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Urdu-isation of Punjab

Punjabi is one of the world’s most widely spoken languages today. It has over a hundred million native speakers, more than German, French, Persian or Urdu. Unfortunately though, it has also been one of the most neglected lingos, in its own home and by its own people. Punjab’s elite first deserted it for Urdu and then for English. There has been a virtual ban on education in Punjabi in the province for 150 years now, ever since the fall of the Sikh empire in 1849. In Punjab Assembly, a member cannot speak Punjabi without the speaker’s permission.

The land which is today Pakistan was home to the Harappa and Gandhara civilisations as well as to some of the oldest extant texts like Rigveda and Arthshastra. It has had its own traditions and languages thousands of years old. The Punjabi language itself has a written literary history of almost a thousand years. Its first poet, Baba Farid, belonged to the 12th and 13th centuries while the last classical poet died in early 20th century.

The decline and suppression, so to speak, of the Punjabi language and literature started with the British East India Company’s annexation of Punjab in 1849. The British found that education in Punjab under the Sikh empire was far superior to what they had introduced in the rest of conquered India. Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner, first principal of Government College Lahore and founder of the University of the Punjab, writes in his “History of Indigenous Education in the Punjab” that at annexation, “the true education of the Punjab was crippled, checked, and nearly destroyed”. Our system, he wrote, “stands convicted of worse than official failure”.

Under Sikh rulers, Punjabi qaidas, or primers, were supplied to all villages. Its study was compulsory for women. Thus, almost every woman could read and write the lundee form of Gurmukhi. To subdue their new subjects, the British planned to cut them off from their language and tradition, and set forth to collect and burn all Punjabi qaidas. They searched homes for qaidas and announced the prize of one aana for someone who returned their sword but six aana if they returned a Punjabi qaida. The language which once had the backing of an empire was now neglected and suppressed.

After Pakistan was created, our policymakers considered cultural and linguistic diversity a threat to national security and tried to impose a monolithic faith-based ideology on the people. They declared Urdu the national language at the expense of Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Brahui, Pashto and others. Urdu was a language that was never spoken in the regions that made up Pakistan in 1947. Bengalis rose up in arms against this and got their language recognised as a state language alongside Urdu in 1956.

The struggle for recognition of languages other than Urdu continues to date in Pakistan. One of the things nationalists in Balochistan complain about is the suppression of their language and culture. In Lahore, thousands gather every year on Mother Language Day seeking an end to the 150-year-old ban on education in Punjabi. It’s time we reconnected with our past because the state of denial we are in today will lead us nowhere.

(Originally published in The Express Tribune)

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Potential for Punjabi newspaper remains intact

By Shafqat Tanvir Mirza

Some traditions of journalism continue in one mode or the other from age to age. The tradition of literary journalism set by the daily ‘Imroze’ was partially adopted by daily ‘Jang’, which carried a Punjabi column and poetry in its literary supplement. Now ‘Nawai-Waqt also follows suit.

But as far as Punjabi literature is concerned, alongside these papers, various literary publications have also made a great contribution during the last 54 years. Among these are ‘Punjabi’, ‘Punj Darya’, ‘Punjabi Adab’, ‘Punjabi Zaban’, ‘Lehran’, ‘Haq Allah’, ‘Saver International’, ‘Ravail’, ‘Waroley’ and ‘Seraiki Adao’ from Multan. ‘Punjabi Zaban’, ‘Haq Allah’ and ‘Punj Darya’ are dead while the remaining papers continue to flourish. However, on other fronts, journalism in Punjabi has faced far harder times.

The first Punjabi weekly, ‘Wangar’ was published in the seventies by Fakhar Zaman, but it could not be sustained There was another weekly, ‘Punjab di Awaz’ edited and published by Dr Muhammad Amin, but it vanished without leaving any impact on the scene. In the same fashion, still another weekly, ‘Neeli’, was published from Karachi, but could not survive.

Front page of Punjabi language daily Lokai on August 04, 2013
Front page of Punjabi language daily Lokai on August 04, 2013

The first serious attempt at daily journalism in Punjabi was made by journalists Husain Naqi and Zafaryab Ahmad, who started the regular publication of the four- page daily ‘Sajjan’ from Lahore in the nineties, at a time when Benazir Bhutto had come into power at the centre and Nawaz Sharif was chief minister of the Punjab. This was the first-ever attempt to bring out a daily in Punjabi. The four-page daily was well received by readers in the Punjab, and at one time the circulation of ‘Sajjan’ rose to an impressive 30 000 copies daily.

The financial difficulties facing the paper were, however, aggravated after the provincial government adopted a hostile attitude towards it. Though there was no deliberate attempt to harass the management, the paper did not obtain its share of government paid advertisement. The central government of Benazir Bhutto too had a lukewarm attitude. However, since outwardly the paper supported the Pakistan People’s Party coalition government, it received some meagre financial help in the shape of advertisements etc. This though proved insufficient to keep it alive for long.

Historically speaking, before the division of the province in 1947, the Punjab had had a sound tradition of Punjabi journalism, but this was exclusively in Gurmukhi, the script used by the Sikhs. Therefore, it could be said that this window was not open for the Muslims or the Hindus.

The first-ever daily in Gurmukhi was brought out by Bhai Dit Singh for a religious organisation, Singh Sabha Lehr. This was followed by another Gurmukhi daily, ‘Amrit Patrika’, brought out by barrister Bhola Nath from Jhelum in 1896. The Sikh religious organisations in fact arranged the publication of many dailies and weeklies till the time of Partition. This tradition of Punjabi journalism then shifted to East Punjab, and today, three widely circulated dailies, ‘Ajeet’, ‘Tribune Punjabi’ and ‘Punjab di Awaz’ continue to be published in that part of the Punjab, representing journalism in Punjabi.

Two literary monthlies in the Persian script, both published by enlightened Christians, Joshua Fazluddin and Col Bhola Nath Waris, were also present on the scene before 1947. The ‘Punjabi Darbar’ of Joshua was published in the thirties from LyalIpur (now Faisalabad) and ‘Saarang’, a well-produced magazine in both the scripts, was published from Lahore. This journal also carried an interview with Allama Iqbal on the Punjabi language in its issue of 1930.

The Muslim Punjab started paying attention to literary journalism after Partition, and it was the Urdu daily, ‘Aghaz,’ which initiated a weekly literary supplement in 1949-50. After the closure of ‘Aghaz’ the late Zaheer Babur, a established journalist at the time, started a weekly Punjabi literary page in the daily ‘Imroze’, which continued till the death of the paper at the hands of the Nawaz Sharif government in November 1991, after a valiant struggle by its staff to prevent its demise,.

Inspired by the story of ‘Sajjan’, Mudassar Iqbal Butt, a new entrant to journalism, started a Punjabi weekly ‘Bhulekha’ in the mid-nineties. He converted the weekly into a four-page daily in 1999. ‘Bhulekha’ is today being regularly published from Lahore and hits the newspaper stalls each morning. While ‘Bhulekha’ is quite a hard-hitting newspaper, it is unfortunate that unlike ‘Sajjan’ it is not a full-fledged paper that could give a Punjabi newspaper reader all the reading material that is part of any newspaper.

Before the publication of ‘Sajjan’, it was advised that those behind it must give a complete paper of at least eight pages that could compete with the Urdu papers. To achieve this, it was also suggested that visits be undertaken to countries where there are many Punjabis ready to subscribe to the paper and make donations to it. It was certainly possible to have offered something to the 30,000 readers, who had welcomed even the badly produced ‘Sajjan’ a complete newspaper, by taking such initiatives. But it seemed the management of the paper was in a mysterious hurry, which led it to a failure.

However, as a first attempt, the paper has paved the way for a newspaper m Punjabi to be brought out. Attempts to do so continue. A four-page daily under the name. of ‘Jhok’ was briefly brought out from the far-off area of district Rahim Yar Khan and its fate was quite predictable. ‘Jhok’ too has passed into history, but, despite the failures, the potential remains for a newspaper in Punjabi to be published as a widely circulated daily, able to reach a large audience.

(Published in Dawn on May  26,2001)

The Pathan who wrote the largest Punjabi dictionary

SMK 1Dictionary

Sardar Muhammad Khan was born in a Punjabi-Pathan family in Basti Danishmandan in undivided Punjab’s Jalandhar district on the first day of 1915. He studied at the Islamiya High School Jalandhar and received his BA from the University of the Punjab in 1934. Sardar Muhammad Khan joined the British Indian Army as a civilian employee but soon found that what he truly loved were words, their sounds and their meanings. His love for words drew him to the world of dictionaries and linguistics. It is said that he knew the Oxford English Dictionary by heart.

But the language he loved and worked on the most was Punjabi. Sometime during the turbulent years of the partition, he set forth on a marvelous work. For the next 50 years, not many people knew what this reclusive person was doing for hours and hours in an old Rawalpindi quarter or at a small press he ran after his retirement. He was writing a dictionary, a Punjabi-Urdu dictionary which would prove to be the most detailed and authoritative on the subject.

Sardar Muhammad Khan, or SMK, did not suffer fools gladly. A friend once tried to provoke him by saying he did not know the four-letter expletive in Punjabi. “The next day I gave him a list of 300 four-letter expletives about anatomical parts in English,” SMK told Nadir Ali in an interview in 1996.

In 1965, he published 152 pages of the ‘Aleph’ part of the dictionary under the name of S Khanam, which was actually his wife’s name. He did not publish anything under his own name to stay clear of bureaucratic red-tape. But this was a voluminous work and SMK alone could not undertake its publishing. He handed over the final draft to the then Punjabi Adabi Board secretary and a Punjabi scholar, Asif Khan, and bid adieu to this world on May 26, 1998.

SMK 2

No public or private body, including the Punjab government, was willing to publish the dictionary, a project SMK gave his life to. It would have been a great loss had it not been for the Punjabi Adabi Board and Sachal Studios that contributed human and financial resources to bring SMK’s magnum opus to life in 2009. The dictionary comprises two volumes of 3,600 pages and lists 64 dialects of Punjabi. It contains idioms, riddles and treatises on traditions and customs. It is undoubtedly the best Punjabi dictionary in the Shahmukhi script. Thank you Sardar Muhammad Khan!

(This article was originally published in The Express Tribune)

‘Who reads your gazetteers, anyway?’

Pindi

The British were ruthless. They killed everybody who stood up and challenged their rule from Rai Ahmad Nawaz Khan Kharal in 1857 to Bhagat Singh in 1931.

But they were great administrators, too, and governed India meticulously. They also cared for the people and places they ruled. Apart from a splendid network of railways, and colleges and hospitals, a lesser known legacy of the Raj is their efforts to understand and document the people, the land and cultures of India.

To acquaint themselves with an alien land, the new foreign administrators surveyed and documented the wide expanses from the north-west frontier to Bengal. In the process, they produced a whole genre of literature called ‘gazetteer’. These gazetteers, in many ways, were the first ever attempt to record the society, economy and culture of the Indian subcontinent. The only previous document is Abul Fazl’s Ain-I-Akbari, which records Akbar’s empire (1556 -1605).

Produced in the late 19th and early 20th century, the gazetteers are the best historical documents available to date for many districts. One is amazed by the details as minute as the number of villages of a particular clan in a district and exact distance between its towns contained in these documents. They contain the district’s detailed geographic aspects, agriculture, castes and their social standing, languages and religions. There has never been such a large-scale attempt to catalogue an area after the Raj.

Called the Bible of the viceroy’s administrators, the gazetteer and other scholarly works of the English bureaucrats remain a work of reference to date. Most people, however, are unaware that such things as gazetteers ever existed. And the question “Who reads your gazetteers, anyway?” still holds true.

While the British-era gazetteers and other historical literature such as the land settlement reports have been preserved and catalogued in the British Library, one is hard-pressed to find this literature in Pakistan. The Punjab Archives is famous for denying access to most of its literature for being a “top secret”.

Most of the district gazetteers of Punjab and what is now the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province have been reprinted by the Sang-e-Meel Publications in Pakistan. What is needed, however, is the promotion of these gazetteers.

Following India’s lead, the provincial or the federal governments should put the district gazetteers online and encourage their inclusion in the history discourse, because the pre-Partition history is also our history. The people and places discussed in these documents are our forefathers and the towns and villages we inhabit today.

(This article was originally published in The Express Tribune)

Pakistan: An anti-people state?

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

At school, we were taught that Pakistan was an ‘Islamic welfare state’. But now, grown-up and faced with all the life’s hard realities, it seems they taught us all lies at school. Quaid-e-Azam and his Muslim League might have worked for a welfare state, Pakistan today is anything but welfare of the people.

Look, for example, at the masses queuing up outside state institutions for jobs, for medicines, for anything that the state should be providing to the public.

In Pakistan, you are on your own; the state’s priorities lie elsewhere. While the moneyed can buy better education, healthcare and other amenities, most of the state’s resources are spent on a tiny minority of the political elite.

Wealth distribution in Pakistan is highly uneven. According to Encyclopedia of the Nations, a third of the population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line. While the top 10% of the population are earning 27.6% and the bottom 10% earn only 4.1% of the national income.

In Islamabad, for example, thousands of police, military and paramilitary personnel are deployed every other day to secure the routes when the army or govt top brass is on the move. And the public are held hostage for hours on the road by yelling policemen and Faujis. Nothing terrorizes Pakistanis more than their ‘own’ security forces.

The state doesn’t facilitate. It oppresses the people.

The ‘one’ that’s not needed

Image

Ever wonder why subediting becomes monotonous over a period of time? Well, that’s because the subs get to edit and rewrite much the same stuff each day. Their creativity hardly comes into play.

However, some of the world’s top newspapers have shown newspaper reading and writing can be an interesting and educating experience. These papers, among other things, really care about their language.

Talking locally, our editors and subs need to rethink their usage of sentences like, “Police arrested one Mohammad Aslam … Disappearance of one Yasin Shah …,” and so forth.

Using ‘one’ with the name of an unknown common man in news stories is an old-school practice some of our senior editors insist on.

This does not read well. Seeing this construction in Dawn yesterday, I asked the Guardian style editors about it and here’s what they said:

“‘One’ with someone’s name, eg “I had a tweet from one Arsalan Altaf, is at best patronising and at worst downright insulting.”

Asked whether we should avoid it, they said: “Unless you actually want to insult someone (‘the chancellor, one George Osborne…’).”

So the editors better keep their sentences short and sweet, and not insult the people they write news about.

Here are the six elementary rules of good writing from George Orwell’s 1946 essay on “Politics and the English Language”:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

(The piece originally appeared at JournalismPakistan.com here.)

Print dwindles, tweet count rises

The Click Age: (L-R) Murtaza Solangi, Nighat Dad, Kamal Siddiqi, Ikram Hoti and Director Bolo Bhi Farieha Aziz discuss future of Pakistani media. Photo by INP.
The Click Age: (L-R) Murtaza Solangi, Nighat Dad, Kamal Siddiqi, Ikram Hoti and Director Bolo Bhi Farieha Aziz discuss future of Pakistani media.  Photo by INP.

How will we be consuming news 10 years down the line, and what shape the newspaper will take in 2024?

With these questions, Kamal Siddiqi, Editor The Express Tribune, opened the session ‘Pakistani Media in 2024’ at the National Media Conference, convened by Individualland Pakistan which concluded Thursday in Islamabad.

Senior journalist Ikram Hoti observed that the media has been an anti-democracy force in Pakistan and hasn’t exposed the mullah, military, and the political right, which he said have caused the most damage to this society. “If it goes on like this, in 2024 it will be called a terrorist media.”

Murtaza Solangi, under whom Radio Pakistan saw many new developments including an active social media presence, said the media influences the society and vice versa. “Today, there are more smart phones in Pakistan than PCs. Print is dwindling and tweet count is rising. The audience are active media consumers today and have their own pressure.”

The state media will either have to reform itself or it perishes, he warned.

Solangi said print’s shape might change but it will remain a source of in-depth coverage and analysis over the coming years.

“Future newspapers might not be on paper but will essentially provide the optimum tools for perspective building. Although future newspapers might have some sections of the breaking stories and updates but primarily they would provide depth and deeper analyses,” said Solangi, who himself has over 27,000 Twitter followers.

The chair, Kamal Siddiqi, said definitions of journalism and journalist are changing due to the social media and the emerging trend of citizen journalism. “Some on social media have more followers than many papers print copies. It’s a wake-up call for the so-called traditional journalists.”

Farieha Aziz, Director Bolo Bhi, dispelled the mainstream media’s impression of social media as a non-serious business. She said the traditional media is moving towards the social media. “Journalists should embrace it; it is here to stay.”

Farieha said investigative journalism is vanishing from the mainstream media but the online media is keeping it alive.

Nighat Dad, Executive Director Digital Rights Foundation, thought social media is facilitating the mainstream journalism today. She highlighted how the social media broke the Bin Laden raid story and how it compelled the TV screens to pick up the Shahzaib murder case.

“Not everything on social media is positive. Good cyber laws can check negativity on online platforms.”

Replying to a question on how to curb hate speech and other negative things on social media, Murtaza Solangi said bans and curbs are not the solution. “Where is the state on social media? To tackle disinformation on social networking sites, the state needs to come up with the right information using the same tools.”

(Published by JournalisnPakistan.com here)

Press clubs to have a national council

Strengthening Press Clubs: Heads of country’s leading press clubs sit on a panel during the 3rd National Media Conference, organised by Individualland Pakistan.
Strengthening Press Clubs: Heads of country’s leading press clubs sit on a panel during the 3rd National Media Conference, organised by Individualland Pakistan.

Heads of various press clubs from across the country have agreed to set up a national council for press clubs to ensure better coordination, says a statement issued by the National Press Club, Islamabad, Thursday.

The meeting picked Arshad Ansari, president Lahore Press Club, as the convener of the council. Presidents of Islamabad, Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, Multan, Sukkur and Abbottabad Press Clubs will work as members of the proposed council.

The team will contact all the press clubs in the country and will also ink a constitution and other regulations for the council. The meeting also announced to hold a national convention of press clubs at Lahore soon.

The announcement came on the heels of a session that stressed need for such a body and called for its establishment earlier in the day.

Speakers and leaders of journalists’ unions were speaking at a panel titled ‘Strengthening Press Clubs’ at the National Media Conference (picture), convened by the Individualland Pakistan.

They said while the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists remains an umbrella organization for journalists in the country, such a body will ensure better coordination among the press clubs and will help resolve issues facing clubs across the country. There is no confrontation between the press clubs and the unions of journalists (UJs) and the proposed council will not run parallel to the PFUJ, they emphasized.

Highlighting press clubs’ role in protecting and promoting democratic values, Imtiaz Faran, President Karachi Press Club, narrated how they were resisting demands to either relocate the press club or stop public demos there, as the club falls in the red zone.

Arshad Ansari, said there has been Section 144 imposed around the Lahore press club for years now to discourage public rallies there. “But we never accepted this restriction, and daily demonstrations tell us that nobody accepts it.”

The panel also discussed ways to overcome financial problems of the clubs. Ansari said Lahore Press Club’s annual budget was over Rs30 million. “Punjab government contributes a mere Rs2.5 million, and we raise the rest through advertising hoardings and other means.”

He said it is shameful that a subeditor gets paid less than a constable in this country, and sought NGO sector’s help in overcoming financial problems of the clubs.

President of the PFUJ Afzal Butt emphasized the need to differentiate between clubs and unions. “Club’s basic purpose is recreation of members whereas a union strives for media workers’ rights.”

But Matiullah Jan took a swipe at the way affairs were being managed at clubs and by the unions. “A club is meant to be just a facility. Its elected body has to exercise its role within the club premises.”

He said corruption is rampant at most press clubs and questioned why public funds are not distributed equally among all the recognized press clubs.

“Unfortunately, clubs are richer and more powerful today than unions, which have lost all their credibility. Clubs should be restricted to their basic role i.e. facilitation of members and the unions should assert themselves.”

Instead of clubs, we should be strengthening unions, Mati concluded.

The chair Saleem Shahid agreed that the profession is faced with all these problems due to its rapid expansion over the last decade.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said clubs are important but should not overtake the unions. He said many union and club members do not fulfill the membership criteria and hence all these problems.

For press clubs, he proposed other ways to generate funds, like enrolling diplomats as ex-officio members, than submitting before the government.

(Published by JournalismPakistan.com here)

All praise for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa RTI law

Activists says the post-colonial behavior of the Pakistani state is the same as the colonial state - opaque and secretive.
Activists says the post-colonial behavior of the Pakistani state is the same as the colonial state – opaque and secretive.

ISLAMABAD: Right to information (RTI) is a contested right in Pakistan as the state is reluctant to grant it to the public, said Rashed Rehman, Editor Daily Times, at the start of a two-day National Media Conference Wednesday.

He said the post-colonial behavior of the Pakistani state was the same as the colonial state – opaque and secretive.

Pakistan was the first country in Asia to have an RTI law in 2002, but it was not the result of demand from within the country. Rather, the Asian Development Bank had conditioned its loan with the introduction of such a law. The Musharraf regime enacted a toothless RTI law that conceded more than it revealed.

Discussants agreed that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s recently-promulgated RTI law is one of the most forward-looking pieces of legislation Pakistan has had. They, however, cautioned that a law is only as good as its implementation mechanism.

The KP law has also outlined its implementation mechanism but an information commission that will oversee its implementation is yet to be established. Under this law, a person can submit a hand-written application and government officials are bound to provide the applicant a certified copy of information they have requested. The law, however, excludes the higher judiciary in the province from what the public can access information about.

Zahid Abdullah, an RTI activist, said even parliament and prime minister can’t access information on certain issues in Pakistan. He said a blanket exemption to security issues is not the way to go about it.

Toby Mendel of the Center for Law and Democracy, Canada, defined RTI as a right to access information held by public bodies. He said the recent KP and Punjab RTI laws are an “incredible breakthrough” in Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s 2002 RTI law was one of the weaker laws. However, the KP law has broken the mould of Pakistani laws. It is stronger than any national law in 95 countries. It is better than the Indian law, which is one of the best in the world,” he remarked. He said Punjab’s law though isn’t as good as KP’s, it is a strong one as it is ranked 18th in national RTI laws in the world.

Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director of CPDI, said: “Our system is exclusionary and secretive. RTI actually challenges this system that has been in vogue since the colonial times in this part of the world. Normally, everything is meant to be secret in Pakistan, except that has been declared otherwise. It ought to be vice versa.”

Though he said the KP and Punjab laws are a step in the right direction, he took a swipe at the federal RTI law that has unanimously been passed by the Senate. One of the defects of the federal law is that it gives parliament a blanket exemption, he said.

Senior journalist Mazhar Abbas lamented journalists’ ignorance of the RTI laws in Pakistan. “Until they know the law, they can’t make any use of it.”

Another session titled ‘Pakistani media, graveyard of trainings?’ discussed how successful NGO sector’s media training efforts have been. Over the last few years, some 15-18 organizations have trained about 4000 journalists in Pakistan. According to the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists (PFUJ), the total number of journalists in the country is 18,000.

“But it seems these numbers haven’t translated into quality journalism in Pakistan so far,” observed Adnan Rehmat, chair of the session.

Senior journalist Shahzada Zulfiqar highlighted how poor law and order was impacting media professionalism in Balochistan. “One feels as insecure in the provincial capital as in Khuzdar and other militancy-hit regions,” he said and added that journalists from interior Balochistan are not so well-educated and thus are in need of more trainings than others.

Iqbal Khattak, Daily Times bureau chief in Peshawar, noted how fierce competition of breaking news was endangering journalists’ lives.

Panelists agreed that trainings should be customized as per needs of various parts of the media industry and apart from reporters, desk staff too need to be trained.

The conference, organized by the Individualland Pakistan, concluded on Nov. 28, 2013.

(Published by JournalismPakistan.com here)

Express Tribune shows the way

ET

The Express Tribune is the first ever newspaper in Pakistan that has developed a style guide to be followed by its reporters, writers and editors. Other newspapers and media outlets here either have no specified style or they follow some foreign style book at best.

The prestigious Dawn newspaper, however, is said to have an internal style manual but some members of the staff are unaware of it. Neither is it publicly available.

The institution of style guide is important to maintain the quality of language at a publication. “The good thing about a style guide is that it’s always right. It’s your view on how things should be done,” writes Ian Jolly, style editor at the BBC.

While there are different, and sometimes contradictory, styles in use at various media houses, consistency can only be achieved if a publication religiously follows a specific style. Otherwise, their reports will keep alternating between, for example, programme/program, fuelling/fueling and so forth.

The Express Tribune has, once again, taken a lead over other publications in Pakistan to compile a brief yet impressive style manual. The paper’s language is less-clichéd than others’ is, and with an exciting design and a thriving online presence, it is shaping the future of print journalism in Pakistan.

“Our print and web editions have made their mark on the media scene not only because of distinctive design but also quality of its content. To continue to work towards maintaining these standards, we thought it best to publish our style book,” writes Kamal Siddiqi, the editor, in the introduction to the style guide.

“It has always been our practice to set standards in the media industry. And this book will help clear the path for others to follow.”

As a keen reader of this paper, I can tell the editor that they have been quite successful at setting standards in print journalism in this country. However, the challenge for The Express Tribune is to institutionalize the style guide and to constantly update it.

While other print and online publications should follow The Express Tribune’s lead, what the paper itself can do is to establish the institution of the readers’ editor. A readers’ editor addresses readers’ complaints. It is a self-regulatory mechanism to redress errors, whether editorial, factual, or ethical. The best example is the Readers’ Editor at The Hindu.

Another thing that our editors and institutions can greatly benefit from is the Guardian style guide on Twitter where Guardian’s style editors answer editing and style-related queries in a fun way.

(This write-up was originally published at Journalism Pakistan here.)