The media didn’t fail on January 8, you did, Pakistan!

Published: January 12, 2015
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As a nation, as responsible (so-to-say) journalists and media personalities could we not keep this festive mood low key as Imran and Reham did? PHOTO: AFP

Chaos, screams, gunshots, children running from one end of the camera to another, mothers wailing in the background, mortifying reports, death tolls, debates, condemnations, shock, horror and terror – this was Pakistani media on December 16, 2014. Our minds couldn’t fathom, let alone comprehend what we all heard and saw that day. Our very souls quivered with absolute fear, remorse and anger. That was the day a small army of terrorists entered the Army Public School in Peshawar, opened fire on innocent students and teachers, forever scarring our ‘pure’ land with blood.

Pause.

No, not ‘forever’. Pakistan doesn’t remember anything ‘forever’.

Fast forward.

No wait, not that fast.

Not that forward.

No not a year away. Rewind.

No, not even a month away.

Rewind a little more.

Stop.

Yes, January 8, 2015; 24 days later.

Bollywood music, dancing, wedding bells, sly remarks, hearts flying around the TV screen, wedding photos, fashion advice, Jemima Goldsmith, Reham Khan, PTI fans, Zoya Ali, Imran Khan, anger, congratulatory messages, tears, happiness, debates, gossip and scandal. That was the day Imran Khan tied the knot for the second time; also known as the day our media exposed its absolute shamelessness.

On December 16, 2014, we were all one. We lit candle vigils, said prayers and, like 180 million souls with one heart, condemned the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). It was the first time in a long time that every Pakistani citizen stood in unity, accepted one ideology and promised never to forget the gruesome attack of December 16, 2014.

Grief brought us together on such levels that we didn’t fear standing next to Mohammad Jibran Nasir protesting against Abdul Aziz in front of Lal Masjid. We didn’t give fear a second chance when TTP spokesperson, Ehsanullah Ehsan, threatened Mr Nasir to take back the FIR that was lodged in Islamabad against Aziz.

And then, on January 8, 2015, Imran got married. Being the leader of the party governing Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), I would have to voice my disappointment at the timing chosen by Mr Khan. But then again, it was a private decision, of a very personal nature and should not have had any impact on our lives. But it did. Because we covered this small event. And we covered it shamelessly. Had the event been a celebration, we would have had more purpose, but this event was as low key as it could get. Yet we managed to, once again, blur the lines between ethical journalism and sheer lunacy. Like a child who is shown candy, our media went ballistic. Hungry for ratings, our news channels started blasting breaking news everywhere.

“Kya yehi who lamha tha jab Imran Khan Reham Khan par dil har baithey??”

(Was this the moment that Imran Khan’s lost his heart to Reham Khan??)

Besides these ‘most-appropriate’ bulletins, astrologers were called in to predict the future of the marriage. And of course, how could we forget Jemima changing her surname back to Goldsmith? That most-definitely was gossip worthy if not news worthy; of course we are going to splash it all over our TV screen.

The irony is that whoever I spoke to about the pertaining issue said,

“Well, we need to move on…”

This obviously had to come when, just three days ago, a video of Fazalullah threatening to attack more schools was released; three of seven or eight of his men were caught near Burki Road in Lahore; a road that hosts many schools. But why worry? We have sweets to distribute for Imran’s wedding.

Then a blast took place at an Imambargah in Rawalpindi. We ran the news. With a five-minute report on the incident. Five whole minutes. We took a five-minute breather from the newly married couples wedding pictures. Of course we did; we aren’t completely shameless! And then we went back to the wedding updates, because we hadn’t covered all angles of Reham’s dress yet, so why would the loss of seven lives matter?

And just yesterday, Dr Asim was murdered in cold blood in Hayatabad, Peshawar, but why would we have covered that? Things like that happen every day – Imran’s marriage, second marriage might I add, only comes once.

Unfortunately, it is not just the media in Pakistan to be blamed for forgetting that over 140 children were murdered in Peshawar less than a month ago. Imran may have arranged a very small, humble event to commemorate his marriage to Reham, Pakistan however, decided to celebrate the event for him. All over Pakistan, celebrations ensued; from fireworks to dancing on the streets to food being distributed in little tents that had mushroomed all across the country. We outdid ourselves. And once again, we forgot.

But today, today I refuse to just lay the blame solely on our media.

Today I refuse to let our Pakistani citizens wiggle their way out of accepting what they have done wrong.

Today I am calling you out, Pakistan.

You let over 140 children die.

You let Peshawar burn.

You let the terrorists win, you know why?

Because you forgot. Again.

Just like you did when the Shahzad and Shama were burnt, just like you did when the Peshawar Church attack took place, just like you did when Salman Taseer was murdered and just like you will when the next attack takes place. You, Pakistan, are to be blamed for the shameless coverage of Imran’s wedding. It is the fault of the average Pakistani, the one whose insatiable appetite for gossip and scandal overpowered their ability to see the fault in the charade that the media indulged in on January 8, 2015.  It is because of you that the world will also forget the smiling faces of our children in heaven.

On January 8, 2015, hypocrisy was at its peak, not only amongst the media, but amongst those whose hungry, greedy eyes that couldn’t get enough of Imran’s wedding. On January 8, 2015, Pakistan did what it is best at doing – forgetting. The fault, dear Pakistanis, does not lie solely with the media; it lies with you and your short-term memory. I hope this realisation does not let you sleep at night.

Zara Hafeez

Zara Hafeez

A digital marketer, writer, a history buff, volunteer for humanitarian causes for The James Caan Foundation, UNICEF Promise for Children, among others and a tea-aholic. She tweets as @zara_hafeez (twitter.com/zara_hafeez)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Salma

    A heart rending pieceRecommend

  • Taimur

    Zara Hafeez, ma’am, thank you once again. Always an eye opener in your writings.
    Yes, we failed. Every word rings true to what I felt that day. Recommend

  • Samir

    Well said. Nothing more could be added to this. You forgot Pakistan.Recommend

  • vaqas

    I came to this blog all armed with retorts after seeing the headline, but I have to say I agree with you that we as a nation are a lost cause. It won’t be too long before Taliban and it’s apologists will be back out in strength and the rest of the very few of us that are sane will cower behind our closed doors lamenting the course our society takes again towards fanaticism and murder and chaos.Recommend

  • Zafar Z. S.

    While I get your point, and strongly endorse it. Might I add that one of our main problems, as a nation, is the “you are wrong” narrative. Apparently there aren’t many faults that are “ours”, most of our shortcomings are “yours”.
    When a society suffers from such grave disorders, it is the society that is responsible, in its entirety. You, me and they. Some with their ignorance, some with their noise. It is US, it is WE.
    To me, it is the transition from “YOU” and “THEM” to “US” and “WE” that will put us on the right track.Recommend

  • Marital

    And to top it off we as a collective then also try to diss other cultures when they stand in unity against their brush with terrorism. We try to downplay their remorse by splashing images of Palestine and ‘our Muslim brothers’ in pain. We do not act upon our own tragedies and when others show us how it can be done we readily shoot them down. What has our national psyche evolved to? Shameful!Recommend

  • Noshin Haq

    Ms. Zara, Imran Khan did what was supposed to be done. There is a hadith out there and at the moment I cannot pin point exactly which one is it, but more or less the meaning of the hadith is that if you have a wedding to be taken place and a funeral at the same time, have the wedding performed first and then funeral. Mr. Imran did what needed to be done. How long we will have to mourn the death of school kids? Did anyone else in Pakistan halted their wedding plans in observance of the deaths? I bet no one. I normally don’t comment on these blogs, but I had to this time.Recommend

  • Hena Khan

    Well said. Our nation has a habit of forgetting things so easily. Insensitivity is on its peak.Recommend

  • arif ansari

    Appreciable. I, we and at the most 100 people read it, half of them understood your satire and a quarter touched by your sentiments. Thats it, Zara, this a land of deaf,dumb and blind residents. Your writing with your own blood and wasting it Nothing could wake up Pakistani. We are religiously over-dozed herd of animals. The land where I live is the dumpster of the this planet. Save your talent for some reasonable land not for Pakistan as it is total wastage.Recommend

  • Bisma

    Well said!Recommend

  • L.

    Yes, he should be happy and all, but he could not have waited 40 days, mere 40 days? Recommend

  • Dania

    I dont agree with you Miss. Zara. How can you count those people in this line who still can’t sleep at night due to 16th Dec? Who mourned for the imambargah attack? Who are frightened to go to schools, colleges and universities every day? How can you count those people in the same list who just talked about 16th Dec to their friends after the long and unexpected vacations instead of talking about what they did in their vacations? NO miss you can’t count them all in the same list because they are PAKISTAN, not the 2% people you mentioned including our media. I know people who are actually devastated after 16th Dec and they live everyday as its their last day on earth.Recommend

  • Naeem Khan Kansas.US

    It is heart wrenching article, first I thought Ms.Hafeez has
    some ax to grind but the more I read the more it dawned on me that it
    is us who has forgotten what had happened in Peshawar before December
    16, the church attack was a prelude to the worse to
    come and it came on Dec.16. I was raised in Mardan in the later part
    of 50s, we never encountered massacres, I also recall that my
    brother was getting married on some certain date and during that
    week our neighbor died and my father postponed the wedding for 3
    months in order to share our neighbor’s grief. Perhaps IK
    should have waited for 3 months or more because his bride was not
    going anywhere, they were seeing each other any way so what was the
    rush.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Millions marched against the terrorist attacks in France. They are ALL ONE! Yes, tensions and rifts still do exist but they still sent a very strong message to the extremists.

    While in Pakistan…. I see more apologists…more apologists defending the monsters ….more apologists going to beyond shameless lengths to defend these monsters. I see fake Doctors/maulanas on TV (more like clowns who we love to watch, that is a tragedy in itself and speaks of our IQ level as a society) blaming India, even our Ahmadi brothers for this brutality. We all join in our collective denial and now our collective celebrations, forget everything unless it is not one of ours.

    Most unfortunately, I see more deaths, more denial, more blaming, more of these clowns talking trash on TV and Pakistanis applauding with even more fervor the trash talk we mistake for patriotism.

    We are failed people, we don’t have a conscience, we are hypocrite, we are selfish. We don’t really deserve any peace.

    We are sympathetic towards these monsters or we just have our fantasy theories in which the whole universe is conspiring against the citadel of Islam. Our government is helpless against these monsters, our judiciary is their best friend.

    I will celebrate as long as it is not one of my child! We like to package our failures rather beautifully in a word called resilience. If resilience means I don’t care as long as it is not me or one of mine then we are very resilient.Recommend

  • Fareeha Sultan

    Couldn’t agree more. You gave words to the feelings of many of us ..ThanksRecommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Dear Zara, oh why did you have to point this out at this time? If Imran and his bride did not see fit to postpone their marriage indefinitely to mourn the Peshawar massacre, who are we to remind him and others of this dissonance? By the way did you see the size of his house in the photograph in ET? He wants to be the voice of the common man. He sure is convincing.Recommend

  • Talha

    @ Zara Hafeez: I did not forget and will never do! Whatever the media portray does not qualify for everyone’s action. The people you are talking about are not more than a couple of thousand so that makes what percentage of the population? I guess you’ll do the maths.

    There is nobody and I repeat nobody else to blame except the Media as it controls the visuals of the Country. You are a marketer yourself so you must be knowing the formula behind marketing rules.

    A small piece of advice is to please don’t judge the people by what you see on TV. We Pakistanis are way too Judgmental!

    Peace and happy writing!Recommend

  • Kiran

    Well said. Your every word is true… Pakistan forgot what it’s meant for!Recommend

  • asae

    Rewind a little more..

    not that more just 8 days behind…
    The NEW YEARS night
    the festivities the parties arranged for new year how ppl said that this was the best year of many more to come. Stop pin pointing Khan Sahab he did not married lavishly..its just that he is IK so media gave him the coverage he didnt ask for it.Recommend

  • Jade001

    It is tough to comment on Imran’s wedding at this juncture. At the one hand, we want to respect his privacy and on the second hand we look at the attitude of our 62 years old leader who is pledging to lead us to the promised land. With massacre of 132 children, others dying in Thar, still others in the streets, with corruption, insecurity and all the ills of the world plaguing this country, if I was in Imran’s shoes, I would have lost my appetite and nights sleep, let alone getting married. Indeed the great people like Imran Khan are made of a different material.Recommend

  • sarah

    Brilliant! Absolutely right, if people had a heart and didnt want to watch media would not have put on this show and if PTI supporters dont condemn the timing of it let alone the shjow put on then we all deserve the leadership we have.Recommend

  • Mak

    Round of Appluase for you..you said it “HAQ”. You are right. He is late. He should have asked to halt the funerals of those kids until he gets married. My God….do you really have a heart to say all this or are you a relative of Mubashir Luqman?Recommend

  • hasan

    What about new year celebrations all over Pakistan and its coverage whole night and day after.Recommend

  • Bashir Zaman

    Unlike France, Pakistan’s Institutions are paralysed from their feet to their brains, it is unfortunate that the criticisms are levelled at the somewhat powerless nation; one needs to leave the land of “somewhere over the rainbow…”Recommend

  • Concerned

    thanks. Don’t let us forget ever. Keep reminding us. We might have a short term memory but we are a good bunch of people.Recommend

  • awais

    Agreed, but do not count every Pakistani in it. At least not people from Peshawar. Your flashy media is the culprit. Media wanted to highlight the news over and over again. So don’t blame an average citizen and make an excuse for media’s exaggeration on the wedding news.
    Recommend

  • Qasim Khan

    Looks like a sheer disappointment for Zara, as Khan didn’t lost his heart to her. LolRecommend

  • Yo2Da2

    Why does one have to seek an hadith for guidance in matters of commonsense and humanity? (It sounds like a version of: There is an app for that.)Recommend

  • riffat nazneen

    well done zara hafeez ….saniha peshawer is the the greatest disaster of the history.. being a mother i never can forget…never ever… till my death.8th january ..ohhh my God i was thinking about the mothers of 140 children..my heart started bleedingRecommend

  • QB

    Very well written article. I was exactly thinking about this few days back.
    We are a shameless nation.Recommend

  • Faraz Ahmed

    Least fascinated by this blast of rhetoric. Firstly, your display of detachment from Pakistan is rather all too evident by the infinite amount of YOUs there. Secondly, it is this nation, its men women and children who have endured all the countless incidents that you have mentioned up there. It is this nation which bleeds with every passing day, and it is this nation that stands up back strong as ever yet you have the audacity to berate them so effortlessly? Peshawer hurt every inch of our fibre. But we stood up and sent our children back to school bravely despite the uncertainty rather than idly mourning the souls that won’t return. So why don’t you, rather than blame the nation for its ‘amnesia’ put the blame back on the groom for the wedding and the media for its celebrations? Imran, as a leader, was utterly irresponsible. He represents the sentiments of millions of people hence none of his decisions are private. It is his fault shared with the media’s. He shouldn’t have created a reason or made out a ‘candy for everyone to go all ballistic ‘ on. The public is always manipulated. It is driven by leaders who shape their minds and thoughts. The nation of Pakistan, I staunchly believe, will stand up for its people if its representatives dont go around marrying dolls after such grievous incidents. The little there was in the capacity of the people, they did. However,Pakistanis are a naive nation. All nations are.

    Finally, this was a very unproductive article, it couldn’t have been, if you had listed out the things Pakistans should do in lieu of a tragic event. UnRecommend

  • bob

    Zara Hafiz, why did you forget the killings of Ahmadies in their mosque? Over 100 Ahmadies died while offering Jumma prayers killed by extremists and terrorists. They included children also. Let us not forget them or ignore such a huge tragedy!!!!!Recommend

  • bob

    I will go one step further and say bluntly that when he have such extremists as Amir Liaqat supported by Shakilur Rahman,Geo’s boss, one of the greatest hypocrites that Pakistan has produced and an ignorant public who have no knowledge about Islam going gagaga over Amir Liaqat, then what do you expect????? I am surprised that no action has been taken over Amir Liaqat, a clown and a sinster and evil person!!!Recommend

  • bob

    It is called misguided Islam. And Hadith not supported by the Quran is trash!!!There are many many many false Hadith!!!!Recommend

  • Haris ali Shah
  • Haris Ali Shah

    Country*.Nation and country r 2 very different things.Please be careful when selecting them.Recommend

  • Khalid Nawaz

    Was there any doubt about our pakistanies unique ability to glorify death and forget about their miseries for petty things.

    nearly 50k pakistanies have been martyred in this war and until now we do not consider it our war Recommend

  • Hadh hai

    People in pakistan got married the next day, and the next day, and the day after that. You going to call them out too ??
    This is what we call playing the blame game. Let him Get Married for Godsakes, why do you have to blow yourself out ?!Recommend

  • Anum Akbar

    ‘How long we will have to mourn the death of school kids?’ hmmm maybe you should ask this question to their parents and friends!
    Agree with the article though, very well written and an eye opener.Recommend

  • Aik-Paki

    We Paki’s live on false hopes. IK is a human being and can make mistakes that are acceptable if they are innocent. We must understand that our whole system is full of corrupts and even a saint cannot solve the problems until we overhaul the system.
    The current lot of politicians even don’t want to try a change. Our army is only after US$ due to which they started N.W. operation and now they want politicians to take care of the back-lash. I don’t understand no body is even partially asking/blaming ARMY as APS school is in Cantonment area i.e. run and managed by ARMY. Gen Raheel must also share some blame rather than start taking the protocols of a head of state in the west.Recommend

  • Syed Wasay Ali

    yep that’s true that we forgot Peshawar attack. But another reality is that media shapes public opinion media sets an agenda for public, we have started depending so much on media that we cannot live without it. Media has created its hegemony on us that is need to be end.Recommend

  • JayMankind

    Pakistan has been desensitized to deaths. The outrage lasts progressively shorter with each major terrorist event. I don’t think too many nations would put up with the bhatta, kidnappings and general mayhem like Pakistani does.Recommend

  • Amused

    not a huge fan of media. least productive, running on sensationalism raising a trend of wasting time about trivial non issues, fabricators and in plain urdu fasasdi. its a headache in west and its a headache in pakistan. but we must copy blindly appearances . another badge of honour for the late president musharraf. idiotic.Recommend