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Thursday April 25, 2024

People and the news

By Kamila Hyat
March 23, 2023

The news that we hear each day on our television sets or over our phones and electronic devices focuses on political events in the country. Of course, to some degree, this is inevitable. After all, we need to know what is happening at Zaman Park and about the clashes that broke out in that usually peaceful enclave last week. The same is true for other events, but too many times, as news channels continue to tell us which politician has got into their car and who is departing from their gate, we forget about the real news and the real lives of people we should know much more about.

After all, how many of us have heard of Asad Memon, the young climber from Larkana in Sindh, who hopes to climb all the seven highest peaks situated on different continents around the world. At present, his next quest is Everest, after having conquered Kilmanjaro in Africa and peaks in Alaska as well as other countries. For a young man from Larkana, where there are obviously no mountains, and for someone who is currently a student at a top business institute in Karachi, taking up climbing is an unusual pursuit.

Just sheer willpower and a degree of success makes him someone we should talk about so that we can perhaps inspire other young people to take up more productive pursuits and more healthy challenges, rather than the ones we see them engage in time and time again – including young people making petrol bombs on the Canal Bank in Lahore and throwing them at vehicles.

What makes these young boys wish to engage in so much violence when there is so much else to do in life? We have to open up opportunities for our young people and offer them something that goes beyond violence on the streets. This is only possible if we make people like Asad Memon a subject of news and someone who is worth talking about.

There are also other people who deserve mention in the news and greater coverage than they have received. Some of them have led tragic lives. One of these victims is Shahida Raza, the young former hockey player who represented Pakistan in field hockey at the international level and also played domestic football and martial arts. Shahida was from the Hazara community and was one of 57 Pakistanis to die in the boat capsize off the coast of southern Italy last month.

We need to hear about each of these Pakistanis so we can know what drove them to leave their homes under such treacherous conditions and what their aspirations were. For Shahida, her main motivation was to find work and earn enough money to treat her son who was born with brain damage; today her three-year-old is in Quetta and remains paralyzed on one side of his body. Shahida's story deserves much more attention, as do those of other people in similar situations.

We also need to hear much more about the flood victims who remain stranded in various parts of the country, notably in Sindh. In some cases, the waters have receded but the flood victims who lived in fragile shelters have no place to return to and nowhere to go.

It is also a fact that the loss of agriculture due to floods and the suffering of victims which has deprived them of seed, fertilizer and other materials will create huge problems for Pakistan in the future. This is not something we talk about or discuss often enough.

In the same spirit, we need to hear about people affected so badly by inflation and joblessness that some of them, according to news reports, feel compelled to take their children out of school or even poison them to prevent them from starving before their eyes. Sadly, there is too little real discussion about how people suffer when prices rise and a country is hit by hyperinflation and a crashing economy.

The agenda of the news needs to change. Political leaders and their antics being given top priority has gone on for far too long. In some cases, this cannot be avoided and of course television channels are under huge pressure to compete with each other to be the first to 'break' news. It doesn't seem to matter if the news consists only of the fact that a certain politician has left for some destination in the country or has made yet another statement promising development and change. These statements have no significance.

The real purpose of news must be to educate people who really do not know what is happening in the country and how people are living or dying. At present, we hear too little about this. There is also a lack of connection between the amount of street crime and robberies we hear of in almost all major cities and the joblessness and financial hardship that is hitting families.

After all, a father who faces returning home to four or five starving children is perhaps more likely to break into a house within which he can see plenty of luxuries and plenty of goods from which he is deprived. The difference in the wealth of the elite compared to those from lower income brackets is in itself shocking. We need analysis and tables and figures to show us what percentage of wealth is owned in the country by the top five or 10 per cent of persons and what percentage by those who make up the rest of the population.

The reality for Pakistan is that in over seven decades, governments have not planned for the people. This is the reason Pakistan now lags behind almost every other South Asian country and many African countries in its ability to serve its people. At the very least, we need to know more about the lives of these people who live in poverty or extreme hardship, those who have risen above their circumstances, those who have failed to do so, so that we can better understand the broken country which badly needs to be mended.

The writer is a freelance columnist and former newspaper editor. She can be reached at:

kamilahyat@hotmail.com