Adil Najam and Owais Mughal
The very first post on ATP came online on June 11, 2006. Today we complete two years of this blog. It has been quite a ride.
Let us start by welcoming a new member to our management team. Please help us welcome Asma Mirza who will join Adil Najam and Darwaish as a Contributing Editor. We are confident that Asma, who has been one of the leaders behind the Islamabad Metroblog, will and many new and wonderful dimensions and perspectives to ATP. Welcome, Asma!
Owais Mughal will continue as the Managing Editor. Bilal Zuberi, who has been so instrumental in setting the initial directions of the blog, will take a hiatus because of his increasing professional responsibilities, but we hope that he will continue with his occasional contributions.
But the real core and spirit of the blog is our readers, our authors and our commenters. For their perseverance, for their companionship and for their community, we thank them all – even those whose comments we sometimes have to moderate out because thy can never seem to fully grasp our comments policy. :-)
The ATP Story:
Today, as we mark our second anniversary, the ATP community has grown beyond anything we could have imagined when we first started: 70+ authors have contributed to more than 1000 posts, which have fascinating as well as frustrating discussions through nearly 39,000 comments (not counting the many thousands that had to be moderated out). In two years we have received some 2 million visits and some 4 million page views, and our posts as well as the comments on those posts are now regularly cited in Pakistani as well as international media.
And it all began on a slow and rather boring summer day, largely as an experiment to find out what a “blog” was. One remembers actually “celebrating” the 100th post largely because we were so surprised that in 35 days we had reached a 100 posts and nearly 600 comments. But it was already clear then that the experiment had turned into something larger than it was originally meant to be; which is why we were already “trying to find a way that it can become a self-operating team-blog.” We formally began that transition to making ATP a team-blog shortly afterwards (August 18, 2006). The next step for ATP was to move to its own domain and adopt a new layout design (September 1, 2006).
In December 2006, as we celebrated our sixth month anniversary, we were still quite surprised at the growth and we noted: “We keep celebrating these milestones (hopefully) not because we are self-obsessed, but because in many ways we are ourselves surprised by the wonderful roller-coaster ride this has been â€¦ and remains.” By the time we completed our first year it was time for another transition. The first anniversary post marked Owais Mughal taking over as the Managing Editor. Soon afterwards (July 18, 2007) the ATP layout went through a major redesign, resulting in what we have been calling ATP3.0. And, now, we find ourselves here.
A Community of Pakistaniat
But all of this is really secondary to what ATP really is, or was meant to be.
ATP’s essence was always to be a community. A community forged out of a common desire to understand, to explore, to debate and to express one’s Pakistaniat. A community does not always agree. Sometimes tempers flare. Often smiles are shared. Occasionally laughter breaks out. Some in every community are perpetually angry. Others only marginally interested. Some act as if they are uncomfortable to even be part of that community. Others cheer-lead even when cheer-leading is not needed. Some help build the community spirit, others assume that they and they alone know what the community is or should be about. Communities celebrate together, communities grieve together, but communities do not always have to agree. They bicker. They sometimes fight. But in moments of joy and in times of grief, they embrace each other again. Such are the dynamics of a community. Such is our ambition.
We may not be there yet, but we would like to believe that we are on the way there. This last year has been full of anger and angst for Pakistan. And the same has been reflected in our pages. Tempers have flared. Hearts have been broken. Blood pressures have gone through the roof. People have said things they might (we hope) later regretted. This is a reflection of the times we have lived through. These times have not been – are not – easy. But for those who keep their eye out for moments of community, there are many to be recognized. Some come out of shared grief. Some out of shared pride. But, most such moments come from the recognition of the small things we share. Those memories of old PTV Ads, of using fountain pens, of drinking chai, of the TV show Fifty-Fifty, of the Naai back home, of Rooh Afza, and of so much more.
On these pages we’ve tried to cultivate this community of Pakistaniat as best as we could. But we have also tried to remain true to our name – All Things Pakistan. We have focused on all things related to Pakistan and stayed away from things that are not directly related to Pakistan. We are not, and do not wish to be, a newspaper or even a new site. But we cannot ignore the unraveling of society and politics and economy in Pakistan. We have had to write on news too often – much more often than we would have wished to write about it – simply because it would have been dishonest to ignore the great news events of our times. We really wish we had to do so less often. It is the news posts that give us the most angst; largely because the news has not been good. But if we are to focus on All Things Pakistan, then we have no option but to try to give our readers a forum where they can try to make sense of the mayhem around them. But, by the same token, we have tried to remain honest to the idea that there are many many facets to any society, and we must focus on all.
Tangay Walla Khair Mangda
One of the first things we had written, right after the first post, was the About section. And the first sentence we had written is what is still the first sentence there: “We hope that ATP (All Things Pakistan) will be about discussion, not rants.” That hope has never wavered, but sometimes we do think that we have failed to meet this mission. Sometimes there is more rant than discussion. We know that many – nearly everyone – is annoyed at us for trying to implement our comment policy through strong moderation. We know that some would prefer no moderation, but we also know that many are like us and seek a certain civility in the discussion. Civility does not mean agreement or running away from tough argumentation. It merely means a certain respect for the other.
The single largest reasons for moderation remain (a) personal attacks, and (b) irrelevance. We are ourselves often attacked personally, and viciously. We know how much it hurts. We therefore assume that others when subject to personal attack will feel the same. Hence, our policies are what they are. Whoever is moderated seems to believe that it is they and only they who are being subjected to moderation. And that this is because of some conspiracy against them and their views, rather than because of their failure to follow the fairly simple principles we have set out in our comment policy. We seem not to be able to convince them otherwise. We take some solace – but only scant solace – in the fact that in just about every controversial post, we tend to moderate out as many posts on each side of the argument. Two years of evidence suggests that the tendency to habitually ignore the stated comment policy, particularly in terms of personal attacks and irrelevance, is not restricted to people of any particular ideological persuasion, or age, or location!
afsos be-shumaar sukhan haaye guftani
khauf-e-fasaad-e-khalq se na-gufta reh gaye
As we had argued in a post long ago, our role is like that of the Tangay Walla in the song “tangay walla khair mangda.” There is “banda rang rang da” on the tonga, and the Tonga Walla cannot choose where they go. All that he can do is to make the journey pleasant and sing the song of Khair (I guess here it means something like â€˜goodnessâ€™ and â€˜friendshipâ€™).
Where from Here
What you see everyday is the public face of ATP. But behind it is a lot of tedious work. Selecting a mix of topics, keeping a large number of authors productive and happy, the actual writing, lots and lots of work into the formatting and design, remaining topical and fresh, all the IT glitches, and much much more. A particularly difficult task is having to pick the posts and also having to sometimes say No to posts that authors have worked very hard on. We have to do so sometimes simply because a particular topic might not fit well in the mix of posts that we have had or are already planning in the stream. We are always grateful to the authors for understanding and for continuing to write.
All of the above can be draining and takes a lot of time. We do it because we enjoy doing it. But it does take a lot of time. Since both of us have rather busy careers otherwise, this time is often taken away from what we would spend with our family. Our wives are understanding and supportive of ATP (and ATP readers) but we owe them a special thanks for their patience and support in being able to run the blog.
To be honest, sometimes the work gets too much and the personal attacks on us and our integrity get under our skin. Occasionally we have had conversations about whether we should just close the site down. Not just because of the time pressures and the angst, but much more because there are so many other, and better, blogs that have come up. The Pakistani blogshpere has blossomed. We would like that some have picked up a thing or two from ATP, we know that we have picked up lots and lots from lots and lots of other Pakistani blogs. Maybe it is time for us to hang our gloves. To say goodbye and let others carry on the work. Our ambition remains to be able to create a team dedicated enough and enough in line with the ethos of ATP to be able to step back.
Over the last two years our team has grown and we have welcomed many many new authors. We hope to welcome even more in the coming year. Ultimately, we hope that future installments of these anniversary posts might mention our names but would be written by someone else.
So, let us end with something we had written in or 2007 New Year Post:
Our goals are modest. We have no illusions that this, or any, blog can change the realities that are. But we do believe that in talking about this thing we call Pakistaniat, we begin contributing to its creation.
Ideas are important in the lives of nations. Action, of course, is more important; but action without ideas is dangerous and actions based on the wrong ideas can be disastrous.
Ours is the dukandaari of ideas. But we cherish our wares because we believe that good ideas can – and will – spur good actions.
Thank you for two years of your support. Note how in many of our posts we use the words “we” and “our” a lot. We really and truly believe that “you” are part of that “we” of that “our.” We hope you feel the same way. So, please, help us take your blog to newer and better places.
P.S. The photography art in this post is from Razzaq Vance.