In the Defense of the Ramadan Game Shows

Source: Dawn

Ramadan, the holy fasting month, is here. My personal fervor or lack thereof for the festival aside, you are bound to get caught in its whirlpool if you are living in Pakistan.

It does not matter whether you fast or not, you need to follow a certain eating pattern for the most part due to the society around you. One way or the other, you cannot avoid Ramadan no matter how hard you try. And just like the eating patterns, the piety is infectious too.

But just like everything else such as mass hysteria on the roads, another factor infectious about it is a sense of festivity and entitlement.

Born out of this market need was the showmanship of Geo Network’s original Aalim Online, Aamir Liaquat Hussain. With Aamir Liaquat, Reality TV entertainment meets religiosity. He took it a step further in the recent years by branding the Ramadan Transmissions and turning it into an extravagant variety show. Even more recently, he turned it into a giveaway fest loaded with corporate sponsors big and small who saw their image going with his “circus.”

Yes, “Ramadan circus” was what Islamabad High Court Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui referred to his show. He considered this gambling an abomination and blasphemous in an “Islamic Republic” that was supposed to safeguard Islamic tenets in a Shariah sanctioned society. He even insisted that the title of Islamic Republic should be removed from the state of Pakistan. What else could you ask for?

Perhaps Justice Siddiqui is one of those self-proclaimed “True Islam” purists who believe that religion should be practiced in its supposed authentic state, unaware that the monolithically solid idea in their perception is nothing more than an abstraction. They are not aware that these religious ideas have become cultural and have evolved. Even the Prophet himself could not have stopped them from evolving. He is not aware that people don’t just want to but will practice Ramadan on their own terms.

Justice Shaukat Siddiqui – Source: geo.tv

The judge makes a fool out of himself by threatening to ban Fahad Mustafa Tunio, Aamir Liaquat, and Waseem Badami for life, wonder what that means in the glossary of Pakistani justice. Are these the guardians of democracy, free speech, and freedom of the press in this country? Are these the authoritative figures who cite the superiority of the Constitution every second hour? We must not share their hideous, anti-freedom, authoritarian, totalitarian views. It would even be a duty to resist this stupidity which is a far more ridiculous spectacle than the TV circus it condemns.

In the day and age when the worst form of state censorship of journalism has returned, we have a judge that wants to worsen the censorship on the media. While there is little doubt that

Before our self-righteous hate of commercialism becomes too out of control, we must not forget that people always complain about not having free handouts during the holy month. Now that someone has come up with that, we have a problem with it. This is what freedom is about and it is manifesting itself into this. And then again what’s the harm? Even if a very small pool of people are being given electronic appliances, and occasionally motorbikes and cars randomly? It is not going to end world hunger but it is certainly not contributing to it. It only creates a bunch of jobs people like Justice Siddiqui believe the government is supposed to create.

Ramadan is a festival of gluttony after all. It is only appropriate that it should be celebrated with greed.

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Selling Misery

Source: newstimes.com

What happens when they start dealing in misery? What if their bread is earned when people bathe in blood and tears? Nothing much, it makes some very engaging and entertaining television. Not implying that they cause the misery themselves, although you could always speculate, but the world has enough troubles to keep people occupied at the same time anyway. After all, it is a huge planet. But it is a small world.

Everyone seems to know everything, even though they understand nothing. But at least everyone gets to know what is happening around. The media are there to tell you that. News every second of the day. Well, if you look at the world headlines, they hardly stretch past three stories, but of course, that is not the case with the domestic issues, which in case of certain countries, as the ones located in the subcontinent are rather of a violent and unpleasant nature.

There are crimes and misdimeanors and then there are natural calamities, floods, earthquakes, plagues and epidemic and accidents. There also is terrorism, the latest spice in the soup of misery, the one we sip day after day, night after night. The one that tastes unbearably horrible, but the one that we have grown addicted to. Like a junkie who cannot afford to buy his favorite drug anymore and suffices himself on whatever thrill he can find.

Writing about misery is like waging wars. You need to find some evil to write about, to whine about, just like you need to create some evil to wage war against. Oh, pardon me, find evil, or realize its existence wherever it maybe and in whatever form, especially Weapons of Mass Destruction. But there is always enough supply of what is considered to be evil in our world, if anyone sets their mind to write about it. Their task is much simpler than that of the general or the politician or the diplomat-statesman.

But then again, there are the overzealous, and then there is professional competitiveness. The eagerness to cover and report the story first, the eagerness to determine the cause and effect first, the eagerness to declare the verdict first and most of all, the eagerness to sell the misery first. The winner takes it all and the early bird catches the worm. You need to be at the right time, at the right place, with the right words. Just leave any sense of civility at home, if you happen to have it.

Some people died of a terrorist bomb blast. Oh, jolly good. But strategy first. You, move to the crime scene, you, the hospital, you, call the buffoon Interior Minister, you, call the retarded Chief of the Police, you, call the sadist analyst, you, shoot the corpses, you, write copy and you, read the bloody news. And tell the marketing guy this is why the headlines should just follow that ad that we run every hour.

But don’t get me wrong.

They are doing an excellent job.

Somebody has got to do it anyway.

People need to be informed of what is going on in the world.

But of course there comes a time when it is all too obvious that too much information for comfort is being attempted to be published. Something that certainly no one wants to know, or even see.

But it is information nevertheless.

The more information, the better.

Remember that, always.

As news reporters, we intend to bring you the very emotions that people go through when they lose a loved one.

We go beyond impersonal facts.

We bring you, the reality.

And did we say that we will entertain you as well.

By humiliating them.

Exhibit A.

INT. BILAL’S HOUSE OR THE SCENE OF MOURNING – DAY

We see a crowd gathered around a house. We walk in. We see a corpse lying in the middle of the room, clad in a white shroud, surrounded by women of all ages, who are wailing and crying. We see our correspondent.

 CORRESPONDENT

  Viewers, as you can see the corpse of 10 year old Bilal and you would also

 be able to listen to the wailing of his family. He died in a bus accident that

took place yesterday, killing 30 more like him. A very emotional scene, I

have to say. Let us go and talk to the family to learn how exactly they

are feeling.

Walks up to the crying mother.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

What exactly happened here? How did he die? Although I know.

  MOTHER

  (traumatized, wailing)

 (Says something incomprehensible) Bus accident. (Continues saying

something incomprehensible).

CORRESPONDENT

Viewers, you just listened to the mother of the child. Nerve-wrecking

scenes here. Let us now talk to the little sister of the kid to get an idea

 of how exactly she is feeling.

Walks up to a five year old girl who looks shell shocked. The correspondent thrusts his microphone in front of her face. She starts staring at it.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

 How are you feeling?

A man standing beside the girl, whose legs are the only things visible in the scene, pushes the girl to speak. No response.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

 Do you miss your brother?

 LITTLE GIRL

  Yes.

SLOW MOTION.

We hear a depressing sitar or sarangi Indian classical music tune to go with the sentimental response.

CLOSE UP.

We see the corpse of the young Bilal pictured in a psychedelic fashion.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

Little Bilal wanted to be a pilot in the Air Force. But now, he cannot.

He pauses and smiles.

                      CORRESPONDENT (continued)

Because he is dead.

And remember, you saw this exclusive report first on <insert name> Channel.

Stay tuned for more action.

I could make a few bucks selling this scene and these lines to a local news channel. But then again, it would be plagiarism.

I stole the idea from one of them anyway.