A German journalist, who heads the South Asia Bureau of ARD Radio and is based in New Delhi, was visiting Pakistan last week. His question to me was very direct and blunt: “Who runs Pakistan?” By implication the question was loaded, as it means that there is a doubt in the international community that the new democratic government is the real ruler. In the context of the recent Mumbai attack, it also shows that the thrust of the reporter’s story would be that the PPP-led government is not controlling the India policy of Pakistan. So, all the talk of President Zardari to open up trade and investment doors between the two countries is at best his personal opinion.
My reply to him was that Pakistan has been ruled for a long time by the military directly and indirectly, so the tussle between the democratic government and military establishment for space would continue. So far the national security policies have a prominent hallmark of the establishment and the civilian government had had little say.
Today when Pakistan has been completely isolated and is facing tremendous pressure to walk the talk about taking action against the Jihadi organisations, we cannot beat around the bush. The reaction of majority of journalists and politicians in Pakistan is that of denial. Some channels anchors and talk shows hosts even went over-board in the name of ‘Nationalism.’ Listening to them it seemed that the attack has been on Karachi or Islamabad and not Mumbai. The choice of guests was also very selective and one-sided. As a result the whole emphasis of broadcasts was that India shouldn’t have raised a finger at Pakistan, although the Indian Prime Minister was cautious in his accusation as he talked about “some elements in Pakistan” and did not blame the government directly.
One TV journalist defended his channel in a private gathering on the ground that we should have watched some leading Indian channels who were talking against Pakistan. Thus he said our media had to respond but acted better than them. Undoubtedly, there are many holes in the Indian story, undisputedly, majority of the Indian politicians and electronic media lost their balance and jumped to conclusions, and certainly, some Indian leaders and celebrities angrily called for bombing Pakistan. But does that mean we should react to them instead of following a saner path. Number of Pakistani and Indian journalists were also cautious not to play in the hands of the terrorists who wanted to reverse the normalisation process.
Unfortunately alongside over 200 victims of Mumbai carnage there lies the body of objectivity and sanity on both sides of the border. The journalists were heard taking pride in taking a Nationalist stand. The question is should the journalists be blinded by “Nationalism?” I think if one has to be objective he/she has to de-National, de-class, de-religion, de-ethnic and de-race himself/herself. It’s easy to be objective and enlightened at somebody else’s expense. But it is tough at ones own expense. Particularly, when one has to be dispassionate about something one belongs to. One has to rise above all prejudices to analyse any issue.
Ruling establishment in most countries demand that journalists should safeguard the national interest. Many among us fall for this trick. The parameters of this ‘National interest’ are set by the ruling classes, what we have to see is whether the policies based on these lines are pro-people or anti-people – that is the only bias a journalist should have. Let’s look at this in the present context.
Pakistani establishment has nurtured militant Jihadi organisations for many decades now. They think that these Jihadis are a national asset against India and the Afghan Taliban are assets in Afghanistan. The mess we are in has proved beyond any doubt that these organisations are actually liabilities. We are bleeding at their hands. They have become so powerful that they want to dictate the country’s foreign policy. The parliament says that Pakistan should not allow anybody to use its territory for interference in other countries. Taliban and Jihadi organisations are openly violating this mandate of the people of Pakistan. Instead they believe that Pakistan should continue its support to the Taliban and India-specific Jihad.
The media should not defend these people just because the Indians and Americans are against them. That is a negative approach. We should not let our anti-India and anti-American feelings overpower sanity. We should keep in mind that the poor people of Pakistan want peace with their neighbours and cannot afford to be hijacked by the militants.
In all religions there is a provision of ‘Toba,’ ‘Confession’ and ‘Yom Kippur’. The idea is to first accept ones mistakes, (if sins is a harsher word), repent on them and not commit such mistakes again. Our problem is we are in a state of denial, so how can we move on to the correct path. I am not saying that Pakistan should immediately accept responsibility of Mumbai attacks. But we should take a pause and do some honest soul searching. That we have number of such militant organisation which are anti-India cannot be denied. The same is true for India which has a number of homegrown militant movements rising from sharp inequality and brutal state suppression.
On the other hand the Indian government and media should realise that the Mumbai attacks were actually Mr. Zardari’s Kargil. Nawaz Sharif’s peace efforts were torpedoed by Musharraf clique. Zardaris bold moves for taking relations with India to another level were sabotaged by Mumbai attackers. And this suits both the Islamic and Hindu militants. Saner people on both sides of the border can save the situation by defeating agent provocateurs. (firstname.lastname@example.org Blog: babarayaz.wordpress.com)