On Freedoms And Memories Of Another Day On Memorial Day – IMRAN™

These idiots did not serve in newsrooms that would be raided by scummy crooked military officers of evil dog General Zia’s regime to rip out stories being put in the next day’s paper. They did not know journalists whose fingernails were ripped out by “security services” as we knew. They did not get court-martialed as an engineering student leading marches against the military regime as I did.

I was still a final year student at University of Engineering and Technology (LahorePakistan) when Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the owner of the media empire in this NY Times story ( http://j.mp/1r9rVO6 ), invited me to work directly for him. I was 22 then. 

 

I had met him a few times before, mostly as a student leader leading protest marches into his office when Jang, the leading Pakistan newspaper but that would cave in and give greater coverage to the Taliban cousins Jamate-Islami fundamentalists party. So it was an ironic twist to become one of his key people. 

 

He originally invited me to write on a Youth page but in my first day visiting his office I saw how IBM people in Pakistan were about to rip him off by selling electric typewriters with changeable font balls as “desktop publishing systems”. I made a comment about that. 

 

Yes, I always spoke my mind regardless of the “stature” of the people in the room and continue to do so. 

 

Shakil didn’t sign the contract and immediately said, forget the youth page, I want you to sit with me here every day and advise me on anything you want. He had the foresight to see that my vision of technology changing media changing society changing the world was the missing piece in his media/society part of the equation. 

 

I learned a lot of lessons from him, 90% of them good, and just 10% of them disappointments. That is a pretty amazing ratio in a world full of us imperfect people. And I am sure there have been times I must have disappointed him too. But I consider him one of the best teachers in my life besides my parents. 

 

He did his best to dissuade me from going to Columbia Business School on a full scholarship, saying I would learn so much more as his right hand man. I have no doubt that would have been true, but I am glad I left. Yes, it would have been an amazing journey with Shakil, but I would still be an employee of a tycoon. I am blessed and grateful for all that life has brought my way on my own. 

 

Our friendship continued over the last 25 years I spent in America. I literally flew in on a PIA flight carrying several thousands pounds of equipment for the well known News International which I was involved in the launch of. I literally flew in minutes before the newspaper went to press.

 

Shakil left the press building even as plates for the very first copies of the paper were being mounted onto presses. Even though it was a lifetime dream of his family coming true, he drove from the Jang Karachi building to the airport to personally receive me inside the terminal and then drove me to the press with him to see the very first copies of the newspaper roll off the press. I always honor him for how he has always honored me over the years.

 

Though we are not related at all, we used to look alike a bit. (Maybe the prominent nose LOL). He always treated me like a younger brother he did not have (unless I happened to ask for a raise LOL). And he would always laugh when I would affectionately mimic his distinctive manner and style of speaking. 

 

One day we were in his magnificent office on the top floor of the Jang Building in Lahore when I did my impression of him. He was laughing out loud when his assistant (Fayyaz) said a well known but obnoxious person (son of a national leader), who had not personally met Shakil before, was there to visit. 

 

Like in a comedy movie, Shakil thought my impression was so great I should meet that obnoxious person acting as Shakil and Shakil would become Imran. We both moved to the “drawing room” part of the office when the guest came in. And I have to say, I was so flawless in doing my Shakil impression the guest (who had spoken to MSR before on the phone) had no clue what happened. Shakil and I had to do everything in our power not to crack up laughing. We did not do that again, but I remember that and many other adventures, mid-day or midnight, that we shared with love, trust and affection.  

 

Though Shakil and I do not get time to speak regularly now, I still consider him one of the smartest, most forward looking businessmen in the world. Yes, Jang, and the GEO channel, are brilliant commercial media organizations. But not once did I ever see action or hear any words come out of the mouth of Shakil (or his late father the great Mir Khalil ur Rehman, brother Javed, or his brilliant sons or daughters) that would ever be remotely considered anti-Pakistan or anti-Islam. 

 

I laugh at former Playboy, by now probably Viagra-needing pro-fundamentalists, like Imran Khan (whom I once admired) and others making accusations against Shakil. It amazes me how many dumb idiots, especially on Twitter and FaceBook (places they exercise right to free speech), foaming at the mouth about wanting to have GEO shut down. 

 

They do not know what it is like not to have these basic freedoms of expression. They do not know how to exercise the freedom of switching the channel if they do not like something. They want things to be exactly how they want them or to be shut down.

 

These idiots did not serve in newsrooms that were raided by scummy crooked military officers of evil dictator General Zia‘s regime to rip out stories being put in the next day’s paper. They did not know journalists whose fingernails were ripped out by “security services” as we knew.  They did not get court-martialed as an engineering student leader for leading marches against the military regime as I did.

 

They did not fall sleep on the floors of newspaper press buildings at 4AM to make sure nothing kept the presses from running. Shakil did, and I was proud to have been next to him in those times. 

 

Long live democracy, freedom of speech, and a free Press, in Pakistan as well as USA

 

And long live my friend Shakil and his family.

On Defending Pakistan From It’s Leaders, On Defense Of Pakistan Day

Should Or Shouldn’t Pakistan’s General Musharaff Be Put On Trial?

What do you think?

Hoping For Good Luck, On Friday The 13th

This has been quite an eventful week in New York. The previous few weeks of economic decline, bad financial news, increasing unemployment numbers and other news of global distress had been pushing the New York Stock Exchange consistently and constantly lower and lower.

Things were so bad that people would have preferred a return of the stress-filled yo-yo stock market days, where one at least had a 50-50 chance of making or losing money!

From a high of almost 13,000 the NYSE reached 6500 and there was talk of it even heading lower. There were fears that it might even fall below 6000 before all is said and done.

This decline continued while the flood of bad news also continued unabated. The only silver lining one could see around these ominous dark clouds was that most companies were choosing to do greater layoffs than they need and reducing costs as much as they can.

Even though each job lost is something that can mean the destruction of dreams of a family, sadly, for big businesses it is all a numbers game. Companies generally prefer to dish out all their bad news in one lump rather than dish it out piecemeal. It is generally easier to recover from a massive jolt and negative dip in stock prices over a few weeks or months. It is harder to get over the malaise that can cripple a company’s stock price if the bad news, no matter how small, just keeps coming every few weeks.

What’s that suggests to me, and keep in mind that I’m no financial adviser, is that most companies may be gearing up to have better than expected results at the end of the March quarter. Or, at least results that are less terrible than the market anticipates. Either one of these could potentially mean a rise in stock prices in April.

Even before the end of the quarter, a few pieces of good news have come out. One of them was that Citibank has been profitable for the last two months. This is the giant global behemoth that is one of those banks considered too large to be allowed to fail. This news came shortly after the bank’s stock was trading at as low as one Dollar per share, a far cry from nearly $60 per share it used to be.

Anybody who bought those shares at the ridiculously low price of one Dollar literally made a profit of 35% in one day, as investors suddenly found their greed outweighing their fear.

Financial company stocks in general benefited from this uptick in the stock market. Most major stocks have been rising consistently for the last few days, though I expect some drops as profit-taking starts again.

Even though it is far too early to claim that the market will not plumb new lows, but more than likely, one year from now economists and other so-called experts will analyse and say that the recovery had begun at an anaemic but measurable rate in these weeks.

President Barack Obama and his team have had most of their focus on the American economy – as well as the global recession that still imperils the world. But in the meantime other serious matters of the world continue to demand attention.

As is consistent with Pakistan and its self-destructive ways, once again American media and Pakistan bashers have gotten ample opportunity to raise the specter of Pakistani nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists – should the country spill further into anarchy.

The recent blatant and brazen terrorist attacks in the metropolitan city of Lahore, the despicable attempts to kill the Sri Lankan Cricket team and the evil murder of police officers and innocent bystanders there showed how almost no part of Pakistan is safe. This was an attack obviously not carried out by Taleban type thugs but by some well-organised but equally evil professionally trained gang of killers.

The Taleban continue to remain in the news, especially Pakistan ceding control of Swat and other regions to what are perceived as extremist groups. American drone and missile strikes continue to kill Pakistanis, innocent or otherwise, with disturbing regularity. India continues to rattle its sabers in the guise of demanding justice for the Mumbai attacks. In other words, there is no possible threat, internal or external, military, economic, political or social that Pakistan does not face.

Yet our shameless, spineless, gutless, clueless and witless politicians continue to fight over who sits at the head of the table – while this ship of state is rapidly sinking. Unlike even the Titanic, Pakistan is like a ship whose captain has been aiming it at every single iceberg he can see. On top of that, the ship has been torpedoed from behind. Its own crew is setting fire to cabins and furniture while others are busy looting what they can.

It is no wonder therefore that foreign powers, including America, find that the only way to control Pakistan, even to keep it from self-destructing, is to manage it not as friends but as masters. And, Pakistani politicians are quite OK with that.

From politicians, I want to shift to lawyers. Every country in the world has its share of lawyer jokes. For the last one year, and once again this month, it happens to be Pakistan’s lawyers and barristers, who have taken up the challenge to restore democracy and justice.

A profession that relies not on regular salaries but on almost daily work in the courthouse has once again stepped up, at great cost to its self, economically, professionally, personally. Today I must salute the lawyers and other professionals of Pakistan, not just for bringing down one dictator, but for ensuring that Pakistanis as a nation see that they can choose and control what the government can or cannot do when an elected person tries to act as a dictator.

Will democracy rule or will Pakistan sink into the abyss of chaos and anarchy?

The fact that things have come to this stage in itself is a tragedy. For the first time in more than 60 years we had an opportunity to establish state institutions. This was a historic opportunity because so many forces lined up in a once in a century series of events. The sacrifice of Benazir Bhutto, the professionalism of General Kayani, the sensibility of some political leaders and the great courage of Chief Justice Iftikhar Choudhry and fellow judges. Rarely had so many forces lined up to restore true democracy to Pakistan. And, sadly, rarely have historic opportunities of such greatness been grasped in Pakistan.

As I am writing these lines in New York – on this 13th of March – I am hoping for some good luck for Pakistan. The only positive news is that some sort of compromise may be in the works in Islamabad. I, like millions of Pakistanis, can only hope and pray for that miracle and some Good Luck, today, on Friday The 13th.


This article was in client publications on Friday the 13th, 2009.

Imran Anwar is a New York based Pakistani-American entrepreneur, Internet pioneer, inventor, writer and TV personality. He can be reached through his web site http://imran.com and imran@imran.com . You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/imrananwar