Monday, September 27, 2010

TBR: Last Week In Charts

So I’m trying out a new kind of post: compressing the week gone by into charts.

Why am I doing this? Maybe because it makes the three of us look smart. But mostly because it’s amusing and I admit I wanted to test out some new graphs and models before I tried them out at work.

The events I chose from the past week are as follows, listed by alphabets:

A. Ejaz Butt and his foot-in-mouth moment;
B. Petrol scarcity across Pakistan;
C. Violence in Karachi following the murder of Imran Farooq;
D. SC -warranted arrests of Brig. Imtiaz, former head of Intelligence Bureau/OGDC MD;
E. PPP reconsiders alliance with MQM;
F. Pakistan’s economic ranking falls;
G. PILDAT study of MNA assets and reaction from politicians;
H. Faculties protest, shut down universities over higher ed. cuts;
I. Introduction of private high treason bill in NA;
J. PAC denied information over ambiguous ISI spending;
K. NATO admits to pursuing militants across Pakistan border;
L. PM discusses future of Pakistan with Bilawal;
M. Alliance of PML factions suggested;
N. Musharraf reported to enjoy widespread support in Pakistan;
O. Indian FO offers talks with Pakistan over Kashmir;
P. Aafia Siddiqui sentenced to 86 years in jail;
Q. New competition bill passed;
R. Minister Jatoi sacked for remarks on Army, CJ; and
S. NRO beneficiaries reported to face axe.


First, here’s graph 1, which maps out the progression of political drama as the week went by (click image to enlarge).

How to read the graph: The high-drama events are shown by a dark-blue bar that heads upwards. The low-drama events (the ones you would want to see hyped, debated and deliberated but weren’t) are shown by lighter-blue bars headed downwards from the top of the dark-blue bars, cutting into the total drama. The letters used in the list above correspond to the relevant bars in the graph.

So, some interesting points to note: drama last week was at its lowest when university faculty rallied against cuts to higher education funding, shutting down university campuses across the country. At the same time during the week, the opposition introduced a rather controversial bill that, if passed, would allow citizens to initiate legal proceedings against individuals for high treason.

The high point, on the other hand, comes at the end of the week: with news that Pakistanis now support Musharraf overwhelmingly being followed by the Afia Siddiqui verdict, Minister Jatoi’s sacking and the news that NRO beneficiaries may be headed out of the government.

At the end of it all, we see that cumulative drama was +190, which shows that our politicians are drama queens and we are a willing audience.


Now let’s translate this graph into another (graph 2) to see how hype corresponded with actual significance (click image to enlarge).

In this graph, look at quadrant IV – here are the usual suspects: higher education, the economy and changes to legal frameworks. These are all aspects that actually count and make a difference in the way the state interacts with people.

Quadrant II has important political developments, which actually shows that about half the things causing a frenzy last week were actually important.

Then there’s quadrant I: the useless consultations with Bilawal, Ejaz Butt putting the proverbial foot in the mouth, issues of sovereignty as NATO admits to crossing over the Pakistan border (face it, it’s probably happened before) and, of course, Afia Siddiqui. These are the things that captured our imaginations but had little real significance.


The lesson: I’ll leave you free to draw your conclusions. But there’s one overarching lesson – obvious but often forgotten – to be drawn from all of this: that the developments that draw the least attention in the media and the political scene are often the ones most significant.


  1. So how exactly did you calculate 'political drama'? Like, what makes an event +10 and another +5? Newspaper headlines, talk-show topics, word-on-the street?

    Also, I love point L. I'm sure the PM got some great advice!

  2. Yeah, it's mostly subjective but attention in newspaper (front page, second page), how much different people are talking about it; how many times the news was circulated online, stuff like that.