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Restraint by media will aid peace process

by Foqia Sadiq Khan, 23 December 2008

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December 12, 2008

The Indian as well as the Pakistani media, particularly the electronic one, has been extremely irresponsible in its coverage of the Mumbai carnage. India and Pakistan have dozens of electronic media channels but they seem, by and large, to lack the responsibility that comes with running them in times of crisis.

It was distasteful to see the Indian media engage in Pakistan- bashing even before the operation to flush out the terrorists was completed. It was equally distasteful to see the Pakistani electronic media raise hysteria against India, rather than showing solidarity at such an hour of crisis.

It seems both India and Pakistan are living in denial of their deeds. India seems to be in denial of the Kashmir issue and the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan seems to be in denial of becoming a hotbed of terrorists. Whether it is the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, the attack on commuter trains in Spain in March 2004 or the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2008, there is always some kind of connection to Pakistani actors or groups.

Pakistan seems to have become a safe haven for terrorists who kill innocent people mostly in Pakistan but also in the rest of the world. This grave realisation was completely missing in any analysis by the electronic media in Pakistan.

One cannot overlook the US role in all this. Had America not imposed its proxy war on Pakistan 1979 onwards, Pakistan and the rest of the world would have been a much safer place now.

It was the CIA- financed war, operationalised by the ISI that created a network of global jihadis which has now blown back on America, Pakistan and the rest of the world.

American imperialism played a definite role in making Pakistan do its dirty job and Zia- ul- Haq’s military government was more than willing to receive huge military aid and be an active promoter of the jihadi culture that has come to haunt everyone today.

But we cannot turn the clock back.

We have to deal with the fallout and clear our mess. This cannot be done if both India and Pakistan continue to live in a state of denial and blame each other.

The Indian security forces have to own up to their atrocities in Kashmir since late 1980s. Indian right wing religious fundamentalists have burned churches and destroyed the Babri Masjid and carried out a massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.

It is a complete failure of the Indian state that something as gruesome as the Gujarat massacre happened in the first place. It is an even bigger failure that the government of Narendra Modi has not been held accountable for it so far. Having said that, no amount of injustice condones the murderous attacks in Mumbai, violence cannot end violence - it only leads to more violence.

Pakistan has to accept a clear responsibility since terrorists seemed to have come from Pakistan. The recent arrests of the mastermind of Mumbai carnage and others members of the banned Laskhar- e- Taiba by Pakistani security agencies is a step in the right direction.

Pakistan has also offered to carry out a joint investigation of the attacks.

To quote an example from the Pakistani media, Lt- Gen ( retired) Salahuddin Tirmizi openly referred to India as dushman mulk ( enemy country) in a top talk show aired at prime time - and this was while the tragedy was still unfolding in Mumbai with militants still in a shootout at the Taj.

Is this the way neighbours express solidarity at such a delicate moment of mayhem and crisis? One wonders why such a jingoistic commentator was invited by a prime private TV channel, in the first place.

Unfortunately, Pakistanis do not have access to the Indian media. If they did, there would be many more such examples to quote from India as well. One gets the sense from the media coverage and after talking to peace activists in India that the Indian media has been extremely jingoistic as well.

Simi Garewal, the popular TV host, is reported to have said in a talk show: "Go to the Four Seasons and look down from the top floor at the slums around you. Do you know what flags you will see? Not the Congress’, not the BJP’s, not the Shiv Sena’s.

Pakistan! Pakistani flags fly high!... You know what I think? We should carpet bomb Pakistan. That’s the only way we can give a clear message." Could anyone in the right state of mind make or carry such a statement? In Pakistan, the electronic media would take statements from the Indian left and present it as a proof of intolerance in India. Shabana Azmi’s clip about her inability to find a flat in Mumbai due to her Muslim name was played time and again on the Pakistani media. So were the gruesome scenes of the Gujarat massacre.

I think it was opportunistic of the Pakistani media to pick and choose the statements of the members of the Indian left to suit their propaganda objectives.

It was also extremely irresponsible of the Indian media to beat war drums due to an act of terrorism. Pakistan itself faces the greatest danger of terrorism. It has become a hotbed of terrorists but it needs to be helped rather than being ’carpet- bombed’. One hopes that better sense will prevail on both sides and unadulterated blame games and muscle flexing will give way to restraint, rationality, moderation and sanity.

(Courtesy: Mail Today)