Nasima Zehra Awan laments the media romances with sectarian Islamists while the country drowns
The August 21st editorial by DAWN is a good example of what is wrong with the media in Pakistan. “Hardliners and Flood Relief” is precisely the kind of vacillating apologia for extremists that is the bane of the local media.A media that has anointed itself as “Independent” for hounding out elected politicians at the behest of a powerful establishment, has failed in informing the public about the various Islamist militant groups and their agendas. In this regard, it is baffling that DAWN’s editorial prefers to maintain an Ostrich-like approach to the exponentially growing existential threat from these sectarian bigots.
President Zardari is absolutely correct in pointing out this threat. The exclusive bashing of elected PPP leaders is the national sport in our elite drawing rooms and reflects our impotent rage that can never be directed at the actual source of our problems but at those who cannot strike back. It is therefore sad that DAWN follows suit and completely disregards the warning of Pakistan’s elected president and chooses to maintain the establishment-led status quo in protecting its Jihadi assets.
In covering the hundreds of targeted killings of minority sects and religious groups like the Ahmadis, Shias and Christians, DAWN studiously maintains a policy of obfuscating the issue via the use of euphemisms. In doing so, it dishonestly creates a false symmetry between the victims (Ahmadis, Shias and Christians) and their killers, the vast nexus of sectarian Salafist Jihadi groups like Sipah Sahaba, its militant wing, Lashkar Jhangvi, Lashkar Tayabba, Jaish Mohammad and Harkat ul Mujahideen amongst a host of other related subsidiaries. For a newspaper that allies itself with Jinnah, the irony that the country’s Shiite Muslim founder would have been a fair game for these sectarian groups is completely lost on DAWN!
Since the beginning of the flood crisis, Pakistan’s media has preferred to lynch the elected government as opposed to galvanizing the public and the International community towards relief efforts. In trying to divert attention away from banned groups who are using the tragedy of these floods to increase their hold on Pakistan, DAWN has allied itself with the same reactionary and bigoted class that prefers an authoritarian future for Pakistan under an increasingly monolithic and supremacist identity that abhors a pluralist ethos. In both the 2005 Earthquake tragedy and in the current devastation caused by the floods, these sectarian-Jihadi groups have been facilitated and financed at the expense of the State to carry out relief efforts. While the Government has been consistently blocked, distanced, misrepresented and denied, the armed forces, which are constitutionally under the direction of the Government and who are funded by the public are lauded for doing what is their duty and what is customary in any part of the world. Similarly, the sight of banned sectarian groups who are being funded by the Punjab Government, openly discriminating in their relief efforts on the basis of sect (refer to the case of hundreds of Ahmadis being denied relief by Jamaat Dawa/LeT) is being glossed over and mostly ignored by DAWN and other similar corporate media outlets.
The reason that the International community is skeptical about giving aid to Pakistan is not because of Transparency International’s statistics that have remained largely the same since the last 4 years. Its because of the clear divide between a helpless and hounded elected Government that prefers to engage with the world and a jingoist establishment that wants to berate the Government for accepting foreign aid on a warped basis of honour(ghairat). The International community is skeptical because this aid is then siphoned off for buying more weaponary and toys for the Jihadi monsters who attack NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan when they are not too busy killing thousands of Pakistanis back home. The International community is skeptical about aid and relief efforts to Pakistan because it does not want its money to go to Jihadis and its own volunteers to be the targets of these Jihadis while they are in Pakistan.
The public credibility with the Government can be addressed in the next elections. However, how does one deal with the obvious lack of credibility of the media? In a drowning country, how does one deal with a media whose bias for Islamist militias has graduated from a blossoming romance to a full scale marriage. How does one make sense of how DAWN concludes its editorial:
“Also, the concept of charity is a major motivational factor with all religious organisations, not just Islamic ones. So the hardliners’ response to the floods is more likely to be guided by a sense of religious obligation than an opportunity to win more recruits.”
Really, charity!! Where is this charitable spirit and this religious obligation when the same sectarian militias are killing thousands of Pakistanis all over the land. How can one call this charity when the resources used by these Jihadi groups are the very same resources that have been diverted to them from the State and their local and foreign patrons. Where is this charitable spirit when relief is provided and denied on the basis of sect! In Sindh, Hindu families have publicly taken the responsibility to feed their Muslim countrymen. Non-Muslim countries are finally donating hundreds of millions to the PPP lead Government due to the efforts of the much maligned President and Prime Minister, even as two bit TV anchors like Talat Hussain can get away with their brazen lies to the BBC that the couple of hundred thousand dollars collected by him and Kashif Abbasi exceeds the entire collection of the Government! Yet, editorials like this one in DAWN and those shouting matches on GEO have only one agenda; malign the Government and glorify the Jihadis. If the latter is not possible, at least diminish their malevolence even if its means that facts on the ground have to be distorted. If these are the standards of the country’s premier English daily, one shudders to think what scurrilous rags that are openly beholden to the Jamaat Islami are publishing.
History will not forgive the negative role played by the Pakistani media at this crucial juncture. While the country is being ravaged by floods, the media spent more time cheering the shoe thrown at the President by a Hizb ul Tahrir activist; a shoe thrown in protest against the nascent democratic set up in Pakistan and in the hope of establishing a totalitarian caliphate. While floods ravage a third of the total area of Pakistan and have rendered 20 million people homeless, our media, including DAWN, has thrown its lot in with the establishment and its political game of lynching the elected political class, especially those from the PPP and ANP. Nero fiddled while Rome burnt and our media romances sectarian Islamist brutes while the country drowns.
Wait for the next editorials – “Al-Qaeda is a global charity movement” and “Taliban are a group of rescuers”!!
(the views expressed here are those of the author and should not construed as PTH’s position on this issue)