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February 12, 2017

‘Don’t let them snatch your free space from you!’


February 12, 2017

At a KLF session, famous trio Wusatullah Khan, Mubashir Zaidi and Zarrar Khuhro take jabs at intolerance and hate-mongering with their usual wit and humour

In an intriguing session on the second day of the Karachi Literature Festival 2017 on Saturday, cheers and laughter broke out several times in a jam-packed hall as a versatile and vibrant trio of journalists enthralled the audience with their wit and wisdom.  

Kings of sarcasm and satire, celebrated journalists Wusatullah Khan, Mubashir Zaidi and Zarrar Khuhro lamented the growing intolerance and hate-mongering in the country with their quips and jabs.

On the idiosyncratic practice of calling people traitors and infidels on talk shows, Mubahsir Zaidi said the rapid increase in hate speech on television shows was alarming.

“After watching such talk shows, one feels that the world is going end tonight,” he added. “Certificates of ‘being traitors’ are being distributed on TV and as a result, the younger lot who will take our place in the future is being passed on a wrong message that there’s nothing in our society except hate and abhorrence.”

He said the Pakistani society had been a tolerant one but the situation had worsened so much now that not even people of the same faith and religious sect were ready to accept each other. “We have to struggle collectively to reverse this tide of intolerance and fanaticism.”

Wusatullah Khan said uncertainty and self-censorship had been deliberately injected into the society. “Satire was taken for granted in Pakistan 40 years back,” he noted. “Now, unfortunately, it seems that unnecessary censorship has become part of our genetic code. It is very disturbing for a person like me who has seen a tolerant Pakistan.”

About the complex relationship of journalism and censorship in Pakistan, Khan said journalists should keep testing how much “free space” they had.

“You can give ‘them’ any name, but they have drawn red lines that they don’t want anyone to step over. However, their red lines are not as confined as we have assumed them to be in our minds,” he said.

“If they ask you sit down, don’t lie down,” he suggested. “Instead, try standing up and if you keep testing the space, you’ll be able to stand upright,” he added.

“Setting red lines as a journalist wouldn’t help and in fact more free space would be lost.”

Famous for his gripping tweets, Zarrar Khuhro did not miss the chance to chip in, saying that a mother would feed her children after hearing them shout and cry. “Silence is not an option. Speak up.” The audience burst into laughter as he added that the worst that could happen was the mother making the baby “disappear”.

Citing the example of Germany, Khan said Pakistan could once again become a tolerant society given that the Germans had been through a worse situation.

“Around 20 million were killed during the Second World War but once the Germans decided that they won’t let the Nazi ideology spread further destruction, things changed rapidly. We too need to show our commitment to start the process of reversal so that Pakistan could become tolerant again.”

The session, titled ‘Zara Hut Kay’, was moderated by noted columnist Nadeem Farooq Paracha.

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