Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lesson for Pakistani 'Free' Media

US military and media go hand-in-hand

While there are risks inherent to going down a more punitive path with Pakistan, the recent information on ISI links to the attack in the US Embassy leaves the US with no other option,” says Lisa Curtis, a South Asia expert at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.

The relentless American campaign against Pakistan should serve a lesson for the media and politicians of Pakistan, who sing the songs of patriotism and freedom, much at the cost of Pakistan it claims to love. The lesson is: when it comes to national security and foreign policies, the US media stands alongside its military and political leadership on the "official line."

It is for everyone to notice how the US media has refrained from questioning their military's failures in Afghanistan and seem to have a single-minded approach in putting all the blame on their long-time ally in this War on Terrorism – Pakistan. And this became more apparent for us when the representatives of US military and intelligence on separate occasions, blasted the Pakistan's intelligence for a series of attack by Afghan resistance groups against the US and NATO targets. Furthermore, the attack on the CIA compound on Sunday in Kabul, where at least one US citizen has been killed, the US media continues to ignore the constant failures of their military and intelligence.

This is exactly what happened when last week Leon Panetta, US Defense Secretary, and Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), held a press briefing and not a single American journalist questioned the theory of a foreign government – Pakistan – being alone responsible for the US setbacks, instead they bought it straight on face value. Similarly, later when Admiral Mike Mullen testified in front of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, not a single American politician or bureaucrat questioned their Chiefs of Staff over his theory of blame-Pakistan for recent attacks on US forces in Afghanistan.

If one had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Panetta and Mr. Mullen, it was even more stunning the advice the two gentlemen had to give to the US media. Mr. Panetta impertinently spun the recent attacks on American targets as a sign of America's victory, while on the other side, Mr. Mullen blatantly asked the media not to exaggerate on the impact of attacks on US embassy and NATO offices. In fact, according to American journalists, both the Pentagon and CIA have secretly conveyed messages to major US Media organizations that they should refrain from questioning their failures in the media so as to not demoralize their troops in Afghanistan.

These all allegations against Pakistan and its intelligence behind the attacks on US targets are as usual without any evidence, which would certainly not be made public (if they had any) nor would they present it privately, like their Pakistani counterparts had asked for and the US plainly refused to do so.

The present situation of US media and politicians uniting on issues of foreign policies is not new, if anything it is a throwback of what happened in 2003, when Colin Powell famously sat in the UN Security Council and openly lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. To back US's claim, the New York Post Times and Walls Street Journal allied with the CIA, going to the extent of publishing stories written by media managers of Pentagon and CIA aimed at convincing the world as well as their American people against Iraq.

The situation sadly, however, in Pakistan is a lot different.

Like in one of our previous blogs, we talked about the dubious role of Pakistani media; here also it has been rather contentious. The Pakistani media carries out reports and commentaries where they constantly question, and even ridicule Pakistan's core national security interests in the region. Some analysts have even gone as far as endorsing the US tactics as well as their claims, not to forget that there have been numerous such Pakistani analysts who are on the pay-roll of US government to influence Pakistani public opinion.

These Pakistani analysts also have access to major Pakistani newspaper columns where they reproduce American media stories and statements that are of a propagandist in nature, without questioning such claims, at times with same headlines and titles. This also multiplies the effect of influencing the common man of Pakistan, all done in the garb of 'free-reporting' without realizing the repercussions Pakistan might have to face for all this.

It may be argued that Pakistan media is nationalist in difficult times, but they have constantly failed as an entity to counter the anti-Pakistan rhetoric from the US and its allies since the start of the Afghan Operation in 2001. If anything, the commentators and hosts of different talk-shows take the US allegations so seriously and start to hit the panic-button that it looks as if Pakistan would turn into Iraq in a matter of days. The hosts of various talk-shows start to project to their viewers by questioning their guests in a such a subtle way that one starts to wonder about the competence and abilities of our military. The frequently asked question, in response to the allegations of US, by such hosts to their guests are “What would we do?” is more to create confusion, raise questions over our military and intelligence, and also give credibility to such baseless and unfounded allegations of US. One such instance where a respectable television host of a popular talk-show shares a report just yesterday, (citing his highly-placed sources) where the US has identified 362 possible targets within Pakistan to be attacked by the latter. It does beg a question that what was his point in sharing such a report with his guests and the viewers, apart from creating panic and chaos among the ranks? Furthermore, he was found on the wrong side of fence where he constantly questioned the Pakistan Army preparedness and had the same sarcastic question as to “what can we do?” if the US decides to launch an attack on Pakistan soil.

However, having said that, part of the blame for this Pakistan media malarkey falls on the government and the military, who have time and again failed to give a viable narrative on the foreign policies of Pakistan, thus failing to use media as their foreign policy tool. Pakistan is the only country in this entire region from Far East to Middle East that doesn't have a single television channel that targets the global audience.

Washington's successful campaign of demonizing Pakistan in the world media since the start of the War is not just because of the effective functioning of the American propaganda, but also due to the absence of a strong Pakistani response to the Washington. The world audience has not been reached by Pakistan at all to give their explanations and counter-arguments in response to America's propaganda. And this is a void that needs to be filled in by the military and the government using the media as their tool. Goes without saying, “the quicker, the better” it is for Pakistan.

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