. A senior journalist told Pintak a number of journalists in Karachi have been receiving threats.

“Some choose to stay quiet over the matter, but I know of at least four other journalists, some of them who work for the local media, who have also received similar threats from the Taliban,” he said.

Journalists in Pakistan face a number of obstacles and great opposition from the military, extremists and the Taliban.
-------
Pintak said meeting journalism professors from the region put his problems as the head of a journalism school in perspective.

“While we worry about budget cuts, they are literally putting their lives on the line for journalism education, and that’s a very inspiring thing,” he said. "They have students who are cutting up old newspapers and magazines to paste together a newspaper. They're teaching online journalism without computers. When they saw what else we could do, they couldn't suck up enough information."

Pakistan is set to have its first ever journalism awards March 28, in collaboration with the leading press clubs across the country.

The Agahi Awards will hand out accolades in 15 different categories, including business, economy, conflict, corruption, crime, education, infotainment, the connection between water, energy and food security, gender and governance.

In addition, to creating more awareness of social issues, the categories of human rights, interfaith, judiciary, media ethics, terrorism and extremism have also been included. The goal of the awards is to imporove the state of journalism in Pakistan.


http://www.pri.org/stories/business/global-development/journalism-flourishes-in-pakistan-despite-obvious-dangers-9138.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story of a Pakistani female journalist visiting Minnesota to work with an American TV station:

Having grown up in one of the oldest cities on the Indian subcontinent, you might not expect English words to come so easily to Gharidah Farooqi. But they do. Especially when describing her experience at a recent Wild hockey game.

(PHOTO: Gharidah Farooqi is second from the left. Also pictured left to right are 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS producers Tim Burns, Molly Andersen, and Amanda Theisen)

When talking about a last-minute Erik Christensen goal that tied the game, or about the Miko Koivu goal that won the game in overtime, Farooqi uses words like "amazing" and "really exciting."

Strong words given what she's seen in her career as a journalist.

Her first field assignment was in 2005, covering an earthquake that killed 79,000 in Pakistan's Kashmir region. More recently, she reported on the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S. Navy SEALs .

Farooqi is spending time at 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.COM as part of the U.S./Pakistan Professional Partnership Program. Created in 2009, the U.S. State Department describes it as part of a "U.S. strategy to bring peace and stability in the Afghanistan/Pakistan region."

Farooqi is part of the fourth group of Pakistani journalists to visit the United States since the program began, and the second to visit 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.COM. One group of American journalists has also traveled to Pakistan. The goal, says the State Department, is "to develop cross cultural relationships and develop professional skills that will postively impact people's lives and will result in stronger ties between the two nations."

Farooqi hopes Minnesotans will ask her about her country, rather than rely on the images they see on TV.

"Pakistan is so much more than O.B.L. (Osama bin Laden)," said Farooqi.

She's also learning the United States is more than what she's seen on CNN and the Fox News Channel.

"Americans are great people to work with," she said, describing the people she's met during her time here as "friendly" and "professional." After a week here, she found many similarities with the newsrooms where she's worked. But, she did find one difference that really struck a chord with her.

"I see a lot of women working in the newsroom," she said. "We don't have that in my country."

Farooqi said very few women had reported major stories in Pakistan when she was sent to cover the 2005 earthquake. At the time, she was working for Pakistan TV, a state-run organization she says held a virtual monopoly on the news business up until a decade ago.

She says the rise of private television stations, first broadcasting from outside of Pakistan, and now from within, is slowly changing the landscape for women in journalism. She sees it happening at Geo News, where she now works as an anchor and reporter.

But looking at the diversity of the staff in the 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS and KSTP.COM newsroom, led by News Director Lindsay Radford, she sees more room for improvement back home.

"We need to learn this in my country," she said.

Farooqi's work on Geo News is broadcast all over Pakistan. It can also be seen via cable and satellite in the United Arab Emirates, parts of Europe, Canada, and here in the United States.

And, if you wondered why English words come so easily to her, (as I did), credit her early schooling. In her hometown of Multan, she attended a mission school where she was taught by British nuns.


http://kaaltv.com/article/stories/S2565822.shtml?cat=10151

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on Pak Army setting up its own radio & tv network:

In order to expand media outreach throughout Pakistan, the army is planning to set-up a countrywide radio network parallel to Radio Pakistan and PTV to create what it calls ‘social harmonisation’ and to propagate ‘state vision’ in a ‘vibrant manner.’

After the successful execution of FM radio projects in militancy-hit areas of Swat, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan, a nationwide network of FM radios with a proposed name ‘Apna Pakistan’ is on the cards.

The network will run under the banner of 96 International Radio Network, with the military pulling the strings from behind the scene. Though most of the employees working with the network are civilians, a serving army officer will be the chief executive officer (CEO).

Taliban militants had set up their own network after having destroyed the state media network in Malakand. When the army moved in, it uprooted the militant network and established FM96 Radio Swat which has now been renamed FM96 Radio Pakhtoonkhwa.

Headed by a serving colonel of Pakistan Army, the network has continued to extend its outreach further and another station with coverage in Waziristan and Fata was later established which is now working as FM96 Pakhtoonzar. Yet another one was established for Balochistan named FM96 Vash Noori.

Equipped with state-of-the-art digital technology, the first of its kind in Pakistan, these radio networks are running ‘infotainment’ programmes – mainly local and Indian music – to counter ‘anti-state’ propaganda, officials said.

When the first army sponsored FM radio was set up in Swat, the responsibility of broadcasting was shared by three state organisations. A studio facility was provided by the Pakistan Broadcasting Corporation (PBC), satellite uplink was made available by Pakistan Television (PTV), installation of transmitting stations with recurring expenditures were borne by the army, whereas the ministry of information and broadcasting remained a linchpin.

Set up on February 24, 2009, the network initially used the studios of PBC/Radio Pakistan and the satellite facilities of PTV, but it now has a separate set-up in Islamabad and goes under the name of ‘Nine Six Media House’ where the latest studio facilities are available. Programmes, mostly of an interactive nature, in different dialects of Pashto and Balochi are being broadcast from the newly established office.
-----------
The PBC refusal to accommodate did not deter sponsors and now a draft agreement is ready to be signed between Shalimar Recording and Broadcasting Company Limited (SRBC), itself a subsidiary of PTV. The 96 International Radio Network aims to register itself as SRBC’s subsidiary.

However, both organisations will continue to be governed by their own rules and regulations.

ISPR, the media wing of the Pakistan Army, when approached for details of the proposed project, declined to comment. However, the CEO of 96 International Radio Network, during a candid interaction with The Express Tribune, said the network is being planned with the concept of ’socio-cultural broadcast’ to bring social harmony to a society that has been radicalised. He said it is yet to be decided if the network will be a subsidiary of the PBC, SRBC or PTV.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/364901/apna-pakistan-military-set-to-expand-media-outreach-across-the-country/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post article on journalist murders in India, Pakistan & Brazil:

Brazil, Pakistan, and India--three nations with high numbers of unsolved journalist murders--failed an important test last month in fighting the scourge of impunity. Delegates from the three countries took the lead in raising objections to a U.N. plan that would strengthen international efforts to combat deadly, anti-press violence.

Meeting in Paris, delegates of UNESCO's Intergovernmental Council of the International Programme for Development of Communication were expected to endorse the U.N. Inter-Agency Plan of Action for the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. But a debate that was scheduled for two hours raged for nearly two days, ending without the 39-state council's endorsement.

The plan, which had been in the works for more than a year, is still proceeding through other U.N. channels, although implementation and funding could face continued difficulties if these nations persist in raising objections. Perhaps more important: Brazil, Pakistan, and India--each ranked among the world's worst on the Committee to Protect Journalists' 2012 Impunity Index--missed an opportunity to send a strong message that they do not condone anti-press violence.
-------------
In a written responses to CPJ queries, a senior Pakistani official said that while his country "welcomes attempts at the international level to find a workable solution," the U.N. plan "has to be tackled in a comprehensive manner with the cooperation of maximum number of member states at appropriate for[ums]." While acknowledging that Pakistani journalists had been killed, the official said it would be "unfair to say outrightly that Pakistan has a high rate of unresolved cases." He questioned whether journalist deaths were work-related, and attributed Pakistan's fatality rate to his country's war on terror.

Pressure within nations may be a key to keeping the plan on track. In Pakistan, CPJ International Press Freedom Awardee Umar Cheema took his government to task, while Brazilian news media put their government on the defensive with extensive coverage of the story. In an interview last week with CPJ, a senior Brazilian official framed his delegation's objections as procedural, and said the country would not stand in the way of the plan's further progress. "We are 95 percent in favor of all the articles here, but some of them we think should follow a different procedure," the official said. "We are very committed to protecting journalists, although we recognize we have many problems we need to be addressed."

Despite some dissenting nations' calls for "transparency" in UNESCO's information sources, the statistics themselves are clear. More than 560 journalists have been murdered with impunity worldwide over the past two decades, CPJ research shows. Already this year, eight journalists have been murdered across the globe. Pakistan, Brazil and India all have among the highest rates of unsolved journalist murders per capita in the world, CPJ's Impunity Index shows.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/committee-to-protect-journalists/in-journalist-murders-bra_b_1429797.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on the first issue of Pakistan edition of Hello magazine:

The first issue of the new Pakistan edition of celebrity and lifestyle magazine Hello! has sold out in three of the country's major cities, the publisher and distributor said Tuesday.

Hello! launched in Pakistan promising a "socially responsible" approach celebrating the best of the country's culture, fashion and glamour.

Publisher Zahraa Saifullah said more than 20,000 copies of the monthly, which features a cover interview with Hollywood star Sean Penn, had been sold across Pakistan since Sunday and hailed the success as a vindication of the strategy.

"Our first issue is not a tabloid but a comprehensive catalogue of the nation's seriously underrepresented bright side; its appeal, grace, beauty and glamour," she told AFP.

"It's because Hello! Pakistan offers substance that it has received such a phenomenal response."

She said the magazine, cover price 395 rupees ($4.40), sold out immediately when it hit newsstands in Karachi and Islamabad on Sunday and the eastern city of Lahore on Monday.

Jamil Hussain, owner of Karachi-based Liberty Books, the largest international distributor in Pakistan, said he had to restock shops in the southern port city -- the country's most populous -- at the weekend. "In my 25 years of experience in this business I have honestly never seen such a beautifully produced magazine. Its no surprise it sold out like hot cakes," Hussain said.

"I personally had to drive on a Sunday to several book shops in Karachi to redeliver stock."

Farid Viyani, owner of Agha's, one of the largest supermarkets in Karachi, said hundreds of copies were sold just in a day.

"I have never seen anything like this. People keep flocking in to buy Hello! our demand is overwhelming, we've given the largest counter to Hello! Pakistan," Viyani said, adding that the new magazine was easily outselling local rival Good Times, known as GT magazine.

Saifullah had a strong response to those who questioned launching a magazine like Hello! in a country so troubled by Islamist violence.

"Hello! Pakistan is not the first lifestyle and entertainment publication this side of the Himalayas and it won't be the last," she said.

"All the local glossies that profile celebrity and lifestyle in the country -- their editors and subjects, as far as we know, have not been picked up by nefarious radicals as of yet."


http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/pakistan/Pakistan-gives-new-magazine-a-rousing-Hello/articleshow/12704514.cms

Riaz Haq said...

Here's journalist-blogger Tayyib Afridi of FATA on radio broadcasting in tribal areas:

A media development organization has engaged five partner radio stations from FATA and KP to train them on professional broadcasting. The partner radio stations have been provided with professional equipment in order to improve working capacity and trainings to strengthen their production skills for the benefit of the local population. These radios are the only government voice in the tribal areas to inform listeners about government development activities. That is why Asadullah and his other colleagues from the same partner radio stations have also been trained in PSA (public service announcement) production.

Mr. Fazal Rahman, station manager of the radio Miranshah and who also attended that training, regarded this training very fruitful. He has also produced PSAs about local government and has solicited applications from students to attend a free skill development program. Fazal, who remained my colleague during our four years broadcasting in FATA, told me that as soon as he broadcast that announcement, he received many calls from listeners inquiring about this opportunity. He was surprised to see how fruitful this activity was. He never experienced this kind of broadcasting which is very short and concise, and he was happy to see that he has engaged destitute local people in constructive activity.

The impoverished tribal regions have no other option to learn about any opportunity provided by the government or non-government organizations except these radios. Twice, I missed cadet college tests during my school period because the only source of news was newspapers and the admission news failed to reach me in real time. Cadet Colleges are special colleges established by government with subsidized fee and high standard and they admit those students who cleared their tests. They every year announced admission with limited seats for general students who can make their way into college. But even today, students and people of the FATA don’t get news in real time.

So, the broadcasting of these five radio stations working in Northwestern Pakistan Tribal areas has attracted large audiences, especially students and women who are more interested in education and health programs. This practice has converted lot of opportunities either from government or non-government into public announcements to reach to larger audiences of FATA. These radios also requested local government to give them permission to start commercial broadcasting in tribal region.

Though, the government has started number of projects to provide basic facilities to public such as health, education, but those were going unnoticed because, there was no mechanism in place to disseminate information to large audiences. The local government of FATA usually issued information to newspapers and televisions and both the mediums lack access to large audiences in FATA, mainly because of illiteracy and power shortage. Therefore, the information failed to reach concerned people, most of the time, which have been living far away in the mountains. For instance, I have heard commercials given by local government to Peshawar FM channels despite knowing that it is not being heard fully in the FATA. Today, most of the scholarships are advertised in the newspapers meant for fata students while knowing that newspaper circulation is few hundred in the whole of FATA...


http://tayyebafridi.blogspot.com/2012/03/radio-miranshah-connects-gop-with.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post piece on dangers faced by journalists in Pakistan:

In the context of defense and security cooperation, Britain could offer Pakistan assistance in reversing impunity in the killings of journalists. These murders have been attributed to government officials, criminal gangs, wealthy business owners, and militant groups. Assistance to local police investigators working on these unsolved cases--coupled with a commitment to increase the forensic capabilities of local and national police--would go far in protecting journalists. Increased law enforcement capacity is also in the interest of the broader public.

As for those journalists covering dangerous assignments, Britain could offer two forms of assistance that would have immediate impact:

Getting helmets, body armor, and other protective gear into the hands of at-risk journalists would be an immediate and cost-effective way of protecting lives. In the past, there have been problems getting this gear through Pakistani customs, an issue that could be resolved by the talks in London.
By helping bear the cost of security training to individual journalists--and preparing Pakistani trainers to pass on that knowledge to the larger press corps--British aid could go far in saving lives. Journalist organizations and media companies have taken steps to improve training, but more assistance is needed.

And here is one other proposal: In cooperation with international aid donors and partnering with a Pakistani academic institution of appropriate stature, Britain could help launch a graduate school of journalism in Pakistan. Many newsroom managers say they are hiring journalism students who are eager but not fully prepared. The problem is partly caused by the explosion of demand; Pakistani media has been going through a protracted period of growth for quite a while. But many of Pakistan's media and communications schools don't seem to have the budgets or the programs, in English, Urdu, or Pashto, to meet the industry's demand for newsroom-ready reporters. And if that graduate school of journalism should also host a journalists' safety training program, who would find fault with that?


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/committee-to-protect-journalists/uk-should-help-pakistan-t_b_1501244.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on the growth of mass media in Pakistan:

..We now have 90 TV channels besides 28 foreign channels vying for Pakistani audience. Similarly, there are at least 106 licensed FM radio station and a countless illegal FM stations mostly operated by various madrassas.

Traditionally, Pakistani media was effusively owned or dictated by establishment mechanism or party in power until 2001. There was only one state-owned TV channel, PTV with some semi-government and privately owned entertainment content like STN and NTM. Radio market was fully monopolized by Radio Pakistan. Pervez Musharaf’s military regime, under immense internal and international pressure opened up electronic media market for local and foreign investors in 2001.

In 2002, government established an electronic media regulatory body called PEMRA (Pakistan Electronic Media regulatory Authority) with a mandate of issuing licenses to private firms for operating in Pakistani media market. Furthermore, authority is also responsible for regulating electronic media content distribution and monitoring; hence it can ban or put fine on any channel or company for not following terms and criteria given by the government [1]. According to PEMRA’s 2009 report, it has issued licenses to 83 channels in the private sector. In the same year, about 60 channels were fully functional in private sector including 22 news channels, 35 in general entertainment category and 3 of the religious genre. Now in 2010, total number of channels has reached 90. While foreign channels providing entertainment and news are 28 in number, there are four educational channels run by Virtual University and five by state-owned Pakistan Television Corporation (PTV). PEMRA’s report also reveals that the electronic media industry is providing bread and butter to 150000 people directly and seven million people indirectly in Pakistan [2] though at some extent these figures are quite dubious. It is estimated that total investment in electronic media has exceeded $2.5 billion and 17 percent of population relies on electronic media for first hand information [3]. The investment in media industry is growing at the rate of 07 percent per annum [4].
------------
Meanwhile, the TV viewership has reached to 86 million in 2009 which was only 63 million in 2004[8]. Interestingly, in the last 5 years, viewership in villages, small and medium size cities, increased tremendously and has reached to 68 million while metropolitan and large cities have a viewership of total 18 million. According to some other sources, total viewership of television has reached to 115 million [9]. Pakistani media has grown at the rate of 132 percent per year in last one decade with 150 advertising agencies and 74 production companies [10].
-----------
According to these figures total exposure of print media including newspapers and magazines (72%) is still less than 89% exposure of the television which has become a dominant medium in last one decade. All three most circulated newspapers and top two most circulated magazines are owned by the same media moguls who are influential in the TV market. Print media is the oldest media and historically most influential media which has publications in 11 languages and daily circulation of around 4 million, despite a tremendous diversity in cultures and ethnicity in the society of Pakistan [12]...


http://www.viewpointonline.net/media-boom-90-channels-106-fm-stations-in-10-years.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune story on new campuses in FATA:

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government on Sunday approved two new campuses of Islamia College University (ICU) at Parachinar and Sadda in Kurram Agency. In this connection, a delegation headed by Senator Ahmad Shukaib Khanzada, ICU Director Campuses Sikandar Khan and ICU Director Project Development Farid Khan visited Parachinar and Sadda in order to review the arrangements for establishment of the facilities, according to a press release. The tribal elders arranged a function at Shoblan and allotted 1,500 kanals for the project. On the directives of K-P Governor Barrister Masood Kausar, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) Secretariat will provide the required funds for the two campuses. The initiative shall provide an opportunity of quality higher education to the inhabitants of FATA.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/385117/education-for-all-icu-to-establish-new-kurram-campuses/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of an Op Ed by Ejaz Haider in Express Tribune:

The Express-Freely Tribune (EFT)? The new kid on the block making waves, printing everyone from that obnoxious ISPR-ISI-CIA-RAW-Mossad-DPC agent EH to the respectable, politically correct libs, Pak-style. They are a free for all maila, the EFT-wallahs, even getting the injuns to comment freely. But most of all they are the Twitteratis’ heartthrobs, trending there constantly. Just the kinda paper for the impending blogger-to-become-op-ed-disaster.

Next step, crucial for product positioning, is to select the right topics, issues that get 400 tweets and 2k likes on Facebook and establish you as the best thing that has happened this side of the Gospels. Here’s a guide.

Write about the Deep State. What? You don’t know what Deep State is? What a loser. Deep State is a state within a state. It lies deep, buried under layers of deception. Only a few of the insightful can see it and are privy to its shenanigans. But do not despair. You don’t have to know what it is. The EFT readers get it when they see the phrase Deep State. Just use your conclusion about Deep State as your unstated premise and screw the rest. The phrase has its own 100-tweets-and-500-FB-Likes rating even if you don’t say much else. Simply put, in Pakistan, if you haven’t had a good crap for days, blame it on the Deep State. No, it’s not the Orwellian Big Brother. It’s very Pakistani and there’s nothing literary about it.

Next, but most important and allied with the Deep-State positioning, is your approach to the Pakistan-damned-need-to-be-defenestrated-army. This is an army, just in case you didn’t know this, which Voltaire predicted about. You don’t have to know who the sucker was and when and where he lived. Just remember the name for devil’s sake. You also don’t need to know his contributions to history, philosophy, prose, poetry etcetera (the Twitterati are not interested). You just need to know what he said about an army with a state rather than the other way round. No, he didn’t say it for Prussia. He said it about the Pakistani military. Now stick to this 101 if you don’t want to spoil your chances with the EFT readership.


tribune.com.pk/story/385779/make-it-big-on-express-freely-tribune/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Gulf News story on Pak media's role being questioned:

Claims across the Internet suggest that a number of Pakistani journalists, including some very high-profile ones, also received large payoffs from Riaz. As expected, the claims have been rebutted by some of those targeted in the allegations.


Who will watch the watchdog?

There are compelling questions related to media that must be resolved

By Farhan Bokhari, Special to Gulf News
Published: 00:00 June 17, 2012
Gulf News

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Who will watch the watchdog?

Image Credit: LUIS VAZQUEZ/©GULF NEWS

A week of high drama is not unknown in Pakistan as the country is often caught in the proverbial ‘eye-of-the-storm’. But the past week has been unusually dramatic even by the standards of Pakistan’s moments of recurring turmoil and continuing uncertainty.

This latest episode began when media reports raised questions over the conduct of a son of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Chief Justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhary. Arsalan, Justice Chaudhary’s son, reportedly received large sums of money from Malek Riaz, Pakistan’s best-known realty tycoon.

In the wake of the controversy, the Supreme Court has stepped in to investigate the matter. However, in the meantime, the storm has widened to bring out some very disturbing questions over the conduct of prominent players across Pakistan’s increasingly robust media.

Claims across the Internet suggest that a number of Pakistani journalists, including some very high-profile ones, also received large payoffs from Riaz. As expected, the claims have been rebutted by some of those targeted in the allegations.

Article continues below

However, the matter cannot be taken lightly. In the past decade, Pakistan’s media has emerged as the most visible example of an increasingly open country where democratic values have rapidly taken root. This evolution has armed the Pakistani media with the reputation of being an emerging watchdog.

But the status of watchdog notwithstanding, parts of Pakistan’s media, notably the country’s TV channels, have also acquired the reputation of behaving without any restraint. The latest controversy in Pakistan only deepened when Riaz was shown in an interview with a private TV channel, questioning the conduct of Justice Chaudhary.

More damaging for Pakistan’s emerging private media has indeed been the leakage of video footage on the Internet, which clearly showed exchanges between Riaz and two prominent TV hosts during breaks in that interview, which. in part. could at least be construed as being potentially offensive to the top judiciary. Last Friday, justice Chaudhary presided over a special session, with other Supreme Court judges present on his side, to review the footage and decide the best way forward.

Irrespective of how the judges will proceed from here, there are indeed compelling questions related to the media itself which must be debated and resolved.
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While a free media is central to the successful evolution of any democratic society, no entity in a free environment must ever be allowed to carry on its work without some element of independent oversight. Tragically, in Pakistan’s case, it seems that the country’s rapidly evolving free media has flourished without legitimate constraints. Pakistan is haunted today by a question that should have been asked when this evolution began in the first place, which is: Who will watch the watchdog?


http://gulfnews.com/opinions/columnists/who-will-watch-the-watchdog-1.1036591

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on the rise of televangelists in Pakistan:

Islamic groups in Pakistan were initially hostile to cable TV because of concerns about "obscene" foreign imports, but religion now dominates the airwaves. A new breed of Islamic TV evangelist has emerged, leading to a confrontation with liberals.

On any day of the week, television in Pakistan is a potent cocktail of soap operas, fiery political debate and, increasingly, pop-Islam.
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Farhat Hashmi has been accused of embezzling funds from her television show and fleeing to Canada to avoid prosecution, although she denies any wrongdoing. And Mehar Bukhari, known for her political interviews, sparked outrage by declaring the politician she was speaking to was a heretic.

Another mullah clashed with a Bollywood actress on live television after condemning her behaviour - that clip subsequently became a viral hit.

But the best-known of all the TV evangelists is Dr Amir Liaqat. From a glossy television studio above a parade of run-down shops in Karachi, he had an audience of millions for Alim aur Alam, a live one-hour show that went out five days a week across Pakistan.

The programme allowed Dr Liaqat to play the role of a religious "Agony Uncle", remedying the religious dilemmas of his audience.

In September 2008, Liaqat dedicated an entire episode to exploring the beliefs of the Ahmedis, a Muslim sect which has been declared as "un-Islamic" by much of the orthodoxy. In it, two scholars said that anyone who associated with false prophets was "worthy of murder".

Dr Khalid Yusaf, an Ahmedi Muslim, watched the programme with his family, and says he was shocked that a mainstream channel would broadcast this kind of material.

"They talked about murder as a religious duty. A duty for 'good' Muslims."

Within 24 hours of the broadcast, a prominent member of the Ahmedi community was shot dead in the small town of Mirpur Kass. Twenty-four hours later Khalid Yusaf's father, another Ahmedi community leader, was killed by two masked gunmen.

Liaqat has distanced himself from the shootings. "I have no regrets because it has nothing to do with me," he says. "I'm hurt by what happened and I'm sorry for the families but it has nothing to do with me or anything that was said on my programme."
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The "Veena vs the Mullah" incident turned Malik into a symbol of struggle for Pakistani liberals. Mansoor Raza from Citizens for Democracy, a campaign group that has openly supported religious minorities, says Malik's new-found status as a darling of the left is a sign of the times.

"More and more women wearing the niqab, the full face covering now. Many of these are middle-class housewives that watch these religious shows”

"I know housewives who wear the hijab," he says. "They call Veena Malik a hero. She said what we all wanted to say. Our politicians are failing us and so it's left to film stars like Veena Malik to speak out."
----
Liaqat says these programmes have appeal because they educate. "I want to spread a message of love. Despite all the controversy I am still here and audiences love me because people want to learn about religion. That's why people watch these programmes. People want to learn."

Badar Alam, editor of the Karachi Herald, believes that television could be changing the way Islam is practised in Pakistan - for instance, more women wearing the niqab.

He believes that middle-class housewives who tune into the religious shows are learning cultural practices that are quite alien to Pakistan.

The flux between mainstream Pakistani Islam and a more hardline version of the faith is being fought out on Pakistani TV screens each day.
....


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-18729683

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Huffington Post Op Ed by Saleem Ali on Pakistani media moguls using religion for ratings:

After the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the Mir family moved from Delhi to Karachi where they consolidated their media presence. Over the years, they branched into English print and eventually into television. Currently Geo News, the most successful of their ventures, is operated by a Harvard-educated grandson of the founder, named Mir Ibrahim Rahman (MIR). Under MIR's leadership, Geo News has treaded an ambiguous path of modernist advocacy on some issues and theocratic entrenchment on others. The channel launched a determined campaign to reform gender discrimination laws and the network produced the film Bol (Speak) in 2011 with a strong social reform message to promote family planning and to quell the persecution of transvestites and homosexuals. To its credit, the channel has also provided space for debate of tough theological issues with reformist scholars such as Javed A. Ghamidi (who had to flee to Malaysia to escape death threats from fanatics). The network has also led a peace-building campaign with the Times of India called "aman-ki-asha" (aspiration for peace).

On the other hand, the channel still tends to pander to dominant religious ethos and orthodoxy. Theology permeates the programming as a stark reminder that Pakistan and Israel remain the only two nuclear nations that were formed at the behest of religion and continue to be subsumed by theocratic influence. Most recently, the channel reinstated the show of a highly controversial former government minister and polemicist, named Amir Liaquat Hussain, who is adored by the religious establishment for taking a hard line on issues like blasphemy. Mr. Hussain and Geo had parted ways before for some of his insinuations against minority sects and his alleged fabrication of doctoral degree credentials. Off-air footage of his misogynistic invective was subsequently leaked online but no definitive investigation was carried out to hold him or the network to account regarding its authenticity.

Mr. Hussain captivates the theologically inclined with his monologues in polished Urdu, and facilitated discussions on the minutiae of religious edicts that give clerics the pomp and prestige of "expertise." To his credit, Hussain has tried to bring Shia and Sunni scholars together to discuss points of convergence and divergence in a fairly civilized format but that has been the limit of his tolerance trip. Other sects, and non-Muslims were frequently marginalized or dismissed with patronizing supremacist rhetoric.

Just before the start of the Holy month of Ramadan, reinstating Mr. Hussain is clearly a marketable decision on the part of Mir Ibrahim Rahman. His self-righteous equivocations, cinematic vocal performances and ingratiating servility towards the ulama (religious scholars) will win Geo an ace in ratings. Yet the mixed messages being sent by this network of "running with the hares and hunting with the hounds" continues to perplex those who strive for some sustainable path towards modernity in Pakistan.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/saleem-h-ali/theocratic-journalism-pakistan_b_1686353.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a piece on Pak televangelists as published in The Platform:

A plethora of delusional televangelists can be found across Pakistan’s media landscape. A cursory flick through the nation’s channels during the holy month of Ramadan reveals all manner of self-styled religious scholars giving the feeble minded advice on issues ranging from preferential trouser length to whether it’s alright to work alongside women. Foremost amongst these for quite some years now has remained mini-fatwa specialist, Dr Aamir Liaquat Hussain.

In Pakistan last summer, an aunty of mine would practically perform wudhu, ablutions, and don a headscarf prior to tuning in to his show – Alim Online – every night, where Dr Sahib could be found adorned in sparkly sherwanis, imparting knowledge to the masses. It wouldn’t take long for the eminent scholar to be wailing, shaking, with hands pointed towards the heavens, making supplications for the population. Millions nationwide, transfixed by his seeming piety would wipe tears from their eyes in unison. Laughing at the spectacle, I was regularly tutted at for failing to show respect – for close to God this man assuredly was. ---
In 2006, Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission declared his degree, master’s, and doctorate unrecognised. It materialised that his certificates were purchased from a degree-mill in Spain. Not a big problem, you might suggest, considering the Chief Minister of Baluchistan and close ally of the President once remarked, ‘A degree is a degree, whether real or fake’. Indeed the incumbent president Asif Ali Zardari isn’t in possession of one either, after being caught with his pants down on the issue several times – his naming of an imaginary London college was a particular highlight.

Returning to our esteemed scholar, the more sensible among us saw right through his facade from day one. On billboards everywhere could be found his airbrushed face, often starward gazing; the sight would make you want to hurl something at him. Or simply hurl.

Formerly part of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), and once enjoying the position of Religious Affairs Minister in the cabinet of Shaukat Aziz, he was booted in 2010 out of his party for fanning religious hatred. Intolerance and fantastical conspiracy theories happen to be some of Liaquat’s specialties, aided by nifty oration, pretentious Urdu, and a melodious voice. Famously, in late 2008, he and two guests on his popular show declared members of the smaller Ahmadi sect of Islam, Wajib-ul-Qatl, deserving of death. Within two days of its airing, two prominent Ahmadi community leaders were shot dead and many more were forced to flee their homes. When later grilled about the incident, Liaquat point blank refused to accept any responsibility. Is it any wonder minority groups are doing all they can today to flee the country?

---

With Pakistanis nationwide continuing to lap up his sermons and melodrama, it wasn’t until a video leak on 14 August 2010 that many thought his career might finally be over. The nine-minute video gave viewers an insight into his holiness’ off-air antics during commercial breaks. Sitting comfortably in his studio with his trademark hair, a side partition with enough tarka, oil, for you to fry Ramadan samosas in, Dr Sahib receives a phone call from a desperate sounding woman asking about the permissibility of committing suicide. Such is his concern for this woman that seconds into a commercial break he bursts out laughing. Next, he expresses his appreciation for a certain ‘marvelous’ Bollywood rape scene, asking two bemused guests repeatedly whether or not they’d seen the film Ghalib. Effing and blinding throughout, he also sporadically breaks in to Bollywood number..


http://www.the-platform.org.uk/2012/08/15/pakistan%E2%80%99s-undying-love-for-televangelists/

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani televangelist Aamer Liaqat is back on GeoTV. Here's an NPR report on it:

As Pakistan's media has expanded in recent years, there's been a rise in Islamic preachers with popular TV call-in talk shows. And they've had their share of scandal. One famous TV host fled the country after embezzlement allegations. Others are accused of spewing hate speech.

That's the case for Pakistan's most popular televangelist, Aamir Liaquat, who's just been rehired by the country's top TV channel despite accusations that he provoked deadly attacks in 2008.

Liaquat, 41, is once again the face of Pakistan's biggest and richest private TV station, Geo TV. He also appears in commercials for everything from cooking oil to an Islamic bank. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, he's been broadcasting live 11 hours a day — while fasting — and drawing record ratings.

"I say peace be with you, from the deepest core of my heart, with all sincerity and respect," he says warmly to viewers.

But the beaming TV personality has not always sounded so benign.

Four years ago, Liaquat did an hourlong special on a religious sect known as the Ahmadis. They consider themselves Muslim. But under a constitutional amendment in Pakistan, they are banned from calling themselves Muslim.
-----------
He lost his job at Geo TV over the Ahmadi program and the violence that ensued. But a rival channel scooped him up before long. And this summer, Liaquat returned to Geo TV with fanfare — and an even bigger salary.

Nadeem Paracha, a Pakistani journalist, says the way Liaquat's comeback was advertised was "just sickening."

"How can you bring back a person who's been accused — not only by the Ahmadi community, but by a lot of people? There's so much evidence there," Paracha says. "How can you call the same guy back?"

That's a question for Liaquat's boss, Imran Aslam, the president of Geo TV.

"He is a broadcaster par excellence. But he must know his parameters," Aslam says.

He says he rehired Liaquat on the condition that he sign a new code of ethics.

"We wanted to know whether he had, I wouldn't use the word 'repented,' but certainly [would be] a little more careful," Aslam says.

till, the TV executive acknowledges that bringing Liaquat back could be a gamble.

"Not only the Ahmadis, but there's a large section of the liberal population of Pakistan, which is fearful of what he could unleash. So it's a double-edged sword," Aslam says. "The guy could become a Frankenstein monster — I don't deny that. But I think he's been chastised a bit — and chastened a bit, too."

So Liaquat is back on TV, more popular than ever. For the slain pediatrician's widow, Najm, that's scary proof that intolerance is accepted — even rewarded — in Pakistan's mainstream media.


http://www.npr.org/2012/08/18/158949900/pakistani-televangelist-is-back-on-air-raising-fears

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NY Times on Pak televangelist Aamer Liaquat Husain "the sinner-repenter":

Mr. Hussain, 41, is a broadcasting sensation in Pakistan. His marathon transmissions during the recent holy month of Ramadan — 11 hours a day, for 30 days straight — offered viewers a kaleidoscopic mix of prayer, preaching, game shows and cookery, and won record ratings for his channel, Geo Entertainment.

“This is not just a religious show; we want to entertain people through Islam,” Mr. Hussain said during a backstage interview, serving up a chicken dish he had prepared on the show. “And the people love it.”

Yet Mr. Hussain is also a deeply contentious figure, accused of using his television pulpit to promote hate speech and crackpot conspiracy theories. He once derided a video showing Taliban fighters flogging a young woman as an “international conspiracy.” He supported calls to kill the author Salman Rushdie.

Most controversially, in 2008 he hosted a show in which Muslim clerics declared that members of the Ahmadi community, a vulnerable religious minority, were “deserving of death.” Forty-eight hours later, two Ahmadi leaders, one of them an American citizen, had been shot dead in Punjab and Sindh Provinces.

Many media critics held Mr. Hussain partly responsible, and the show so appalled American diplomats that they urged the State Department to sever a lucrative contract with Geo, which they accused of “specifically targeting” Ahmadis, according to a November 2008 cable published by WikiLeaks.

Now, Mr. Hussain casts himself as a repentant sinner. In his first Ramadan broadcast, he declared that Ahmadis had an “equal right to freedom” and issued a broad apology for “anything I had said or done.” In interviews, prompted by his own management, he portrays himself as a torchbearer for progressive values.

“Islam is a religion of harmony, love and peace,” he said, as he waited to have his makeup refreshed. “But tolerance is the main thing.”

IN some ways, Mr. Hussain is emblematic of the cable television revolution that has shaped public discourse in Pakistan over the past decade. He was the face of Geo when the upstart, Urdu-language station began broadcasting from a five-star hotel in Karachi in 2002. Then he went political, winning a parliamentary seat in elections late that year. The station gave him a religious chat show, Aalim Online, which brought together Sunni and Shiite clerics. The show received a broad welcome in a society troubled by sectarian tensions; it also brought Mr. Hussain to the attention of the military leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was reportedly touched by its content. In 2005, General Musharraf appointed him junior minister for religious affairs, a post he held for two years.

Mr. Hussain’s success, with his manic energy and quick-fire smile, is rooted in his folksy broadcasting style, described as charming by fans and oily by critics. By his own admission, he has little formal religious training, apart from a mail-order doctorate in Islamic studies he obtained from an online Spanish university in order to qualify for election in 2002.

“I have the experience of thousands of clerics; in my mind there are thousands of answers,” he said.

That pious image was dented in 2011 when embarrassing outtakes from his show, leaked on YouTube, showed him swearing like a sailor during the breaks and making crude jokes with chuckling clerics. “It was my lighter side,” Mr. Hussain said. (Previously, he had claimed the tapes were doctored.)

But that episode did little to hurt his appeal to the middle-class Pakistanis who form his core audience. “Aamir Liaquat is a warm, honest and soft-natured person,” said Shahida Rao, a veiled Karachi resident, as she entered a recent broadcast, accompanied by her 6-year-old grandson. “We like him a lot.”


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/01/world/asia/a-star-televangelist-in-pakistan-divides-then-repents.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BR piece on Colgate Palmolive Pakistan:

Colgate Palmolive Pakistan, one of the leading manufacturers of personal care and consumer products in the country, began its operations back in 1985 when the US granted the firm license to manufacture and market Colgate Palmolive products in Pakistan.

Currently, the firm is engaged in the production and marketing of some of the leading international brands of oral and personal care products, bringing a few of the world's most trusted household names such as Colgate Toothpaste and Palmolive Naturals to the Pakistani market.

Working under the umbrella of the Lakson Group, the company boasts of 450 distributors across the country and has been a KSE top performer, being listed amongst the Top 25 best performing companies for seven years straight as of 2012.

Financial highlights The company's accounts ended 30th June saw its Net Profits go through the roof, managing a 38.7 percent increase to top off Rs 1.6 billion versus Rs 1.17 billion recorded last year on account of a hefty top-line growth that saw sales climb by 28.6 percent year on year.

The steady growth in revenue, which amounted to Rs 18.71 billion- up from Rs 14.15 billion in the last year-came mainly off the back of the firm's well spent money devoted to advertisement and distribution as well as through effective in-store promotions which allowed the relevant brands to achieve steady volume growth thorough out the year.

The company managed to retain profitability as a result of their ongoing cost-saving initiatives which enabled to offset the exorbitant input prices hindering most other manufacturers. Consequently, the firm also made small price adjustments across various products to pass on the rising costs of packaging and raw material to the consumers, thereby ensuring that the Gross profit margin only saw a small decline, going down to 28.92 percent as compared to 29.40 percent.

However, despite the fact that the rising input prices dampened the firm's stellar top line growth somewhat, Colgate continued to steadily increase its overall spending on sales promotion which has been mainly responsible for the propagation of the company's sales volumes. Overall, the media and promotional spending increased by 43 percent, going up to Rs 1.6 billion as compared to Rs 1.1 billion spent during the same period last year.

The year-end also saw Colgate's financial position improve as the firm's cash and cash equivalents increased by 35.3 percent, signing off at Rs 840 million, up from Rs 620 million recorded during last year.

Key operational highlights In the previous quarter, Colgate Palmolive Pakistan had launched "Brite Anti Bacterial Detergent" powder, which was the first such product in the Pakistani market. Marketed as a detergent with a unique germ-busting formula, this latest innovation was hailed positively by the consumers. The product continued to strengthen Colgate's equity during the last leg of FY12, and was a major driver of sales volume growth.

In the dishwashing category, Colgate saw increasing competition from a number of local and imported brands, however, the firm arranged a brand re-launch for the entire Lemon Max range. This make-over saw one of the pioneer dishwashing products on the market undergo an overhaul and acquiring a new look. Formulated with real lemon juice, the re-launched Lemon Max boasted greater grease cutting powers in heavily circulating adverts, which allowed increased brand equity and sales growth......


http://www.brecorder.com/brief-recordings/0/1238003/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Times story of a Pakistan FM station fighting the Taliban:

PESHAWAR: Slowly, Ziarat Bibi recalled the last words she spoke to her son, her pain seeming to fill the dimly lit radio studio.

“He was preparing for his exam. I told him to pick up his books,” she said, as transmitters beamed her grief to listeners across northwest Pakistan. A Taliban bomb killed her son before he took his exam. She has not been able to touch his books since. Bibi is one of many bereaved mothers sharing their stories on a Pashto-language radio show aimed at undercutting support for Taliban in their heartlands along the rugged frontier between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Pakistan’s weak civilian government, a US ally often derided as inept and corrupt, is struggling to defeat the insurgency and largely failing to win hearts and minds.

State-run radio spent years issuing dry updates on the prime minister’s schedule while Taliban broadcast hit lists and fiery recruitment calls from dozens of FM stations, some hidden in the back of a donkey cart. Alarmed at the success of hardline propaganda, veteran Pakistani journalist Imtiaz Gul decided to try something different – a mix of reports and live debates designed to get people thinking critically about militancy.

One of his shows is called The Dawn and the other The Voice of Peace. They are an hour long and run back to back. New transmitters funded by the United States and Japan are about to start beaming them out across the mountains. Recent topics have covered how to respond if al Qaeda members show up on your doorstep, whether polio vaccination campaigns are run by the CIA and if suicide bombs killing Muslims are justified.

Pashtun tribal elders, mullahs, activists, and officials hold debates and listeners are invited to call in. A recent show on whether religious leaders were doing enough to promote peace got more than 80 calls. It wasn’t always like that. When Gul first started the shows in 2009, people were too scared to talk.

The army had just pushed back Taliban leader Fazlullah, nicknamed Mullah Radio for his broadcasts, from the Swat Valley, after he had advanced to within 100km of the capital. Fazlullah used his FM radio to issue calls for holy war, to denounce polio vaccination as a Western plot and to threaten those who dared stand up to him. “Everyone would want to listen to the militants’ broadcasts to make sure his or her name was not on the hit list,” the United Nations noted in a report. But Gul thought the radio could provide a unique opportunity for people living in the shadow of daily violence to tackle subjects ordinarily taboo. He started off providing information about flood relief and gradually expanded the shows to include stories like Bibi’s.

Gul wants more than sympathy. He wants his Pashtun listeners to start thinking critically about their beliefs and traditions after years of being bombarded with pro-Taliban propaganda. “The wave of terrorism forced people into silence,” said Gul. “In this society you are not encouraged to ask questions.” When he recently ran a programme about the ancient Pashtun tradition of giving refuge, the studio’s ancient, beige telephone lit up...


http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012\09\25\story_25-9-2012_pg7_19

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Nation report on the launch of Warner Brothers' WB channel in Pakistan:

Lahore (PR) - Turner Broadcasting Systems Asia Pacific, Inc. is to launch a new entertainment channel in Pakistan - WB. Available in homes across Pakistan from today, WB is Turner’s brand new 24-hour, English entertainment channel. This launch bolsters Turner’s commitment to consistently fulfil the entertainment needs of Pakistan viewers. It will serve as the premiere destination for all Hollywood enthusiasts offering the biggest hit movies, hottest action, best drama, funniest series and brightest stars from the world’s most prolific studio, Warner Bros., in a sleek and exciting environment.

WB will be distributed in Pakistan through Homecast Entertainment Private Limited and will be made available to advertisers by TBS Pakistan with the help of their ad sales representatives Strategic Alliances.

The channel is targeted at an upscale urban audience with an appetite for quality programming and 24-hour Hollywood content. WB will bring the best of award winning Hollywood entertainment to TV sets in Pakistan.

WB is Pakistan’s gateway to Hollywood! This premiere destination is meant for all Hollywood aficionados, offering the biggest movies, hottest action, best dramas, funniest series and the brightest stars from the world’s most prolific studio. Showcasing programming licensed from Warner Bros., WB is aimed at a Pakistan audience with a colossal appetite for Hollywood’s best content, around the clock. WB is a 24-hour, English-language entertainment channel from Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, Inc. Now that’s Hollywood!


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/entertainment/01-Nov-2012/wb-channel-now-in-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's NewsTribe on CNN affiliate channel in Pakistan:

Karachi: Cable News Network affiliated Urdu news channel Dais will start its transmission soon in Pakistan.

Dais will feature selected CNN programming and news, dubbed in Urdu in addition to its own quality coverage of Pakistan and the diaspora. Dais has its corporate headquarters in Lahore and bureaus in Islamabad and Karachi.

In this regard, Turner Broadcasting System Asia Pacific, Inc.’s CNN International and Pakistan’s Associated Group (AG) have signed a broadcast affiliate agreement for the upcoming Pakistani news channel, Dais.

The agreement provides Dais, which will broadcast in the Urdu language, access to a range of CNN video and newsgathering resources. The agreement also grants CNN reciprocal access to Dais’s news coverage of Pakistan to complement its own English-language reporting from its Islamabad bureau and regional resources. CNN will also provide professional training to Dais’s newsgathering team.

“This broadcast agreement will enable us to augment our high-quality coverage of news and events both in Pakistan and abroad by utilizing newsgathering support from CNN,” said Dais chief executive Fasih Ahmed. “Dais will provide fully contextualized information and analyses. We will present news that matters to our viewers in an in-depth, engaging, and energetic format helping them form well honed opinions. Our objective is to create premium news with style, dignity and grace,” said Ahmed.

“Dais now joins the select ranks of CNN broadcast affiliates who form an extensive and unparalleled global network and with which CNN International enjoys mutually-beneficial, reciprocal broadcasting relationships,” said Ringo Chan, Senior Vice President, CNN Broadcast Services and Affiliate Relations, Asia Pacific. “We look forward to working with Dais to provide CNN programming, training and video as they develop their network.”

Dais is AG’s flagship media project. AG, established in 1965, is one of Pakistan’s premier business houses. AG’s first media enterprise, Newsweek Pakistan, is being published under license from The Newsweek/Daily Beast Company, LLC since 2010.


http://www.thenewstribe.com/2012/10/08/cnn-affiliate-news-channel-dais-coming-in-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Al-Arabiya story on Turkish soap airing in Pakistan:

Coincidentally, the talk of the town in Pakistan these days is a flamboyant Turkish soap opera having a theme that revolves around a taboo subject like incest, besides over exposure, and other moral problems associated with the super rich class.

The soap opera 'Ishq e Memn' [meaning forbidden love in local language], dubbed in national language Urdu, was recently-concluded on a private TV channel after spanning over several months. It created much of a stir in a society having a vast majority that upholds Islamic culture and traditions, as it indulged in over exposure of actresses, showing cleavages, thighs and boasting mini-skirts etc. and the editors had to blur these parts to avoid wrath of the fundamentalists.

Such was the dimension of the ripples it created in the whole society that Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had to intervene and issue a statement saying that such soap operas were representing neither the Turkish culture nor Islam. This was perhaps for the first time that Mr. Erdogan had taken notice of something about his country on the media of a brother Islamic country, and of course the highest level of condemnation for a play.

Turkish soap opera was also aired, dubbed in Arabic, by MBC - parent group of Al Arabiya news channel, a couple of years back and it attracted quite a big audience that still savors its glamour. MBC is considered pioneer of dubbed Turkish soap operas and has aired many others for Arabic language viewers.

Erdogan’s comments set in motion the authorities in Pakistan. The standing committee of the upper house of parliament [Senate] that deals with information and broadcasting expressed its concerns over the kind of vulgar foreign content being aired offending the feelings of majority of people. The senate committee issued instructions to concerned authorities to take cognizance of the matter and take necessary steps, but the soap opera reached conclusion before any step could be taken.

The condemnation of conservative quarters in Pakistan to this soap opera was understandable, but what amazed people was the protest by the private TV production houses, TV artistes etc. who are accused of promoting vulgarity in the garb of liberalism in society. The private drama producers and artistes primarily demand banning foreign dubbed soap operas during the prime time when the rate of advertisements is the highest, fearing such a practice would destroy the private TV production industry which took birth in the country courtesy the liberal media policy of former military dictator General [retired] Pervez Musharraf over a decade ago.

They feared a doomed future for private TV production industry at the hands of unrestrained foreign soap operas, like the open import of Indian movies devastated Pakistani film industry a decade ago. Their least stressed concern was that foreign soap operas would prove disastrous for Pakistani cultural values.


http://english.alarabiya.net/views/2012/12/21/256353.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report on TV matchmaking in Pakistan:



Matchmaking shows have been staples of Pakistani TV for several years now, with many couples choosing to seek romance and future partners under the full gaze of television cameras.

In a society where choosing partners has traditionally been the responsibility of family elders, many believe more modern paths to romance such as this, could slowly be changing attitudes.

However, televised weddings are still a controversial subject, as BBC Urdu's Iram Abbasi reports.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21451436

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on Samsung's marketing push in Pakistan:

Samsung, a global leader in consumer electronics, is aiming to secure a larger share of the Pakistani market by the end of this year. Its action plan includes advertising heavily on all platforms available, with a special focus on brand shops, providing brand awareness, and introducing a range of products under one roof.

“In the televisions market, Samsung in Pakistan currently enjoys a 38% share, which we are aiming to increase up to 50% by the end of 2013,” Amir Shahzad, Samsung Pakistan’s Retail and Channel Management head (Consumer Electronics) recently told The Express Tribune.

Though Samsung offers a wide range of products, including smartphones, personal computers, printers, cameras, home appliances, medical devices, semiconductors and LED solutions, the company’s Pakistani management is focusing specifically on the television segment by introducing the latest plasma TVs, LED TVs, home theatres and other home appliances.

The management says the company is benefitting from the rise of the Pakistani middle class. The global economic downturn – which forced many other electronic brands like Sony, Sharp and JVC to minimise operations in Pakistan – is another factor that has provided Samsung the opportunity to step in and capture the large domestic market.

Samsung operates through 550 dealerships in Pakistan, spread over the length and breadth of the country, through which a complete range of products is available to consumers. More recently, the rising trend of multinational retail outlets in large cities has forced the management to introduce brand shops in the country which showcase the latest Samsung products. The 30 “strategically-located” brand shops offer genuine Samsung warranties for 3D Smart TVs, LED and LCD TVs, monitors, plasma display panels, IT products, cameras and home appliances.

“Our latest appliances are relatively higher-end, but we are also targeting the rising middle class. These retail outlets are providing us a wonderful platform to promote our brand,” Shahzad said.

The staff in each shop guides consumers in buying the right products according to their demands and budgets, Shahzad explained. “Such shops also provide technical assistance and after-sales guarantee and maintenance facilities to the customer,” he added.

“The Samsung Brand Shop is a revolutionary business model for the Samsung retail brand, from where all retailers can learn and emulate building a consistent branding approach,” Shahzad claimed.

However, like other multinationals, Samsung is reluctant to invest directly in Pakistan. At this stage, it is not even considering starting a proper assembling or manufacturing plant for its products in the country. It does assemble a handful of its products in country, but that is a tiny operation compared to its global operations, and Shahzad says the sole purpose of this business is to circumvent import duties and enable Samsung to compete in the local market at better rates.

That leaves Samsung’s sole focus on heavy advertisement in order to register itself in the minds of the masses. “We want every Pakistani to use Samsung products, for which we are using every possible advertising channel, whether electronic and print media, road shows, brand shops, social media, promotion schemes, online advertisements,” Shahzad said.

“We believe that advertising heavily is a strategy which will help us achieve our targets and make Samsung the country leader in all the different products offered by the company,” he added.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/514943/samsung-looks-to-capture-pakistan-through-heavy-advertisement/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bloomberg piece on Urdu dubbed Turkish soap operas popular in Pakistan:

As Nihal prepared to marry Behlul, not everything was going to plan. Wielding a gun, the bride’s stepmother declared undying love for the groom and said she couldn’t live without him.
Illicit liaisons were at the heart of “Ishq-e-Memnu” or “Forbidden Love,” the Turkish series that was the biggest hit on Pakistani television last winter. At its peak, the show on the Urdu 1 channel was watched by a third of the country’s cable and satellite audience. Still, the racy plotlines proved too much for conservative politicians, and a parliamentary committee found the “onslaught of foreign dramas” so harmful to the nation’s culture it suggested a ban.
Undaunted, Pakistani networks have ordered more shows from studios such as Ay Yapim Productions, the Istanbul-based maker of “Forbidden Love,” while advertisers are paying 15 percent more for commercials. As viewers seek relief from 24-hour news reports of sectarian violence and a war with Taliban insurgents, the success of foreign programs has also sparked a revival in locally made dramas almost 30 years after an army-sponsored censorship drive that sought to create a stricter Islamic state.
“A major shift is taking place in Pakistan’s entertainment scene,” Salman Danish, chief executive officer at Lahore-based MediaLogic Pakistan Ltd., which assigns channel audience ratings, said. “The intense competition is forcing production houses to come up with creative ideas and bold topics. But the biggest surprise is that society is accepting and enjoying this freedom.”
Women’s rights, domestic violence and gay couples have featured in dramas broadcast by Hum TV, Geo TV, ARY Digital and other channels. Shows have dissected a mullah’s relationship with his wife and daughters, and featured a poor girl struggling to survive in an elite school.
“Some social taboos are slowly breaking. But this freedom is also creating tension between conservative and liberal mindsets,” Samina Ahmed, an actress and producer who’s playing roles unthinkable earlier in her four-decade career, said Feb. 14 in Lahore. “The success of these dramas shows that a large number of Pakistanis consume entertainment in a manner no different than that of any other society.”
Ahmed’s more recent characters have included a mother of call girls in the 2011 Hum serial “Akhri Barish,” or “Last Rain,” and a grandmother who runs away from her family to get married.
For many of Pakistan’s 196 million people, the soap operas are an escape from the news networks’ diet of violence and political intrigue. While Pakistan has been fighting Taliban guerrillas since 2004, sectarian groups targeting the Shiite minority have stepped up bombings.
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Anila Shaikh, 43, and her teenage daughter Mariam watched each of the 165 episodes of “Forbidden Love” at home in Rawalpindi, just outside the capital, Islamabad.
They were so taken by the show that Shaikh promised her daughter a bridal dress to match the one Nihal picked for her wedding, nuptials that never happened after the spurned and brokenhearted stepmother Bihter shot herself dead.
“I don’t really care who will object to that strapless wedding gown in my family,” Shaikh said at her home in a middle-class neighborhood last month. “I want to see my daughter as beautiful as Nihal looked that day.”


http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-06/forbidden-love-wins-pakistani-hearts-as-tv-tackles-social-taboos.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an AFP report on Pak election campaign on the airwaves:

RAWALPINDI: As Taliban bombs curtail campaign rallies, Pakistan’s political parties are ploughing millions of dollars into TV and print adverts to sway voters ahead of next week’s historic polls.

Competition is fierce but it’s a cash market and those with the biggest bucks get the most air time ahead of the historic May 11 polls, set to mark a key democratic transition, say television executives on condition of anonymity.

Bursting with colour, promising to fix the nation’s myriad ills, bust corruption and bring prosperity to voters, the “paid content” ads are broadcast day and night accompanied by the upbeat, nationalist jingle of campaign songs.

Unlike Internet access, which is still limited, more than 60 per cent of the 180 million population have access to TV, according to the Pakistan Advertisers Society.

For medium-sized channels, an average minute of advertising costs $460-500 during 6pm to midnight prime time or $250-300 earlier in the day, according to one television insider speaking on condition of anonymity.

There are around 80 channels in Pakistan, although the market is dominated by little more than a dozen with rolling 24-seven news coverage.

“On average a television channel airs up to five minutes of political ads an hour,” said the television insider.

The outgoing PPP gives prominence to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, showing footage of her 2007 assassination and anointing her son Bilawal – still too young to contest the vote – as the country’s future.

The main opposition and frontrunner PML-N lionises its leader Nawaz Sharif as a statesman and a developer, the man who knows how to fix the economy, the man beloved by a sea of flag-waving crowds.

Ads for cricket star Imran Khan – looking to make a breakthrough at the May 11 polls – offer voters a “new Pakistan” with his PTI party symbol – a cricket bat – swiping away the corruption and jettisoning the country into the future.

With Taliban threats against the main outgoing parties, Khan and Sharif are the only party leaders to address traditional public rallies in person.

Ad men consider the election a two-horse race in which the PPP – rudderless without Bhutto and her son too young to run for parliament – has deliberately taken a backseat, consigned to a stint in opposition.

“It’s PTI and PML-N who are the highest spenders,” said Bilal Agha, general manager for Dawn News television.

He said the Pakistan Broadcasters Association raised ad prices by 25 per cent and made political advertisements cash only. But the PPP is not doling out big money....


http://dawn.com/2013/05/03/pakistan-parties-channel-millions-into-ads/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of Express Tribune report on LG Electronics investment in Pakistan:

“We have decided to expand our operations by enhancing production capacities to capture growing consumer demand in Pakistan,” said DY Kim, President of LG Electronics Gulf, while talking to The Express Tribune on Thursday.
“Currently, our production in Pakistan is only limited to televisions and LCDs, but in a couple of months we will start producing other household items like microwaves and washing machines,” he added.
LG Electronics is a global leader and technology innovator in consumer electronics, mobile communications and home appliances with 117 operations around the world.
LG achieved global sales of $49 billion in 2011. It is offering products in four segments – home entertainment, mobile communications, home appliances and air conditioning & energy solutions.
In Pakistan, LG is increasing investment to enhance production capacity, but Kim did not divulge exact figure and only said it would be in billions of rupees.
The company is looking to compete with Samsung, which has increased its market share in recent years.
“We want to give consumers with some other option and we are hopeful this will not take much time,” Kim said.

http://tribune.com.pk/story/550418/lg-to-invest-billions-to-capture-pakistan-market/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on Taan, Pakistani version of Glee:

Gay romance, Islamic extremism and a soundtrack of classic love songs make for Pakistan's taboo-breaking answer to the hugely successful US television series Glee.
Like its smash hit forerunner, Taan follows the lives and loves of a group of young people who regularly burst into song. But this time they attend a music academy in Lahore, instead of an American high school.
Taan - which is a musical note in Urdu - tackles subjects considered off limits in Pakistan's deeply conservative Muslim society, with plotlines including love affairs between two men and between a Taliban extremist and a beautiful Christian girl.

The plan is for the 26-episode series to air in September or October, and while producer Nabeel Sarwar insisted the program was not a "political pulpit", he is determined to take on the tough issues.

"Nobody wants to have controversy for the sake of controversy, nobody wants to have an assignment to violence, nobody wants to push a button that would result in a disaster for anyone," he said.
"But the truth has to come out somewhere. Where are we going to put a line in the sand and say, 'Look, this is what we are'?"
Taking a public stand to defend liberal values like this is rare in Pakistan, where forces of religious conservatism have risen steadily in recent years.
Risque scenes in foreign films are routinely cut by the authorities and the team behind Taan are acutely aware that they must tread carefully with their challenging material.
In one scene the two gay lovers dance and sing in a small room but never embrace - their relationship is suggested rather than overtly shown. The moment is interrupted when a radical Islamist character bursts in.
Director Samar Raza said representing the lives of gay characters was difficult in a country where homosexuality is still illegal.
"Let's say in a certain scene, there are two boys talking to each other, they are not allowed to show their physical attachment to each other," he said.
"So I bring a third character who says: 'God designed Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve'."
It is not only the sensibilities of the censors the producers must navigate.
While 70 per cent of Pakistan's population is under 35, a huge and potentially lucrative audience for advertisers, it is the head of the household who decides what families watch on TV, explains Sarwar.
"The head of the household during the day is the matriarch and the head of the household at night is the patriarch - they control access to TV," he said.
"You have to find programming that allows the matriarch and the patriarch to join in and participate, but there has to be room for the younger audience."
In a bid to appeal to older viewers the makers of Taan have licensed around 100 classic Pakistani songs, some by legendary artists such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and have reworked them to suit modern tastes, as Glee does.
"We try to find music that resonates with the older generation which control the access to the TV but we contemporise that music so that the younger audience does not feel left out," Sarwar said.
The show hopes that by taking on difficult issues in a light-hearted way it will both reflect the changing nature of Pakistani society and attract a young audience currently hooked on imported Turkish soap operas.
Local dramas struggle to compete with the likes of Manahil and Khalil and Ishq-e-Mamnu (Forbidden Love) - Turkish serials starring Westernised characters with fair skin and dubbed into Urdu.
Turkish soaps are widely watched across the Muslim world, but the popularity of Ishq-e-Mamnu has prompted a lively debate about the "Turkish invasion" of the small screen in Pakistan, with local production companies complaining that they do not have the resources to rival them....



Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/pakistans-glee-tackles-taboos-of-gay-love-radicals-20130529-2naqy.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report about free Wikipedia access for Mobilink's pre-paid customers:

Mobilink has launched Wikipedia Zero with the aim of providing its customers with free access to the world’s largest general reference database. The source will be available for Mobilink’s prepaid customers who will have free access round the clock to the full mobile version of Wikipedia. Mobilink customers will also be able to view these articles in Urdu on supported handsets.
Farid Ahmad, Vice President Marketing Mobilink commenting on the launch of Wikipedia Zero said, “As Pakistan’s leading mobile internet provider we are proud to partner with the world’s sixth largest website to offer our customers free access to Wikipedia.
We hope that our customers will enjoy browsing through Wikipedia on Pakistan’s fastest mobile data network.’’
The service is available for all new and existing prepaid customers free of cost by accessing Wikipedia at m.wikipedia.org OR zero.wikipedia.org from either their native mobile browser or through Opera Mini.


http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/business/05-Jun-2013/mobilink-brings-wikipedia-zero-to-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET story on middle class powering FMCG growth in Pakistan:

Procter & Gamble (P&G), one of the world’s largest consumer goods company, has recognised Pakistan as one of the top 10 emerging markets to focus investment in. This sounds like good news for our cash-strapped economy, and it is equally good news for those who have invested in P&G.
It makes sense for any fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) to invest in a country where the world’s biggest consumer goods names – Unilever, P&G, Nestle and Mondel-z (formerly Kraft Foods) – are not only operating, but also growing significantly.
According to the State Bank of Pakistan, the net profits of FMCG companies listed on the Karachi Stock Exchange grew in excess of 20% in fiscal year (FY) 2011-12. P&G, which is not listed on the KSE, has witnessed tremendous growth in revenues during the past three years – including 50% revenue growth in FY2012. Besides the consumer goods sector, its supporting industries like packaging and distribution companies have also seen their toplines grow significantly.
So what are the factors contributing to this growth?
If the fact that these companies are selling essential food items and consumer goods in the world’s sixth-largest market by consumer size is not satisfying enough for you, here’s a more detailed and nuanced explanation.
“Economics and demographics are together at play in Pakistan,” P&G Pakistan Country Manager Faisal Sabzwari told this correspondent in a recent interview. The boom in the rural economy has also been a major contributor to their growth – thanks to a series of bumper crops of agricultural produce and wheat support prices, which were raised by the government in recent years.
Besides this, according to Sabzwari, Pakistan is one of the top countries adding 20-somethings to its workforce; these are the people establishing families, getting new jobs and helping market sizes grow.
“We have millions of consumers entering independent disposable income space in their lives every year,” Sabzwari said, while referring to the growing middle class.
The market size in Pakistan has also grown in terms of volumes, without taking pricing into account. “Increasing urbanisation and the growing middle class are key drivers of the FMCG business,” Sabzwari said.
Pakistan’s is urbanising faster than other developing countries, according to Sabzwari. “The country’s population is growing at under 3%, while the rate of migration to urban centres is even higher,” according to Muzammil Aslam, managing director at Emerging Markets Rsearch.
“A population base of 180 million talented and hard-working people hungry for prosperity ensures that nothing can hold this country back from growing,” P&G Pakistan’s chief said. While looking at the growing middle class, he said, it is important to look at their consumption habits. “We are exposing more consumers to value brands like Pampers and Always,” he explained.
It may be added here that consumer spending in Pakistan has increased by an average of 26% in three years, according to a Bloomberg report published on November 21, 2012 – a strong sign that people are consuming more goods than ever before.
This rise in consumer demand has spurred the growth of supermarkets across major urban centres, which include, but are no longer limited to Karachi, Hyderabad, Multan, Lahore, Faisalabad and Islamabad.
Such superstores are getting larger and asking manufacturers for broader brand portfolios in order to serve their customers better. They have larger shelves, enabling them to have more sophisticated and developed categories in which they can stock more products than ever before....


http://tribune.com.pk/story/567315/in-resilient-pakistan-emerging-middle-class-powers-fmcg-sector/

Riaz Haq said...

Brief history and prospects of Pakistani cinema published in Dawn newspaper

http://dawn.com/in-depth/film-special

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Idol show launched by GeoTV.

One of the most popular talent shows in the world has come to Pakistan. The Geo Entertainment Network officially launched ‘Pakistan Idol’ on Wednesday.

The globally celebrated singing talent show has attracted 460 million viewers worldwide since it was launched in 2003.

Speaking to reporters at the launching ceremony, Imran Aslam, the president of the Geo TV Network, said Pakistan had a history of producing talented musicians across genres. The Geo Network’s endeavour to bring forth talented musicians is a step towards keeping that cherished tradition alive.

“The Idol will be a platform for people who sing in private, in the bathroom or in small family gatherings. We will bring them together and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their hidden talent,” he said. “From among them, the people will choose one voice that will reign in our hearts.”

The auditions for Pakistan Idol will start in Islamabad from Thursday (today) and the judges (who have not been named yet) will travel to various other cities to spot talent, including Quetta and Peshawar.

Asif Raza Mir, the managing director of Geo Entertainment, said the network was aware that there were security problems in Quetta and Peshawar, but the two cities were equally important.

“So we will provide our contestants, judges and crewmembers with security,” he added.

The eligibility age for the participants is between 15 and 30 years old.

The reason for this, Asif explained, was to encourage youngsters in the first-ever Pakistani Idol.

“We have a number of plans for the future. We will hopefully come up with Child Idol and another show for people aged between 30 and 60 years.”

About the possible inducements in store, Asif said the canvas for a Pakistani singer was not restricted to within the borders as many had craved a niche for themselves in the Indian entertainment industry.

“When the show was first launched in the UK, the prizes that were offered were not the same as they are today; things happened gradually. But we will certainly provide the winner with the opportunity to sing for the Pakistani film industry which is growing with each passing day.”

The sponsors also spoke on the occasion. ‘Idols’, co-owned by Fremantle Media and 19 Entertainment, is one of the most successful entertainment formats in the world.

It was first aired in the UK as Pop Idol in 2001 and immediately became a worldwide phenomenon with local variations in Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, North America and South America airing 199 series across 46 territories and attracting upwards of a staggering 6.5 billion votes worldwide.

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-4-202867-Are-you-ready-to-become-the-first-Pakistan-Idol

Riaz Haq said...

Film revival? Waar is #Pakistan's first big-budget action film. It's just one of 23 films being released this year.

http://blogs.aljazeera.com/blog/asia/pakistans-first-big-budget-action-film

Riaz Haq said...

Why is the English laguage so dominant and widely used today? It's because language does not exist or grow in vacuum. As a means of communication, it reflects the state of the people whose language it is. The global ascendance of the English language has coincided with the rise of the Anglo-Saxon people beginning with the Industrial Revolution in 18th century England. It marked a dramatic shift of global power from East to West.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2012/07/global-power-shift-since-industrial.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on how people meters skew media coverage in Pakistan:

IT was some time in the first half of 2009 that I got a call from my director news telling me that the newsroom was now looking for more stories from the city of Faisalabad because the people meter, the ratings tool, had just been installed in that city.

For the first time, ratings were going to be reported from Faisalabad, and all the channels were rushing to up their coverage of stories from the city so as to capture the ratings that were going to be reported from there.

So suddenly the bureau chiefs in Faisalabad started to come under pressure to increase their story counts.

Anyone who has ever worked in television news knows how reporters and bureau chiefs complain about how their area gets neglected by the folks in the newsroom, how they bring in all these wonderful stories but the folks in the newsroom don’t run them.

This time, however, suddenly the tables were turned. Faisalabad had been a bit of a backwater in the news business until then, with small bureaus and small staffs and a trickle of news coming out occasionally that held any interest outside the city.

But suddenly, there was an inordinate amount of interest in news from the city, and bureaus found themselves inundated with demands for packages and news and what we used to call ‘chunks’ in the parlance of our rundown producers at the time.

And this is what happened. All the reporters worked their contacts for news and sound bites and other tidbits. Almost all of them started reporting the same story: Faisalabad was experiencing large spells of load-shedding, and power loom owners were protesting outside the offices of the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco).

There’s no news like live news, and almost instantly the orders came from the newsroom to send a DSNG van to the site of the protests and prepare for a live uplink.

For the first time, Faisalabad saw itself live on air on the major channels, and very quickly the size of the protests swelled. As the numbers grew, so did the amplitude, and very quickly tyres were brought out to be burned.

Burning tyres make for great footage, there’s fire and smoke and commotion all around them, and if you position the camera right, you can catch pictures of huge columns of smoke rising above an agitating mob. The newsrooms loved it, and the more they stayed live on scene, the more agitated the scene became.

The whole thing ended with the mob storming the Fesco offices. The anchors screamed about a crisis brewing in the city, as the screen showed looped footage of a mob smashing windows and chasing Fesco staff. That night the talk shows were abuzz as opposition politicians railed at the government for allowing matters to come to this.

“I saw someone there beating an electric pole with a stick!” shouted one fellow on a talk show. “That’s how mad people are over there! Good thing you weren’t there sir,” he taunted the government representative on the show, “else it would’ve been you they would’ve been beating with that stick!”

Faisalabad was propelled into the national news flow very suddenly, and the immediate arrival of the television spotlight had a very damaging impact on that city initially.
-----------
The power riot found no such national leadership, only sporadic and very opportunistic local leaders who were easily co-opted or sidelined, and therefore has largely vanished from the scene. In the final days of the interim government, load-shedding had hit a peak never before seen in the country, but the streets by and large remained calm.

The media’s mirror is a dangerous tool. It reflects the reality it sees, but reflects it selectively. The television spotlight can illuminate, but it can also incinerate the reality upon which it is trained.


http://dawn.com/news/1053024

Riaz Haq said...

India has 4G wireless service in a handful of cities, Afghanistan has 3G nationwide, Bangladesh is rolling out a nationwide 3G network, and even Nepal has 3G in major cities. That leaves Pakistan as the only country in South Asia without a high-speed mobile network. The country’s notoriously activist supreme court is trying to force the government into holding the spectrum auction needed to launch 3G services in early 2014—but the country’s equally notorious bureaucracy looks likely to delay things.
+
Pakistan, with a population of 180 million and 125 million mobile subscriptions, has come close to holding the spectrum auction several times over the last five years. Each time proceedings have been delayed on a technicality.
+
Warn-torn Afghanistan managed to avoid such a quagmire by simply not holding an auction—it simply distributed spectrum licenses to the providers. The government argued that the economic boost from acquiring 3G was more valuable than the one-off windfall from an auction that could become marred in controversy.
+
Bangladesh gave a 3G license to the state-owned mobile provider, Teletalk, in 2012, and held an auction for the other mobile operators in September 2013. BTRC, Bangladesh’s telecom regulator, has been applauded for not allowing the government’s fiscal concerns to hijack the agenda and set the reserve price for the auction too high—the mistake made in India.
+
But the Pakistan Telecoms Authority (PTA), the regulator, has been without a chief since the last time a spectrum auction was scheduled, in 2012. Plans came to a halt when the PTA said the telecoms operators and other interested bidders had failed to submit an expression of interest in time. The mobile operators, who have been long dogged by fickle government policies and strong competition, said they were never invited to bid.
+
The then-chairman of the PTA lost his job over the incident. His nominated successor was challenged by the opposition parties last October, and the two other members of PTA’s committee retired at the start of this year, effectively leaving the telecoms industry in a state of anarchy. Now a public-interest case currently in the supreme court has pushed the government into some semblance of action. It finally appointed an acting chairman and new PTA members early last month to oversee the auction, and set a February 2014 deadline for holding it.
+
However, more delays are possible. The government has now put out an advertisement for an international consultant to help with the auction. Case lawyer Ali Raza says that’s an unnecessary delaying tactic; he argues that everything is ready to go, and that the auction needs to happen quickly to avoid special interests marring the process. The next likely stumbling block is where the money from the auction will actually go. The finance ministry wants it to flow directly into the exchequer—a windfall that was somewhat prematurely written into the 2013-14 budget, announced in June. However, by law the money is meant to go to a universal service fund, set up as part of the 1996 telecoms policy (pdf) to make sure remote areas of Pakistan get telecoms service. The wrangle over that could occupy the courts for a good while.

http://qz.com/142923/pakistan-might-remain-the-only-country-in-south-asia-without-3g-for-a-while-longer/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a story on a Pakistani journalist in small town America:

The workday was done, and I gave Malik a ride to his hotel. Before he disappeared through the doors of the Embassy Suites, he smiled and asked me to wait. He had something for me.

He returned from his room and presented me with a sleeveless jacket and wool cap -- the kind commonly worn by men in Pakistan, his homeland, where he would soon be returning after three weeks in Charleston and the Gazette newsroom.

Yaqoob Malik is a reporter -- an investigative reporter, as he will proudly tell you -- at an English-language paper called Dawn in the Attock area of Pakistan.

Earlier this year, he and several hundred other Pakistani reporters applied to the International Center for Journalists, which was arranging a State Department-funded trip to the U.S. and a chance to work with and observe an American newspaper.

Only 20 of the applicants made the cut. It was literally the opportunity of a lifetime for Malik (as he prefers to be called).

But while the other journalists drew assignments at big newspapers in New York, Miami and so on, he was being sent to Charleston, a place none of them had heard of, and the smallest town on the list.

This drew some good-natured ribbing from a few of the others and left Malik a bit crestfallen.

But, as Malik describes it, when he landed among the hilltops at Yeager Airport, each sporting its showy autumnal best, he knew that he would have the last laugh.

And while many of the larger newspapers brought their visitors along slowly, in true Gazette fashion, we threw Malik right into the fray. He published a story in the first few days of his visit, before any of the others, and from there, he was off to the races.

"I only have (fill in the blank) days left here," he would tell me the minute he finished each story and asked for another. "I want to do as much as I can."

Malik covered local Muslim issues, focused on people in our area of Pakistani descent and wrote columns about the political situation in his homeland.

His command of English and the written word were certainly better than my Urdu, but his stories, as you might guess, needed a good deal of editing and explanation in order to bring the West Virginia audience up to speed on his topics.

As I worked with him on the stories, so began my Pakistani education.

Malik was supposed to be here learning from me and the others at the Gazette, but it soon became clear that my schooling on Pakistan, its people and the obstacles facing its reporters was just as thorough, if not greater, than what he took away.

On a recent weekend morning, as I stood in my kitchen drinking a cup of coffee, I heard my phone chirp. It was an email from Malik. He had sent me the story he had filed for Dawn that day.

It was full of protests and beatings, anger and death. Reading it from the serene safety of West Virginia, I quickly realized that my new friend was in a spot neither serene, nor safe.

Pakistani journalists risk their lives to tell the truth. Government and police protections are nearly non-existent. Kidnappings and assaults of journalists are rampant.

Malik shrugs off the fact that his home was ransacked a few years ago.

"Sometimes, my children will ask, 'Why, Papa, do you have write that?'" he said, but he soldiers on, performing a service absolutely crucial to the advancement of his country.

While he was here, Malik would often marvel at how beautiful Charleston is, how friendly its people are, how calm life is here. For him, it was the perfect place to carry out his American assignment, and it likely won't be the last time he sees the West Virginia hills, if he has his way.

He plans to bring his wife and children for a visit to Charleston next summer.

So, until then, stay safe, my friend.


http://www.wvgazette.com/Opinion/201312290031

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report on the launch of OK! fashion magazine in Pakistan:

The creeping Talibanisation of Pakistan is a phrase that has no meaning here. Against all odds, Pakistan's fashion and celebrity industry continues to flourish.

After the launch of the international publication Hello! Magazine several years ago, it is now OK! Magazine's turn to 'expose' itself to Pakistanis.

The launch took place at the Mohatta Palace. With a fully-stocked buffet of pastries, wasabi sandwiches, smoked salmon, crostinis and chocolate mousse, the early birds at the event got to sample the "tomato tapanede"... And other fancy-sounding unpronounceable food.
----------
OK! Magazine currently has over 50 million readers worldwide. Speaking to Dawn.com, on bringing it to Pakistan, Aamna Haider Isani -- also one of Pakistan's top fashion journalists -- said "It's been a labour of love. And it took several months to put it together. People thought, 'what's the big deal? Just put it together!' But, no...every single page had to be sent to London for approval. They were very particular about the tiniest of things which is great."

"Their philosophy is simple: it has to be about celebrities, it has to be positive, the tone has to be upbeat. We intend to redefine celebrities in Pakistan. More than just people who look nice and dress nice. We want to promote 'real' heroes. People who have achieved something in life."


http://www.dawn.com/news/1094860/ok-magazine-launches-in-pakistan

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a National Geographic report on Radio Mashaal Pashto radio countering FM Radio Mullah in FATA:

In this edition of Digital Diversity, Zydrone Krasauskiene, Editorial Manager of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, explains how they try to prevent those extremists from robbing the people of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan and Afghanistan of their voice. By broadcasting in Pashto to the people of the FATA through their station, Radio Mashaal, they have taken back the airwaves, making a place where listeners can finally have the chance to articulate and discuss the real problems, debates and events that make up their everyday lives.

But the station doesn’t just provide information. FrontlineSMS software has opened up new frontiers for Radio Mashaal – literally – by creating a completely new and unorthodox way of making interactivity possible for the people of the FATA. By enabling listeners to talk back to the radio, they can counter the voice of the extremists and draw attention to issues that really affect them. In some cases, this citizen journalism has embarrassed the government into acting to resolve problems affecting the people of the FATA. Using mobile technology, Radio Mashaal has opened up a space for debate, advocacy, music and joking in one of the most isolated places in the world.

Digital Diversity is a series of blog posts from FrontlineSMS about how mobile phones are being used throughout the world to improve, enrich, and empower billions of lives....


http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2011/12/13/a-voice-for-the-voiceless-interactive-radio-in-afghanistan-and-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

The idea to establish the clinics grew out of Radio Mashaal’s weekly call-in show, “Health and Treatment,” which provides audiences with information on different health issues each week, either based on seasonal ailments or listener requests.

In its fourth year on the air, the program is hosted by Radio Mashaal reporter Pamir Sahil, and the primary medical contributor is Doctor Muhammad Irfanullah. In addition to the hour the doctor dedicates to the program each week, he also makes himself available for advice by telephone two hours each day. But with the demand for medical care so great, Radio Mashaal recognized that more resources were needed.

“People in this area are very poor. They cannot afford to travel, and then pay for the treatment, and then pay to stay in the big cities,” said Radio Mashaal Service Director Mohammad Amin Mudaqiq. “This is a very huge burden for these villagers, who have nothing.”

Moreover, fighting between militants in the region and government forces has decimated whatever medical facilities were available, and driven out medical personnel who feared for their safety.

To help fill the gap in services, Doctor Irfanullah, with the help of Radio Mashaal, launched the first temporary clinic in February in the city of Bannu in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province near North Waziristan. The clinic offered free examinations, lab tests and small-scale surgeries. It drew over 350 patients, and Irfanullah had to work nearly around the clock for three days in order to see everyone.

“The number of calls to the program had been increasing and people expressed hopelessness, that they had no means to treat themselves. Only speaking was not enough,” said Mudaqiq, explaining the initiative.

A second clinic was held in Bannu on March 9. Irfanullah recruited a team of ten volunteer doctors who traveled 300 kilometers south from Peshawar and managed to treat almost 500 patients.

"We have come from Razmak, North Waziristan," said Abdul Sareer as he waited at the clinic on March 9. "We heard about this clinic through Radio Mashaal's 'Health and Treatment' show. In that program Dr. Irfanullah from Peshawar participates, so we came to know about the clinic. About 400 or 500 people have come here."

"I've been treated for 25 years. I changed medicines many times, but it had no impact," said a Pashto woman who declined to give her name. "When I heard about the free clinic on Radio Mashaal, I came here. After the first treatment in last month’s free clinic I am here again and I feel better."

Doctor Irfanullah and Radio Mashaal plan to continue holding these clinics monthly, and have announced plans to hold an April clinic as close to the isolated tribal areas as possible.

http://www.rferl.org/content/mashaal-tent-clinics/25307796.html

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a PakistanToday report on PTCL's 4 Mbit broadband offering:

Pakistan Telecommunications Company Limited (PTCL) has once again added another feather to its cap. The country’s largest Information Communications Technology (ICT) services provider, has introduced 4Mbps as a minimum benchmark for broadband speeds nationwide.

Launched on Pakistan Day, in reaffirming its commitment to Pakistan, the company has taken the initiative to connect the country to the world at such high speeds, thus setting a benchmark equal to some of the advanced economies in the world and surely the highest benchmark in the South Asian region.

Walid Irshaid, President & CEO of PTCL, said, “PTCL is passionately pursuing its vision to bring broadband access to everyone, regardless of income levels and geographic terrain. Over the last few years, the expansion of PTCL broadband footprint and upgrade of existing infrastructure have all come together to change the very dynamics of information and communications technology services in Pakistan. This new initiative is a step further in ensuring that country progresses at faster speed and creates opportunities for the citizens of Pakistan to make economic gains using ICT services. And this is just the beginning of our high speed broadband initiative; there will be more to come in the future.”

PTCL being the leader in the broadband services, connects customers in more than 2,000 cities and towns across Pakistan. The company’s vast infrastructure serves as the back-bone of Pakistan’s growing telecom needs and the company continues to focus its investments in that direction to maintain the leadership in the industry. Ever since PTCL commenced broadband services in Pakistan, it has fueled a broadband revolution in the country, empowering people to come on the information communication highway and enabling every citizen and business to reach out to the world.


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/03/24/business/ptcl-introduces-4-mbps-speed-as-minimum-benchmark-across-pakistan/

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a NY Times Op Ed by Bina Shah on new media censorship in Pakistan:

But having experienced decades of political oppression and dictatorship, Pakistanis are used to finding alternative ways to get access to and spread information. So when YouTube was shuttered, they started using proxies to gain access to it, while also uploading to other video-sharing sites.

Of course, the government began blocking the most popular proxies, but couldn’t always keep up. Even today, YouTube occasionally becomes accessible on some Internet providers for a few hours.

In any event, young Pakistanis, having been raised on satellite television, the Internet and smartphones, already have an insatiable thirst for information and the public space in which to think freely. So their appetite has been whetted, and many of them now are challenging the establishment’s societal mores.

“We are building a movement of defiance among the youth and larger Internet users by providing them tools to circumvent the government’s policy of censorship,” says Shahzad Ahmad, the country director of Bytes4All, an organization of young Pakistanis who use digital technology to promote human rights and sustainable development.

Since 2012, Bytes4All has been petitioning the Lahore High Court for a writ against the ban on YouTube, and lately the issue has become dramatically politicized; Mr. Ahmad has accused government lawyers of threatening that if YouTube is opened, there will be “bloodshed on the streets of Pakistan.”

Anusha Rehman Khan, state minister for information technology and telecom, was ordered to appear at a hearing in March, but failed to show up; it was the third time she had done so. Instead, lawyers from banned religious outfits appeared in court, an indication of how far the government would go to sway the judges and intimidate Bytes4All.
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Alongside the legal battle, an irreverent social media campaign called #KholoBC has also emerged. Engineered by the Pakistan for All movement, a collective of young Pakistani tech enthusiasts, it features a song released by the Pakistani musician Talal Qureshi, the rapper Adil Omar and the comedian Ali Gul Pir with lyrics too rude to print in this newspaper. (So is a translation of the campaign’s name.) Ziad Zafar, the head of Pakistan for All, says the vigilante-style campaign has been successful on social media, and has struck a nerve in the government: A senior figure in the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the party of Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister, complained to Ali Gul Pir about being “mocked” in the video.

Officials repeatedly assure the public that YouTube will be unblocked soon, even as the government tries to build a huge firewall modeled on the one in China. It’s a cat-and-mouse game that speaks volumes about the impossibility of damming up an ocean, but also about the amount of energy the government is willing to expend trying.

Technology-savvy Pakistanis are determined to thwart the government’s dreams of a toothless Internet, even though, as Mr. Ahmad says, “In Pakistan, there will always be a reason to block the Internet.” Needless to say, any videos that are part of the movement have to be posted on Vimeo, Dailymotion and other sites, because they still can’t legally be seen on YouTube.


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/11/opinion/shah-trying-to-dam-a-digital-sea.html?smid=tw-share&_r=0