February Issue 2015

By | News & Politics | Opinion | Published 6 years ago

On a trip to New York in the seventies to see a friend, I scoured the pages of The New York Times for news, any news, from Pakistan. There was no Internet, no smartphones then to stay connected. And the only story I found was tucked away in a corner somewhere. It read: “Husband chops off wife’s nose.” I was appalled. Was that all the news that was fit to print from Pakistan?

Fast forward to 2015. I am in Newsline with my colleagues, sifting through foreign and local content for a co-branded edition of essays with The New York Times News Service & Syndicatefocusing on the developments of the last year that are likely to shape the year 2015 and beyond. ISIS, Hebdo, Islam, Islamophobia, the elections in India and Afghanistan, Ukraine and more — these are the ‘developments’ that marked 2014.

And yes, the world has moved beyond the ‘brutal husband’ story to endless other stories emanating from Pakistan. But no news, we realise, was mostly better than a surfeit of it.  From militancy to military rule and massacre to petrol and electricity crises, Malala Yousafzai’s ongoing success story has been Pakistan’s only real silver lining in recent years.

Seventeen-year-old Malala is no longer viewed just as a Pakistani.  She has become a citizen of the world — feted and celebrated everywhere, from Norway to Nigeria.

Other Pakistani children have not been so lucky. The massacre of 140 children and their teachers in Peshawar by Islamic extremists made headlines across the world, as did the brutal assassinations of the Hebdo cartoonists by Islamic militants, and the beheading of foreign hostages by the ultra-militant Islamist group ISIS in Syria.  Ironically, most of the victims of these heinous crimes were Muslims. Yet, Islamophobia continued to gain currency in the West, and as it drew ever more adherents to its cause, the disturbing question doing the rounds was: will 2015 witness an actual clash of civilisations?

Certainly, whatever the outcome, no one anywhere will remain untouched. In the global village that the world has morphed into, events in one part of the world often resound with intensity in the other.

The western media monitored the elections in Afghanistan and India as closely as did Pakistan.  And as Pakistan was also mulling over the ramifications of those and of Obama’s trip to India, so too with equal interest, was China.

But even as skirmishes continued on the Indo-Pak border, both warring neighbours took time out to celebrate the joint win of the Nobel Peace Prize by India’s Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai.

So the flip side of a shrinking world, politics aside, is that one is witnessing the genesis of a new global community.  Cinema, art and fashion are crossing borders and finding common cause and common threads. Pakistani filmmakers win an Oscar and an Emmy; a Pakistani artist mounts an installation at the rooftop garden of MOMA; Amal Clooney sports a Pakistani designer’s necklace on a trip to Darfur; and a British designer copies the Peshawari chappal, and gets rapped on the knuckles for failing to credit Pakistan.

It’s all out on the social media which has linked the world like never before and spawned a new breed: the citizen journalist. Julian Assange is a hero in this part of the world, and his essay, “Who should own the Internet?” in this edition will surely resonate with local readers, as YouTube continues to be offline following a blasphemous film on the Holy Prophet(PBUH) that was uploaded on it.  Agitated social media activists have carried their battle to the courts.  Will YouTube return to Pakistan in 2015?

A million-dollar question that one shouldn’t be asking in a globalised, wired world. But democracy in a developing world comes with a twist.

This editorial was originally published in Newsline’s February 2015 issue.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.

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