Pakistan can't take jokes, panelists lament at KLF

Nida Mujahid Hussain
Pakistan can't take jokes, panelists lament at KLF

KARACHI: One would expect loads of laughter when senior journalists Zarrar Khuhro, Wusutullah Khan, and Mubashir Zaidi grace the stage together. After all, their television show has gained popularity for its wit, humour, and unconventional choice of topics.

As anticipated, the large crowd of people packed into the Aquarius hall of the Beach Luxury Hotel on Friday, the second day of the Karachi Literature Festival, were anything but disappointed. Right in the middle of the discussion, Zarrar Khuhro flipped out his phone. "I want to take a picture to show my family. No one will believe so many people came," he quipped.

The audience cracked up.

Famous columnist Nadeem F. Paracha (NFP), who was the moderator for the session, set the tone for the discussion by asking, "How would you differentiate between satire and truth?"

"The biggest misconception of our times is that satire isn’t truth. One can deliver the harshest of truths in the form of satire," said Wusutullah Khan in response.

"We have forgotten the element of humour in our life. We used to get five to six jokes on our phone daily. Now, when was the last time you got a joke?" Wusutullah continued.

Zarrar Khuhro chimed in, "That's because you don't use WhatsApp."

The discussion progressed to how the Pakistani society was losing its sense of humour to the extent, Zarrar Khuhro pointed out, "One has to write disclaimers underneath satirical opinion pieces."

"Disclaimers under satire are far funnier than the post itself," said Zarrar Khuhro.

Another noteworthy point raised by Khuhro was that, over time, the quality of 'fake news' is increasing. He added that the level of satirical content is also getting a boost.

As the discussion progressed, Wusutullah Khan lamented that the society's IQ and capacity to understand humour has vanished over the years.

The journalist said that Pakistani people do not focus on the content but rather the way it is delivered, be it sarcasm or satire.

Mubashir Zaidi was of a slightly different opinion, it appeared. He said that, in this day and age when television anchors are no longer unbiased, people have become wiser and know what is true and what is fabricated.

At the beginning, another notable thing happened when NFP likened Zarrar to Hollywood actor Woody Allen.

"He has not disappointed me since," said NFP, while also lauding his colleague's impeccable sense of humour.

NFP recalled the old days, saying Zarrar's English and Sindhi were quite good, but that his Urdu needed polishing.

Out of nowhere during mid-session, Wusutullah asked if now onwards he could call Woody Allen, 'Zarrar of Hollywood’, attracting a gale of laughter from the audience.

During the question and answer session, the audience focused more on Zarrar than other panelists – a grievance that was openly articulated by Wusutullah in a good-natured way.

Mubashar Zaidi, while responding to one of the questions, said that every society has problems.

He said that issues such as corruption are present in even developed countries.

He said that we need to stop pointing fingers in order to progress and take collaborative efforts to progress.

When asked by one of the audience members when the society and media will openly embrace satire, Wusutullah was of the opinion that this wasn’t the case some forty years ago.

"People used to openly say whatever they wanted," he said.

The panelists agreed that currently our society operates under self-censorship.

"Silence is the root cause, we need to speak up more," said Zarrar, adding that Pakistanis constantly live in the fear of speaking up.

"Those who don’t laugh upon themselves, the world laughs on them," he said.