How free is Pakistani media? Are they free from the clutches of military? Many Pakistanis believe that the current agitation against the Sharif government is backed by the military. There are recorded accounts of Pakistani journalists—and politicians as well as the clergy – being on the pay roll of the military….writes Syed Shihabudhin
Being a country firmly under the grip of its military, it is not surprising to find the so-called liberals in Pakistan support the feverish attempt in their country to berate and belittle India. The stereophonic anti-India campaign has been undertaken in the vain hope that it will pull Pakistan out of its near pariah state in the world—and send India into that condemned position.
The Modi government is, of course, the starting point of the Pakistani tirade and so are the ‘Hindu right’ groups, a thinly disguised reference to the majority community in India which patriotic Pakistanis learn to hate all through their life. But the more notable feature is the attack on the Indian media for towing the official line against Pakistan. This is supposed to be very different from what the Pakistani media does.
That must surely be laughable because it cannot be believed that the Pakistan government, judiciary or the media can function independent of military control. The case of a Dawn journalist being ‘harassed’ because he had written a story to suggest that the country’s military and the civilian government are divided over the use of terror against India, was an exception to the rule. It does not disprove the fact of military’s iron grip in Pakistan.
The Pakistani media cannot establish its ‘independence’ by citing selective criticism of the government on issues that are not of much interest to the country’s military. Criticising political parties actually serves the Pakistani military interest most of the time.
Many in Pakistan itself believe that the current agitation against the Nawaz Sharif government in Pakistan is backed by the military. There are recorded accounts of Pakistani journalists—and politicians as well as the clergy–being on the pay roll of the military.
The Pakistani media has contributed a lot to lionizing the outgoing army chief Raheel Sharif. There is a chorus demanding his elevation to the rank of Field Marshal—and extension of his term. No previous army chief of Pakistan was projected as a larger than life figure even when venerated or feared by the media. Newspapers as a routine carry more news—and photographs—about the army chief than the civilian head of the executive; all laudatory. In which other ‘democratic’ country do you see this?
Taking its cue from the military, the Pakistani media without exception holds that peace and normal relations with India will not be possible without first resolving the Kashmir dispute, even when some comments may appear advocating trade-related moves to improve relations with India.
And let there be no doubt that when the Pakistanis seek ‘resolution’ of the Kashmir issue what they mean is that the Indian state should be transferred to Pakistan. There is no other way of ‘resolving’ the issue is the collective belief of the country’s government, military and the media.
A fresh example of how the Pak media reflects the views of the military has been much in evidence lately as India-Pakistan tension reaches its acme.
The Pakistani media narrative will have us believe that (i) It is always India that resorts to ‘unprovoked’ firing along the borders, (ii) Pakistan does not send terrorists to India, much less train and equip them, (iii) Indian security forces are never able to inflict any damage on their counterparts in Pakistan, and (iv) Exchange of fire at the borders results in heavy casualties among Indian security forces but on the Pakistani side it is the civilians who suffer.
Can the Pakistani media say honestly that it publishes blind allegations against India after every terror attack with no credible evidence in its possession? The Pakistani media has no equals in publishing outlandish reports to malign India.
Every media outlet in Pakistan talks of Indian hand behind the raging long-time insurgency in Balochistan but has not thought it necessary to back it up with ‘evidence’, except to refer to Indian presence in Afghanistan or the so-called confessional statement of Indian ‘spies’ arrested in Pakistan.
After the police in India caught a Pakistani high commission clerk, described as a ‘diplomat’, with his pants down as he was receiving classified documents from his Indian contacts, the Pakistanis, media included, rejected the charge. Instead, the Pakistani narrative was that the tit-for-tat act of expulsion of an Indian employee of the Indian high commission in Islamabad was on a more solid ground. Was the Indian caught red-handed? Was he in touch with Pakistanis for buying classified information?
Spying is a time-honored universal phenomenon though it is always talked of in hushed tones. India exposes its own weakness and laxity in vigilance whenever a Pakistani spy ring is busted in the country. But it is certain that the Pakistanis are more focused on raising an army of spies in India than India is doing so in their country because of certain advantages that Pakistan enjoys over India. It should not be necessary to mention those factors because that might divert the debate to an unrelated and irrelevant issue.
When Inder Kumar Gujral, a ‘Pappi-Jhappi’ loving Punjabi politician, was the prime minister one of his worst decisions was to order winding up of Indian ‘assets’ in Pakistan. It has not been possible for India to restore the level of its ‘assets’ in Pakistan since then. The ‘Pappi-Jhappi’ politics failed to alter the course of India-Pakistan relations.
According to Pakistan the expulsion of its national from India was in violation of the Vienna Convention on treating diplomats. Many former Indian diplomats (and their families) unfortunate enough to have been posted in the Land of the Pure would testify to the manner in which Pakistan observes the Vienna Convention—by invading their homes and beating up family members, including women and children.
The kind of ‘jingoism’ displayed by some sections of the Indian media has been widely condemned in India, but it is not for the Pakistani media or their ‘liberals’ to level that charge against India. Scan the Pakistani media, the comments of the ‘liberals’ and it will be as clear as day light that they beat by miles their Indian counterparts in being jingoist. Being anti-India is a badge of honour for Pakistanis, especially their media.
About a year ago, two English dailies of Pakistan were involved in a ‘war’ in which one side accused the rival of being ‘pro-India’ because it was a partner in ‘Aman ki Asha’ joint venture with an Indian daily.
In response, the accused paper declared with some ‘pride’ that it carried more ‘anti-India’ stories than anyone. That could be right because this paper is from a Media House that own an Urdu daily that called itself ‘Jang’ (war), making it clear from its reporting that it stood for war against India. But this self-confessing anti-India paper has a surfeit of ‘liberal’ commentators!