2018: A positive report

December 30, 2018

2018 comes to an end with the realisation that everything is hunky dory in the country. From the realm of foreign affairs to the state of the economy, from human rights to Diamer Bhasha Dam, from media to culture, everything seems to be falling in place. A Special Report we would like to have every week of the year. Happy New Year!

2018: A positive report


All on the same page

2018 has been touted as "All-On-The-Same-Page Year" for Pakistan. In the three day celebrations that began at the Parade Ground in the capital on December 29 to mark the end of the year, the announcement was made from the podium at the outset. The information minister reiterated for the umpteenth time that this was the first time in the last 70 years that "all institutions of the country were reading from the same page of the same book".

For once, he said, the faulty ‘civil-military’ binary has been put aside in the New Pakistan that was born on July 25 "by the grace of God". What have also been weeded out are corrupt political elements, to be replaced by clean ones.

In the new country, academic non-sense declaring Pakistan the state of martial rule will not be acceptable, the minister stated, adding that "We need an altogether new framework of analysis."

His speech was followed by an enthusiastic rendering of the national poet Iqbal’s kalam by Ali Azmat and Salman Ahmed. As the evening fell, the audience that had swelled to more than a million listened to the duo in rapture, enthused by a real junoon.

It was amid a thunderous applause that IS DGPR took to the stage. "The country can now only look ahead," he declared, adding how well his institution managed the dharnas during the year. "It was no mean feat breaking the power of Deobandis and empowering Barelvis, and handing them a political party of their own, a party of the masses. It was only a logical outcome of our efforts to mainstream the extreme elements."

He especially praised the historic juncture where the judiciary and military stood with the government of the day, and each institution shared the other’s burden. "Look at how the army chief tours our friends like China, Saudi Arabia and even UK, to take the foreign affairs’ load off the prime minister’s shoulder, thus preparing the ground for the PM who is engaged in domestic matters. And shouldn’t we bow our heads in praise for the judiciary’s efforts to build the much needed dam," the IS DGPR acknowledged with a broad smile.

He recalled with praise how the DG BAN thought it fit to report his bureau’s progress to the prime minister, affirming the consensus against corruption. His meeting with the prime minister was not hidden, he said: "it was televised and put on the front page of newspapers the next morning".

The only irritant in this consensus, he said, are the dissenting voices on the media, even social media, but "we are striving hard to prevent all such elements from reporting anything but progress in the country. I am glad to announce that a majority of people who matter in this country understand and subscribe to our notions of national interest and national security. The rest already understand the risks involved."

The celebrations will continue for the next two days. 

-- Farah Zia

(This is a piece of satire) 


A crime-free naya Pakistan

Burglaries and dacoities bring trauma to the victims but, actually, these also result in circulation of money otherwise stashed at homes, creating a robust economic activity. The insecurity forces people to deposit money in banks. To an extent, dacoits and burglars are on the same page with the PTI government as their acts promote the concept of documented economy.

These observations were made by a member of the task force on combating crime. Talking to the press, he said it was imperative that media downplayed instances of crime and give code names to instruments and techniques used in criminal acts. This will create a positive image and also save young minds from being influenced negatively. "So, it’s better to see a bottle half full than empty, filled with honey rather than the prohibited fluid, narcotics as ice as in ice candy and so on."

The task force member said the PTI was lucky to have crime fighters within its ranks. He recalled how PTI MNA, Faisal Vawda, rushed to the scene when the Chinese Consulate was attacked by terrorists and impressed the nation with his acts of gallantry. He could have been airdropped in the compound if, God forbid, the attackers had entered the premises and given a chance to use artillery that he boasts of having in his arsenal.

It was also announced on the occasion that criminals and terrorists were worried because Vawda’s cell phone number had been paired with the Emergency Police Helpline 15. Any distress call made at 15 will immediately alert Vawda so that he can rush at the scene to fight crime.

Similarly, he said, Shehryar Afridi, the sitting minister of state for interior, is an asset when it comes to fighting crime. The nation remembers how he rushed to the farm house of a cornered Azam Hoti and saved him from the assault of minor children who lived in his neighbourhood. It was only he who realised that children were intentionally used for the attack as they could benefit from the lenient laws applicable to juveniles.

Towards the end of dialogue with the media, the task force member said that just like good and bad cholesterol and good and bad Taliban, there are good crimes and bad crimes. "Our point is that good crimes must stay even if at a limited scale and should not be eliminated altogether." An example, he mentioned, was theft of cars. Its high incidence, as reported during the PTI tenure, has helped car insurance business boom besides proliferation of car parking lots soon, he shared.

He stressed that if this crime was eliminated altogether, many people in the insurance sector would be out of job and will have no option but to enter the field of crime to earn their livelihood. "Agar daagh achay ho saktay hain to jurm kiyun naheen?" he asked.


-- Shahzada Irfan Ahmed

(This is a piece of satire)


Report no evil

Corruption Watch PK, a local subsidiary of the well-known international organisation, is coming out with a manual for investigative journalists, particularly those working in developing countries with a fair semblance of democracy. The handbook, which has been designed to cater also for whistle-blowers, shall be available in print form and as an app (for android and apple phone users). The option to choose your region’s language will always be there.

This was announced by the executive director of the INGO’s Pakistan chapter, at the manual’s formal launch event at a five-star hotel in Islamabad recently, in the presence of state dignitaries. The editorial crème de la crème of the country’s many news organisations was also in attendance.

The executive director informed the guests on the occasion about how a journalists’ manual of this sort would come in handy for the media folk. He especially mentioned including hundreds of new phrases and terms that have become part of our everyday ‘politic-speak’ that must never be misquoted in the media, howsoever strange (read ‘innovative’) these might sound. "That’s how a language grows!" he declared.

He gave the example of the former US Secretary of State for Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, who became the first man in the universe for uttering "unknown unknowns" at a department briefing -- when all he wanted to talk about were "things we do not know we don’t know."

On home front, the executive director praised the leadership of Pakistan Muslim League-N for the creative way in which they use the term "Khalai makhlooq" (Google-translated into English language as "Aliens"), hitherto used only in children’s storybooks and sci-fi movies.

The executive director, who is also a former journalist, stressed on the importance of "context" in all reporting. As an example, he recalled how many, many years ago, the then Democratic presidential nominee Bill Clinton had confessed in a press interview about his brief encounter with marijuana that he "didn’t inhale," as a student in England in the 1960s. It "wrongly" prompted an entire debate in media. According to BBC, the phrase ("didn’t inhale") was even "deployed on campuses in place of ‘to get high’."

"It is euphemisms like these that lend colour to your writings," the executive director murmured.

In the end, the state minister took the floor. He appreciated The Islamabad Times’s recent, internal decision to not use the word "torture" for "torture," especially when describing the treatment of inmates by the agencies. Explaining how the publication had arrived at this style change, he said, "They realised that these are ‘murky’ areas!"

Notes of gratitude followed, which were followed by hi-tea.


-- Usman Ghafoor

(This is a piece of satire)



Culture derived is culture arrived

Yesterday, three doddery old men helped revive concert culture in Pakistan through their performance at the Moin Khan Cricket Academy in Karachi, creating a triple tsunami of positivity that ended up (1) giving a sense of consequence to washed out musicians-cum-failed activists, (2) a feeling of historical relevance to Pakistani millennials and (3) finally managed to make a gora play at a cricketing infrastructure in Pakistan.

Unlike other countries where people discard their old and admit them in old homes, Pakistani youngsters’ kindness and generosity stands tall in the face of western onslaught. "Pakistani youngsters have persistently shown how deeply they cherish our eastern values", said a PSIR-sponsored journalist on the sidelines of the concert, "our young and talented musicians respect their elders so much they refuse to make original music that might surpass the work of their seniors, allowing them to remain forever relevant."

The success of Coke Studio Pakistan canalso be understood in the same light. Momina Mustehsan and Ahad Raza Mir are the face of positive Pakistan. Momina had a crush on Waheed Murad as a young teenager, whereas Ahad grew up listening to Ahmed Rushdie’s breezy ditties; when offered to sing ‘KoKoKorina’ they made a concerted effort not to upstage their idols, heroically choosing to take all the blows for their shoddy job at singing the cover, but refusing to overshadow Rushdie.

Another positive new addition to Pakistan’s cultural scene this year was the arrival of important white people from abroad, some writing op-eds explaining Pakistani culture to the locals, others going all over the country rediscovering for YouTube whathad previously been discovered only by the small audience of Pakistan’s terrestrial state television. The country continues to prove its soft power by embracing anyone who lands here, regardless of talent.

However, the most positive development in Pakistani entertainment this year was in the field of television drama. Tired housewives no longer have to make the effort of picking up the remote control and undertaking the tedious task of browsing channels and deciding which one to watch. Every play, actor and script is so similar that such an effort has been rendered useless. They can pick a channel at random and allow the script to reinforce whichever stereotype they prefer: oppressed and sacrificial woman, evil and conniving or one whose entire existence revolves around scoring a man to marry.

In light of all these developments, this scribe is hoping the new year will bring a positive change in Pakistani cinema as well. From the looks of it, that is an imminent possibility. ‘The Legend of MaulaJatt’ is all set to give 80s Punjabi violence and misogyny a positive spin. Can’t wait.


-- Sabahat Zakariya

(This is a piece of satire) 

Dam fund34

More than just a dam fund


No year-ender for 2018 would be possible without a shout out to the Chief Justice of Pakistan-led fund for the Diamer-Bhasha dam. These would include any listicles on political rallies, quotable quotes, fashion statements and sports plays of the year -- further underlining just how many realms and lives the top judge touched.

In addition to already collecting a mammoth 0.005517 percent of the amount needed for the dams’ construction, the most important thing that the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund established is that it is precisely that and not the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Supreme Court of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund.

The order of names in the title for the dam fund reaffirms both the power pecking order and underlines where all the state’s orders are coming from. It further drove home that point when the CJP deemed critics of the fund ‘traitors’. However, it wasn’t clarified whether they’d be sent to Dubai, or to the missing persons list, as punishment.

By collecting 0.005517 per cent of the amount required for the dams in six months, the fund already has 1/181st fraction of the money. At this rate it will only take another 90 years to construct the dam, completely destroying the anti-state claims of the past which touted 190 years.

What no one seems to have realised thus far is just how critical the dam fund is for the economy. Considering that the Pakistani rupee continues to retrace the all-time low against the US dollar, its subsequent impact on the dam fund should keep the economy in check. Considering all estimates for dam construction are in dollars, the lower the rupee falls against the dollar, the more the billions of rupees would be required for the fund.

Legend has it that the idea of the dam fund originated in a desperate need, and the corresponding lack, of a lota -- an alternative version mentions a Muslim shower, which explains the zeal with which the project is pursued. However, details of the legend can’t be shared here, lest they come under contempt of court, or indeed human hygiene.

However, there’s little doubt that the fund has elevated the CJP to superhero levels. Bilal Lashari should consider casting him in ‘The Legend of Aquaman’ -- in a parallel DC (dam chanda) universe.


-- KK Shahid


(This is a piece of satire)


Govt will control population in 100 days: PM

Dismissing a report recently released by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said it will just take 100 days for his government to control the population bomb in 2019. The report termed Pakistan as the fifth most populous country in the world.

Talking to reporters outside the Prime Minister House, Khan said there is no need to worry about the looming population threat highlighted by the report. "Just look at our neighbours. They have it much worse as they are the second most populous country in the world, and they’re not even doing anything about it," he said. "We are just the fifth on this list and we are panicking as if it’s the end of the world."

The PM further said that talks were being held with the forum to set its record straight. "We are not denying that population is getting out of control in Pakistan, but they must understand that being a fresh government, we need some time to tackle this issue."

He pointed out that UNFPA misreported that the main reason for population growth in Pakistan is because people, especially women, can’t exercise their reproductive rights. "It’s ridiculous to even think of a thing like that; don’t they know how much we, in Pakistan, respect our elders? How can women decide about the number of children they want to have without consulting the whole family first?" He said the main reason for this kind of flawed approach by the forum is that these people are devoid of family values. "This is also another way of them asking us to do more and indulge in a war on population now, which is not even ours to begin with," the PM said.

Alluding to the issue of population growth, he maintained that instead of intricate plans Pakistan just needs to be greener. "I suggested tearing down walls of all major government buildings, just so their greenery becomes visible." He said that looking at greenery makes people happy and that if people are happy, they go out more instead of staying put in their homes, which in turn has a considerable impact on population growth. "It’s simple really. All we need is more greenery and our population problem will be resolved," he said.

He asked the people to not get too serious about the report as it is all a part of the Western conspiracy to spoil the image of Pakistan in the world. "Yes there is a population problem, but it is not an emergency. You can rest assured, there is nothing Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) can’t handle if given 100 days," the PM concluded.


-- Wajiha Hyder

(This is a piece of satire)

Irfan economy

An economic turnaround

To mark the end of the year 2018, a team of economists apprised the media personnel of the positive indicators of the economy and how the opposition was deliberately painting a negative picture. They were talking to a delegation of All Pakistan Positive News Reporters’ Association (APPNRA).

The time selected for the economic progress review -- end of the calendar year instead of the financial year -- was to intentionally show how committed the party was towards bringing about change.

The speakers read out economic achievements of the PTI government to the audience. The press was allowed to ask questions only in writing so that answers could be provided to them a few hours after the event. It was also decided that final copies of the news will be shared with the party in power for final approval. This was a conscious attempt to show that the media and government were on the same page.

The achievements discussed during the press talk follow:

1) The PTI government has been successful in creating new jobs; something that is in line with its commitment to create one million jobs within its 5-year tenure. It was clarified that every single lay-off means a new job has been created. Keeping in view the pace at which people are losing jobs, it is expected the target of "creating" one million jobs will be achieved earlier than expected.

2) It was claimed a day would soon come when Pakistanis will return to the country to find jobs. This is exactly what is happening now. Look at the case of Zulfi Bukhari. He has abandoned an illustrious career in the UK for a job in Pakistan. Besides, our friendly Gulf States are sending back our migrant labour in hordes so that they can find jobs here.

3) Our government is falsely criticised for failing to control population, without realising that with every new birth, the per capita foreign loan burden comes down.

4) The government has set unprecedented examples of giving incentives to aspiring foreign investors. There is no bigger incentive than giving an inspiring investor a competition-free environment. Just take the case of Aneel Musarrat who is bracing to enter the country’s real estate sector. The government is determined to ensure that all the local real estate developers are tried for corruption, rules violations, etc, to the extent that they give an open field to foreign investors.

5) Lastly, the government wants to give the common man a voice in economic policy making, for example Jehangir Tareen holds no portfolio in the government but attends official meetings and calls the shots. Power to the common man; it was our slogan before the election and a promise we have fulfilled.


-- Shahzada Irfan


(This is a piece of satire)

unnamed (1)

Positive side of positivity

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Kaptaan "Tabdeeli" Khan reaffirmed the nation on December 22, 2018 that the creation of the Pakistani nation-state was actually pretty reasonable and not just an example of political melodrama.

Khan noted in the video interview how Muhammad Ali Jinnah "understood" the treatment of Muslims in India, leading to his efforts for Pakistan. In the sly smile he passed to the camera, Khan cleverly communicated that he holds in high esteem Jinnah’s idea of a secular Pakistan where citizens would be free to go to a temple or a mosque. On Twitter, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) supporters were witnessed celebrating Khan’s persistence through what seemed like a massive nasal congestion as "typical IK work ethic."

In quoting Indian actor, Naseeruddin Shah, Khan declared that Pakistan must show Modi how to treat the minorities of a country. While this may seem like boastful chauvinism, Khan’s statement actually instead depicts the astute nature of the premiership’s ability to hold himself accountable. Criticised for making "u-turns" on his policies, Khan has now intelligently decided to implicate his ego within his promises. Reham Khan has voiced her support for this new strategy, citing a story Khan narrated to her from his childhood in which he ripped out his own appendix with his bare hands because his doctors would not believe that it was a case of appendicitis as the organ "is not on the bottom left of your tummy, you idiot, but literally at the exact opposite position."

Khan made these statements at an event that meant to highlight the 100-day achievements of the PTI-led Punjab government. The conference on 100 days of Khan brought forth a tsunami of hope for the Pakistani public, cataloguing notable victories of the PTI government, such as Khan’s not-out victory against Donald Trump on Twitter. Supporters of Khan previously launched a massive movement on social media to announce November 18th as #NationalFinallySomeSelfRespectDay.

Though the movement did not pick up any steam, the organisers -- who run a Facebook page titled, Josh-e-Junoon (Tsunami of Imran Khan) -- later announced that Imran Khan’s philosophy has oppositely guided them to the belief that every day in Naya Pakistan is Some Self Respect Day.

The year 2018 has been big for our country, according to a coalition group of all admins of Imran Khan-centric Facebook pages, Imran XI. Bushra Nazir, a PTI youth supporter who has legally changed her name three times to be timely appropriate for each of Khan’s wives, commented: "We are so proud of our Captain for working so hard this year. And he is so humble, unlike Mariam Nawaz Sharif who gets off the plane in Gucci sandals. If you notice, he does not make vain expenditures as even his kurtas are torn or have holes in them. He is such a simple man. When my brothers have holes in their shirts or kurtas, it is usually because of cigarette ash, not hard work. Our countrymen need to learn from Captain Khan. Only then will we succeed."


-- Zulfiqar Suhail Mannan

 (This is a piece of satire)


Pakistani mentality

A nationwide psychology census shows that Pakistani citizens are exuding utmost confidence about the country’s geopolitical status in 2018. For the first time ever, countrymen are looking Westwards with disdain. Dr. Abdul Qadoos Alamgir, a renowned psychologist based in Islamabad who only writes for publications in the US, commented to the news that the "American president is so damn stupid that I can’t even belittle fellow Pakistani citizens by telling fake stories about him."

In a recent survey he conducted through the social-media platform of WhatsApp, Dr. Alamgir reports that 99 percent of our countrymen believe that "Pakistan’s image has improved under Imran Khan" and only the 1 percent believe that "his Mullah-adjacent religious ‘vibes’ are ‘off.’"

A Lahore-based linguist, Sara Shakil, translates the idiom of this bizarre survey choice as a footnote to the study: ‘vibes’ is meant to indicate ‘literally the political beliefs expressed by Khan, verbatim’ and ‘off’ to suggest ‘dangerous for the future of Pakistan’ or ‘reminds me too much of Maulana Ziaul Haq.’

Other parts of the survey aimed to categorise Pakistan’s beliefs in two similarly strange but otherwise entirely unrelated prongs. The first asks them about their self-beliefs in relation to other Pakistanis. Almost all the responses attributed to themselves the option of "much less lazier than the average Pakistani" and only 12 out of 13, 978 responders attributed to themselves the option of "as smart as the average Pakistani."

The second prong aimed to empirically record what Pakistanis think non-Pakistanis believe about them. According to Dr. Alamgir, none of the responders answered the simple-choice of "positively" versus "negativity" but 71 percent of those surveyed wrote Dr. Alamgir personal e-mails answering the question more elaborately.

Common amongst these e-mails were the following strings, as noted in the appendix of Dr. Alamgir’s research report: "1) Pakistani girls speak about feminism business for attention, 2) Islam gives women equal rights in Pakistan, 3) Feminists are ISI agents meant to tarnish Pakistan’s good name."

Dr. Alamgir notes in his conclusion that individuals responded to this survey with great enthusiasm and alacrity. Countrymen have displayed that the future of the nation looks promising and well-protected. Countrywomen seem silent on the matter (especially because they were not interviewed in Dr. Alamgir’s survey due to a "technical difficulty"). Fortunately, Pakistan defeated Yemen in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index to be crowned as the country actually second-worst in the world in its treatment of women.

-- Zulfiqar Suhail Mannan

(This is a piece of satire)

Human rights

The rights drift

 The outgoing year was another shining light for Pakistan on the human rights front. The groundwork of the year’s achievements rested on Pakistan continuing its stance of no state intervention on population. The state’s laissez faire policy ensures a high number of people, in turn maximising the odds of providing rites to as many humans as possible.The negligible state intervention was seen in the number of death sentences, with the expected extension to the military courts set to carry the same into 2019 and beyond.

As the number of people grew, a parallel escalation was seen in the nation’s drift towards the right. Rightwing Islamist parties won 5 million votes in elections this year, and an alt-right party formed the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and the centre.

The more people we have on the right, the less traitors and blasphemers we have left. Therefore, while a Christian woman was acquitted in a prominent case in October, two Christian brothers were sentenced to death for digital blasphemy in December to further tilt the balance towards the right.

As the state creates an atmosphere to facilitate the right, it has taken positive steps to deal with those spreading needless negativity. Such negativity has often gone missing or escaped overseas.

Arguably, the human rights highlight for Pakistan has been Shireen Mazari. The human rights minister deservedly praised herself in the aftermath of an Ahmadi place of worship being torched. Her towering achievements allowed her to give pointers to the European Union on protecting religious minorities.

Ms Mazari also rejected two lists: the World Economic Forum listing Pakistan second from bottom on gender equality and the US blacklisting Pakistan on religious freedom violations. Such rejections resoundingly announce that there is nothing wrong with Pakistan, hence nothing needs fixing.

Even so, nothing epitomised Pakistan’s progress better than Bollywood star Naseeruddin Shah advising Prime Minister Imran Khan to worry about his own country instead of commenting on India.

In the past, Indians wouldn’t even bother competing with Pakistan on human rights, now even the likes of Asaduddin Owaisi are pointing out how Pakistan’s legal system is skewed towards Muslims.

Clearly, the Hindutva BJP is now giving everyone pointers on taking jibes against Pakistan now that India feels threatened. Such banter on human rights should continue in 2019 with a significant chunk of humans in the subcontinent on the right.


-- KK Shahid


(This is a piece of satire)

Farah foreign policy

A new direction in foreign policy

Following his one on one meeting with the US President Donald Trump, Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has praised the US decision to pull out from Afghanistan, claiming it a success of Pakistan’s foreign policy that had always advocated against any outside interference in the Taliban-led Afghanistan. No reference, of course, was made to the exchange of Tweets between the Pakistani PM and US president in the spirit of "let bygones be bygones".

The foreign minister’s US visit is the last leg of his four-nation tour. Note that Qureshi is trying hard to dispel the impression that the current government was not serious about foreign policy, just because the prime minister-elect forgot to mention it in his maiden speech. This impression was reinforced when the PM announced he would not make a foreign tour in the first six months, not even to the much discussed UN General Assembly session. To him, Saudi Arabia did not count as a foreign country, especially if Pakistan were to become another Medina soon.

To be fair, with Shah Mehmood Qureshi designated to be the foreign minister, nothing could be farther from the truth. Qureshi brushed aside people’s fear when he immediately said after the prime minister’s speech: "There are pre-conceived notions about where the foreign policy of Pakistan was formulated. Let me be clear: the foreign policy will be made here -- at the Foreign Office of Pakistan."

What he forgot to mention was that this is where it has always been made. The elected governments may or may not have anything to do with it but foreign office it is where the policy is made.

"Besides, the prime minister is an internationally recognised figure who has done fund-raising for his hospital in all major capitals of the world. His reputation as an international celebrity and cricketer might come in handy in foreign policy. To prove this, many cricketers from India were invited for the prime minister’s oath-taking ceremony," said Askari Hasan, a foreign policy expert.

Despite the continuing stalemate between India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s foreign policy has never been as smooth as it is now. "With the prime minister categorically denying any civil military tension and with all institutions on one page, this is the best way to run foreign policy. Also, since the enemies of the country have imposed a cruel hybrid war on it, it is important that all institutions are together in restoring its sovereignty, dignity and honour," Hasan concluded.


-- Farah Zia

(This is a piece of satire)

2018: A positive report