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Climate Cop-Out?

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Climate Cop-Out?

000_Del6375094One of the most important international conferences on climate change – Conference of the Parties (COP21) to be held in Paris – on December 7-8 is less than a couple of months away and shockingly, Pakistan does not have a minister for climate change. And this, despite the fact that Pakistan has been assessed as one of the top 10 countries vulnerable to climate change. It is a multi-threat country – and no, here one is not talking of India or the Punjabi Taliban!

Leading think tanks of the world have placed Pakistan fairly high on the vulnerability index. It faces disasters as varied as floods, due to unpredictable rains, as were witnessed in 2010 and 2011, and from the glacial melt, as seen in Chitral earlier this year.

At the other extreme are the onset of disasters like drought and desertification that are hitting parts of Sindh and Balochistan, and the spectre of inundation of coastal areas due to a rise in the sea level that will exacerbate the already dire situation being faced due to the intrusion of the sea in certain districts of Sindh.

Add to this mix the unpredictability of the monsoons, and the level of vulnerability of an agricultural country like Pakistan increases manifold. Then there are the ‘non-traditional’ climate change events, as listed by Dr. Pervaiz Amir, agro-economist and climate change expert, who drew the Planning Commission’s attention to them. They include heat waves, hailstorms sandstorms and duststorms; tornadoes, fog, landslides, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF), and wildfires.

Does Pakistan have the resources to tackle all or even some of these climate change eventualities? The answer is a resounding no. Does Pakistan have the human resources or the capacity to deal with them? The answer to that is, yes… but!

It is this ‘but’ that is the reason why Pakistan finds itself lagging way behind single threat countries like the Maldives or Bangladesh (which are threatened by the rise in sea levels), in presenting its case forcefully before the world.

Qualified people need to be appointed at decision-making levels, and then they need the backing of people at the helm – the main decision makers – which unfortunately has not been the case. We have scientists, planners, environmental experts; even research bodies who have more or less mapped out the threats, as well as the measures needed to cope with them.

There is a growing realisation that despite the devolution of the environment sector to the provinces post the 18th Amendment, matters relating to environment and climate change need to be taken cognizance of and addressed at the national level. Policy and legislation must be complementary to the needs of Pakistan.

So where will COP21 figure in Pakistan’s scheme of things? COP is an annual meeting to review the response to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that was put together in Rio in 1995. Subsequent milestones include COP3, where the Kyoto Protocol was signed that put a cap on emissions. Unfortunately, the biggest polluters – China, India, USA – did not sign it.

Since then, each successive COP has seen this push and pull between what the polluters need to do to stop global warming, and what the affected need to do to deal with a problem which is not of their making. Along the way, certain concrete measures like creating a Green Climate Fund were taken.

Now, most of the nay sayers have been convinced, and those offering the stiffest resistance to reform, namely the US, China and India, are willing to take mitigating action. Also, there is money in the kitty to help the affected countries to cope.

Where does Pakistan figure in all of this?

P4170147-copyNot nearly as out there in the centre as it used to be. This is the lament of some of those who had been a part of the deliberations over the years. COP21 is about cutting emissions to keep global temperature increase below two degrees centigrade. The commitments, in the shape of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for emission cuts post-2020 that have so far been submitted to the UNFCCC secretariat, indicate that this is not going to be the case. Some countries have refused to take any new action, to mitigate the problem. For them, it will be business as usual.

Even the highest officials have expressed pessimism about achieving the desired emission cuts to contain temperatures and this conference may end up being another cop-out which dashes the hopes of environmentalists across the world and leads to a blame game and finger-pointing at those countries whose commitments fall short of what is needed.

Pakistan is aligned with the Group of 77 and China, comprising mostly developing nations. Initially China, as a nation careering towards development, was one of the leading polluters in the world. Now it is seen as a country serious in emission reductions.

In the global context, Pakistan’s emissions are a miniscule 0.8%. The breakdown, sectorwise, is as follows: transport and energy (51%), industry (5.8%), waste (1.8%), agriculture (39%) and forestry (2.9%). Since the Paris COP21 is all about commitments to cuts in emissions, Pakistan will be making its declaration of intent, and also highlighting some voluntary measures it has taken towards mitigation, adaptation, institution-building and knowledge-management. Naturally, it will be looking to get a piece of the pie from the Green Climate Fund to assist in taking adaptation measures.

Pakistan has already declared its intent to submit a proposal to obtain readiness support from the Fund by October. This will mostly be used to enhance the capacity of its Ministry of Climate Change, and kick-start many low-emission and climate-resilient initiatives, including those for renewable energy. Pakistan is also looking for funding for adaptation measures, like the one undertaken in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral to cope with GLOF. This project was credited with saving lives and minimising damage when the glacial burst occurred in Bagrot Valley in Gilgit.

While it is all very well to wave the victim card, Pakistan’s hopes from COP21 are not something to write home about. Yes, we have done some remarkable work at the policy level. There are adaptation success stories dotting the country, but the bigger picture shows many gaps. Pakistan needs continuity of policy and skill-development of the human resource that represents the country at these key negotiations. Many countries are represented by their presidents and prime ministers, with legal and diplomatic aides in tow. Not so, with Pakistan.

The musical chairs played at the bureaucratic and political level is what deprives Pakistan of the advantage which countries like Bangladesh and Maldives are able to gain. Two years ago, at COP19, Pakistan was represented by the minister of state for railways! This time, a few months short of the important conference, the Minister of Environment, Mushahidullah, was forced to resign for making a statement against a former ISI chief. As these lines go into print, the Ministry of Climate Change is without a minister.

This is yet another tragedy for this beleaguered country. As former Pakistan ambassador Shafqat Kakakhel, who has been part of the COP negotiating team in the past said:

“The forthcoming climate change conference in Paris is extremely important for every one, but more so for the poor who lack the resilience to cope with calamities of all types, including the by now well-known impacts of climate change such as floods, droughts, less food and water, and inundation of coastal areas and small island states.”

Newsline put two basic questions to four of Pakistan’s leading
experts on environment.

Q. 1:  What will Pakistan take to Paris? 

Q. 2:  What does it hope to come away with?

“Pakistan is one of the most impacted and vulnerable countries of the world in relation to climate change, though it remains one of the lowest contributors to the global problem with just 0.08% of the green house gas emissions. We can truly be termed a victim of climate injustice. Our case at COP21 is also premised on this stark reality. We must focus on our needs for adaptation and climate finance, while also elaborating on the considerable voluntary steps Pakistan has taken, such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s voluntary commitment of targeting zero carbon economic growth through clean hydro-energy as well as afforestation. Also noteworthy is the Quaid-e-Azam solar park development scheme, with 100 MW already installed and 900 MW in the pipeline.”

“Pakistan hopes to establish its extreme climate vulnerability on the global stage, while seeking new avenues for climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation. Pakistan’s financial needs to cope with the forced impacts of climate change are estimated at between US$ 6-14 billion year, while for climate mitigation it needs between US$ 9-17 billion worth of investment to shift its future growth trajectory onto a cleaner and low-carbon pathway. We do not have the luxury of time on our side, and the world needs to understand that Pakistan, like other developing countries, has to be wary of the demands for voluntary cuts and ensure that our future development does not, in any way, become a hostage to emission limitations as is premised by the founding principles of the UNFCCC – namely the ‘polluter pays’ and the ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ principles.”

— Malik Mohammad Amin Aslam, former minister of state for environment, IUCN global vice president, and author of the green growth strategy of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, which includes the ambitious billion-tree plantation programme.

“Pakistan must provide a clear statement that if no action is taken to curb CO2 emissions and restrict temperature rise, non-traditional impacts will cause colossal loss. The recent Karachi heat wave is an example.”

“Pakistan is energy-hungry, we need international help in green technologies with low carbon emissions. If not, we are poised to join the coal-fired plant club. We are the frontline state in two wars: climate change and terror. Climate change decisions cannot be deferred. Our way forward is water, renewable energy and a greener Pakistan.”

Dr Pervaiz Amir, agro-economist and former member of the Prime Minister’s Task Force on Climate Change. 


“Pakistan’s policy-makers need to understand that the Paris 2015 Conference is a defining moment, with respect to medium-and long-term economic growth and social development objectives of Pakistan. Sustainable, climate-resilient and inclusive development is the only viable way forward for Pakistan and we must be well-prepared for a meaningful participation in the conference. The agenda and scope of the Paris Conference contains many elements which are of particular importance to Pakistan. In the framework of existing and evolving mechanisms of adaptation to climate change, international climate finance, technology transfer and the Warsaw mechanism of loss damage, the case of Pakistan’s exposure to climatic threats should be compellingly and convincingly presented.”

“Pakistan has enormous potential for reducing emissions in a cost-effective manner. Similarly, adapting to the harmful impacts of climate change has become a necessity for a large segment of our population. We are at the stage of forced adaptation, and we should highlight this fact before the global community. Our meaningful participation is critically important in the loss-and-damage mechanism, which within Pakistan’s perspective, is a multi-dimensional issue.”

— Bilal Anwar, a climate policy expert, who has worked at the UNFCCC Secretariat.

“Unfortunately, Pakistan is no longer a consequential player in international climate change negotiations. We dropped the ball. Pakistan put climate change on the back-burner and now climate change negotiations have put Pakistan on the back-burner. This is unfortunate because in 1992, and for many years after that, we were a consequential player. It is also unfortunate because we still have many talented professionals who could make Pakistan a consequential player.”

“Pakistan will not take much to the table at Paris. We are likely to bring back even less. This is a great loss to Pakistan’s own very pressing climate change challenges. But it is also a loss to Pakistan’s foreign policy because we will, once again, be on the sidelines at a negotiation that the most important powers of the world are now taking very seriously – USA, EU, China – and where we could well have been an actor of consequence.”

Dr Adil Najam, former dean of LUMS and now dean of the Pardee School in Boston University. He is also the lead author of the UNFCCC report on Climate Change in 2007 that won the organisation the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore.


This is the view of the Pakistan Government’s representatives on climate change and COP21.

“Pakistan has taken many measures to voluntarily cut emissions. The fact that we have still kept the coal underground should be appreciated, especially as the country is facing a serious energy crunch. There is a development policy vision 2025 that is taking cognizance of the green development imperatives. We also have the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN) going, even though it is in the initial stages. We are also one of the few countries which has the Initial National Communication process in place after a multi-stakeholder, inter-ministerial dialogue.

 “Pakistan also plans on holding a side event at COP21, where we will be focusing on the policy and institutional mechanisms that have been developed to cope with climate change. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) came into being as a disaster management mechanism and as a social safety net. We need to come up with more bankable, saleable projects in the field of energy, agriculture and waste management to show climate compatible development initiatives.”

— Irfan Tariq, the Director General Environment in the Ministry of Climate Change.

“COP21 will be a weak deal if there are no binding mechanisms to enforce emission targets and, at best, it will be a course correction for 2020 when the targets and their effects will be assessed. Pakistan has taken voluntary measures at emission reductions despite being a negligible emitter. The Bahawalpur solar power is one such step towards energy efficiency, development of renewable energy resources, and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an example. We can manage a 5% reduction but can go up to 10-20% by 2030 if climate financing is provided.

“Pakistan has also embarked on a technology needs assessment, though that is still in its infancy and may not yield much benefit in Paris. In the future, climate financing will become more clear as the Green Climate Fund is making good progress. Pakistan is seeking 6-7 million dollars, for its GLOF II project. Other financial mechanisms, like the Asian Development Bank’s support against vulnerability through its Disaster Response Management Fund can feed into NDMA for rehabilitation recovery and climate insurance. This is a totally new field that needs attention. “

— Dr Qamruzzaman Chaudhury, former Director General Met and author of Pakistan’s Climate Change Policy.  


This article was originally published in Newsline’s October 2015 issue.

Dear (ir)responsible Pakistani media, the Mina tragedy needed sensitivity not sensationalism

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Muslim pilgrims cast stones at pillars symbolising Satan, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage on Eidul Azha in Mina, near the holy city of Mecca on September 24, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

The tragic stampede in Mina during the recent Hajj and the way it was covered by the media, mainstream as well as social, once again revealed all that is wrong in the way journalism is practiced in Pakistan.

Media stirred the pot with the ingredients of sensationalism, conspiracy theories, misinformation, disinformation and deliberate biases. This was all based on a historical baggage, and the offering served was such a mish-mash that it became difficult to sift fact from fiction.

Yes, it was a developing story. In fact, it was not just a ‘story’, but was a tragic human event that demanded sensitive handling, a patience for the truth to emerge and careful handling of it, which was found to be seriously lacking. It seemed that the mind had already been made up about whom to blame and how to stand in the ‘them and us’ camps.

Even the eye witness accounts that started pouring in immediately afterwards did not do much to dent some of the preposterous opinions that were aired – making a human mistake and general lack of indiscipline morph into a regional conflict rooted in sectarian divide.

The death figures, the pulling out of old pictures of previous stampedes that had actually prompted the massive improvements in traffic flow leading to ‘one-way’ arrangement for rami (the symbolic stoning of the devil) at the Jamarat were a deliberate attempt at misinformation with an ulterior motive; as were the blurred pictures of dumper trucks and bulldozers that were removing trash but appeared on the media with captions stating they were desecrating the bodies of the hujjaj by picking them in this manner.

Do the gatekeepers in the media go on leave at times like these? Yes, there are no gatekeepers besides the contrarians on social media who keep countering such biased narratives. But what happens to the mainstream media? Sometimes it is overcautious in giving the complete picture, and at others, it completely distorts the picture.

Granted that we have many ‘more loyal than the king’ (pun intended) who want to hear no evil, criticism or questions about the way the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia manages the massive congregation at Hajj.

But we also have the other extreme in the media, who are riding the crest of a wave of negative feelings about what goes on there, and this group amplified the unverified stories of the VVIP movement being the cause of the stampede. They didn’t cross-check or even take into account how many miles separated the actual place of the incident, Maktab 93 and the Jamarat, simply displaying a wild abandonment of all journalistic norms.

We surely did not need Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) jumping into the fray by issuing a warning about stoking resentment against a ‘friendly country’ to stem this tide of negativity.

What was needed was a team of journalists and editors who would check the death figures, the figure of missing persons from the citizens and official sources and then draw some conclusions.

PEMRA must also note the criticism or calling for improvements in arrangements, so such tragedies can be avoided in the future is not taking a pot shot at ‘friendly countries.’ These calls need to be amplified through the media, so it should be careful with the directives in this regard.

I know it is hard for journalists to physically verify when the place is Saudi Arabia, as you can’t just ask a reporter and camera team to hop on a plane and just get to the spot. But compare the coverage to the other media. Even Iran, which somehow, courtesy of the media, was portrayed as a victim, acknowledged failing on part of its own contingents, despite suffering the maximum number of casualties.

The great variance in the death count and the missing persons of course is surprising but understandable. The figures quoted by The Guardian were almost four times the figures that were coming out in the Pakistani media which in my opinion was a plus point as was the constant transmission of the numbers that were being flashed about information.

So if the media could show responsibility and temperance here, why did it have to suddenly get into the mode of speculation and blame game? Even before the facts had emerged?

Was it by design or was it by default where it feels compelled to ‘feed’ its consumers with a commodity, even if half-baked, to whet its appetite for more?

These questions are mostly being asked by media practitioners who want to see the media develop into a responsible industry. Media must be wary of the day when their consumers start asking these questions.

Written by afiasalam

October 3, 2015 at 1:19 pm

No quick recovery in monsoon-hit Sindh

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Enlarge image

I sat up with a start when I heard in the news that it was raining heavily in Thatta. This spelled trouble for the two communities I had been interacting with on behalf of the humanitarian organisation I worked for. They had been displaced after the 2010 floods, and were occupying a vacant piece of land, waiting to be resettled in permanent shelters.

I called ahead to find out their plight, and sure enough was told that their makeshift thatch huts had collapsed, and that all their land was under water. Luckily, we had anticipated another spell of severe monsoon rains, so had prepared some emergency hampers with food and hygiene items that we immediately loaded onto a truck, and headed off to Sujawal.

It was distressing to see people homeless again who had only just started picking up the pieces of their lives after last year’s disaster. They moved with their rag-tag belongings from one building to another, finding shelter in schools. We could at best provide temporary relief.

However, worse was to follow. Just a couple of days later, torrential rains resulted in breaches to the agricultural run-off drains in Jati, and people from that area also streamed into Sujawal, looking for shelter and relief.

With the help of the district administration we could still just about manage this in-flow of people. But what followed in the next few days threw every arrangement out of gear. The havoc caused by the breaches and the overtopping of the contentious and controversial Left Bank Outfall Drain in Badin inundated vast swathes of farmland, completely destroying the standing crops of cotton, sugarcane, rice and fodder.

Driving to Badin city and onwards, my heart sank deeper as I witnessed the scale of the devastation and the desolate, desperate faces of people on the side of the road, sitting under makeshift shelters that were barely wide enough to hold their cots.

The situation was even worse on the inner roads. All one could see were inundated fields, collapsed houses, and people begging for help, looking for a roof over their heads to save them from the relentless rain. There were people who waded through chest-high waters to come to the relief distribution points. At places, one had to offload relief supplies from trucks onto smaller vehicles and then onto boats to get them to affected communities.

My rudimentary understanding of the Sindhi language was no barrier to understanding the expressions that were writ large on the faces of the tottering old men, and women with babies already suffering from skin infections. The extended monsoon has water-logged entire districts, and although the rains have now stopped, poor drainage planning means that the water will remain on the lands for at least another couple of months.

Having lost this cropping season to the disaster, the farmers do not hope to reap a harvest in the next season either, as the land will still not be ready for cultivation.

Whichever way you look at it, it is a disaster on an unprecedented scale – a human disaster, an economic disaster, and now a health disaster due to the outbreak of water-borne and malarial diseases.

I would like to see climate change deniers explain away erratic monsoon patterns, as well as the ferocity of the rains that have wreaked this havoc.

More than that, one needs tonnes of determination to deal with the current crisis, and also to prepare contingency plans that work much more effectively in the future.

Written by afiasalam

September 28, 2015 at 4:32 am

What does the society expect of its women!

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What does the Society expect of its women

Written by afiasalam

July 11, 2015 at 4:45 am

Sabeen: The birthday girl is not here anymore

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Sabeen painting

Today is Sabeen’s birthday. She would have been 41. When I think back to the first time I saw her, when she was all of 15 years, and I saw her pottering with computers at Zaheer Kidvai’s office it is amazing to realize how much of life she was able to pack in just these four decades.

Those were the days when computers were serious, expensive things; not something one allowed children to fiddle around with. Hence my surprised query to ZAK at what a ‘bachee’ was doing with them. I was taken aback when he said she was his friend’s daughter who was interested’ in computers. It is only now, in a conversation with ZAK after she has gone that I learnt that I was not the only curious one. He says she too asked who I was after I left, and when told my name, said she already knew me through my cricket writings, as that was another thing she was interested in….passionately! This actually became our first point of connect.

Sabeen ET

Over the years I got to know her, and whenever our paths crossed, which was quite often because of school friend Jehan Ara becoming a part of the trio making multi media solutions.

Unlike me, she wasn’t just into the game of cricket from a distance. She played it, and played it hard.

Sabeen with poster

Hard enough to damage her knees, and had to keep away due to doctors’ orders, which she rarely followed, for she believed in living life on her own terms and dealing with the consequences. She loved cricket, and cricketers. She always wanted to listen to off-the-record stories about them, and envied the opportunity I had to meet her heroes.Sabeen quoteWhile living her life passionately, she touched so many people along the way, becoming the supporter of the odd ones, the marginalized, the weak and threatened, the ones without means to gain attention. And there was nothing luke-warm about anything she did, or believed in.

Passion conjures up vision of frenetic activity, raised decibels, and things going haywire. But while enough of what was going on around her merited these states, the Sabeen I remember was always a picture of calm. Even in anger, and there were such moments a plenty, her ‘aap janaab’ never slid into ‘tum or tu’ though she reserved the right to let off expletives in English.. always ‘appropriately’ placed and targeted.

Passions that made her master the finest nuances of the Urdu language, of Jazz, of Classical music and Qawwali, which she just dived deep into. Yes ZAK’s influence was there, but that his introduction would ignite such passion probably he could not have imagined.Sabeen on scooter

And she was brave. Oh so brave, maybe to the extent of being reckless. She was brave not just because she chose to ride a scooter on Karachi roads, but because she wanted to have her say, come what may. This is what led her to swim upstream, and sometimes plunge in without testing the waters. Like she did when she went all out with her ‘fasla na rakhein, piyaar honey dein’ and earned the wrath, and faced threats from the lobby that wanted to heap all responsibility of immorality on the observance of Valentine’s Day.

Was that foolhardy? Maybe Was she worried? yes, Did it put a dent in her resolve to take a bold stance? No. They say this is why she was killed. That her killer cited her Valentines’ Day campaign as the reason he put 5 bullets in her, 3 years after the event. Really? Takes a bit of getting used to this notion. I still haven’t so won’t dwell on it.

I would rather talk about T2F, which is actually proof of what passion about an interest can create. The concept, the space, the programmes held there, all showed how fully she had thrown herself into this space that she wanted everyone to share… a space created for ‘intellectual poverty alleviation,’ her only demand to people coming there being, ‘bring your brain.’

If the space fell short to accommodate her ideas and plans and events, she went elsewhere, but she had to be a part of, if not at the center of events making waves in the city of Karachi… another one of her passions which always resonated with me. And all the time, while wracking her brains to keep her T2F financially afloat, whenever someone approached her to use the space for an event without the required amount in had, her answer used to be ‘daikh lein gey.. kuch kur lein gey’ (Will see what we can do about it).

And it Sabeen at Farieha'swas this spirit of kuch kur lein gey which made so many good things happen, through Sabeen, who would float new ideas and initiatives, introduce amazing guests, or kickstart an event, and sit at the back with that smile on her face which we all remember her for.

The only time she would intervene was if she saw the discussion getting out of hand or some people not being able to have their say, and she would take the mike to them.

Sabeen with Mahenaz

There was a quiet strength about her, which we now know she inherited from her mother Mahenaz Mahmud, whose calm and courage in the face of the unspeakable tragedy that had befallen her showed what she was made of, and the kind of genes she had passed on to Sabeen that enabled her to achieve so much in so little time.

So today when friends and admirers gather at T2F to listen to qawwali on Sabeen’s  birthday, they are not just there for the genre Sabeen had come to love and loved to promote; they are there to remember her, and the many ways in which she enriched lives.

Like them, I too would like that acknowledge that Sabeen, for all you did, and all you stood for, ‘tu maira hero.”sabeen-hero-karachi-mohsin-sayeed

Written by afiasalam

June 20, 2015 at 8:49 pm

Full frontal… the New Normal?

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Full Frontal Assault… the new normal?

Updated 2 days ago
A NEWSpaper front-page is supposed to give just that… the news!

The world is a happening place with never a dull moment. Even if you had scanned the headlines on your TV or the web before going to sleep, there would still be plenty of major stories developing during the night.

So you hear the thud of the newspaper fall on your balcony or driveway in the mornings and you rush there to get up to speed with the news. You impatiently flick off the rubber band and flip open the paper to see the headlines… and lo and behold… you are told to close your eyes and drink a glass of milk whose purity has been ensured for you. Or you are brought face to face with the virtues of sending money through a cell phone service… all this when you have not even brushed your teeth or had your first cup of tea or coffee!

Well ladies and gentlemen, please wake up and smell the coffee. This full frontal assault on the front page of your newspaper is set to become the new normal. The sharp intake of breath or gasp of dismay is about to give way to a shrug of resignation as the realisations dawns that this is the current trend; so like it or lump it!

While magazines have been known to ‘sell’ their front page (soul?), it did not raise as many eyebrows because no one expects an update on the news from a magazine cover. However, a NEWSpaper front-page is supposed to give just that… the news!

A sliver of news placed under the masthead as a sop to readers is how this frontal assault began. Maybe it was a testing of the waters. And the resultant hue and cry did not go beyond leg pulling by journalists of colleagues of that particular media group, and that too mostly on social media. There was very little reader reaction. Encouraged and emboldened advertisers took this to the next level by wiping the news completely off the front page and placing a full-page ad there instead. No sop, no space, no as a by your leave! Just full frontal!

According to Sarmad Ali. Group MD, Marketing, Jang Group says, “Pakistan has been slow in catching up with international practices and this was not very common here. The Australian, DNA India, The Guardian, Gulf News, The Hindustan Times, The Indian Express The Khaleej Times, The Times of India and The Straits Times are only a few examples of newspapers accepting these creative placements.

Seasoned journalist, Chris Cork, for his part makes the distinction between advertising freesheets and newspapers. “If you are paying hard cash for a newspaper then you have a reasonable expectation of having news in your hands, especially on the front page.”

The ‘rules’ are silent. And there is nothing in the ‘guidelines’ (oh that hated word!) of the Press Council of Pakistan or the All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) to restrict such encroachment. Hence the absence of a strong push back mechanism by the editorial departments, barring rare instances of preset space limitations for advertising.

In the absence of such regulations, if editors have a problem, according to both Talat Aslam of The News and Tahir Najmi ofExpress, they need “to kick up a fuss” because “you cannot deprive your readers of the whole page. The reader has every right to know all the major information in the form of news on the front page.”

In Aslam’s opinion, given that the advertisements which have so far hijacked the front page are nothing special or creative, they could have easily been placed elsewhere within the paper. This is why, new though the trend is, there needs to be an analysis of whether the brand garners positive feedback or flak from readers. Or is massaging the ego of the brand managers the only purpose that is served?

What about reader feedback? How do readers who have a problem with this trend express their point of view?

According to Javed Jabbar, “ if readers have a problem they must move beyond passive acceptance, and write letters to the editors and boycott buying the paper for a few days to make their point.”

Although the Media Commission set up by the Supreme Court has recommended appointing an Ombudsman or a Readers’ Editor for each publication, only a few have done so. Readers can write to them to register complaints, or they can set up consumer societies which talk back to the newspapers.

However, at the end of the day, the Ombudsman too may have to bow to financial realities. Unless and until newspapers themselves strike a balance between the rights of their readers and their revenue stream, we can let this debate develop to see what the Pakistani market will accept.

Written by afiasalam

May 31, 2015 at 4:05 pm

Posted in Media

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Karachi: Beware of an earthquake; never mind the Tsunami.. yet!

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Written by afiasalam

September 16, 2014 at 8:22 pm


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