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Who is Fighting Pakistan’s Media War?

By Dr Shahid Qureshi
Once armed forces to go war politicians and intellectuals normally shut up and support their soldiers, keep their views for later because(a) it demoralise the soldiers,(b) negative impact on the moral (c) create doubts about the legitimacy of the mission. Pakistani politicians especially religious and other parties should show maturity, stop giving immature statements and should visit the soldiers on the frontline. President Zardari should also visit soldiers on the frontline when he is visiting Pakistan?

Anti Pakistan armed forces statements by so called religious democrats feeds into the enemy propaganda and media war against the country? A defence analyst said, ‘ no one still ask why more then 100,000+ allied troops surrendered to Japan in WWII and kept POWs for years? Similarly Pakistani politicians should show maturity during the operation, stop quoting 1971 without full analysis, understanding.

One of the root causes of the biased and negative press coverage in the international media in current climate is the laid back and 19th century approach adopted by the pen pusher officials posted in the various Pakistani foreign missions especially in Europe and USA. Obviously they are part of the most inefficient and corrupt bureaucracy in the world? People hardly see names of the press and other officials in the guest lists of the various important functions in important capitals specially London. Some officials came out with a new trick which is registering for the event but not attending at all or partly attending? Pakistan and politicians should show maturity during the operation and President Zardari should visit soldiers on the front-line when he is visiting

It would be interesting to know how many press and media complaints were made to ‘Ofcom’, BBC, Press Complaint Commission and letter to editors in past year by the most expansive Press Office at Pakistan High Commission in London. In the past 6 years and currently the High Commissioner’s office is occupied by former journalists but nothing has changed? One hopes that the current pair of former seasoned journalists H.E. Wajid Shamsulhasan High Commissioner and his Deputy Asif Durani make some difference to the rotten system?

While looking at the coverage of President Zardari’s various visits to London, it seems that President Zardari hardly use the costly press office as he is already tuned in with British media? President Zardari hardly interact with Pakistani media abroad but did give an interview during his last trip to his late wife’s friend British journalist Christina Lamb, who was kicked out of Pakistan for reportedly buying an air ticket from Quetta to Karachi on the name of ‘Osma bin Laden probably to prove incompetence of Pakistan? Ms Sultana Rizvi Press Counsellor was seemingly left unsupported by the great politicians while ethnic media was left high and dry for more than four hours?

Few years ago probably Maleeha Lodhi said, “Information Ministry in Pakistan should be shut down.” She was angry when senior journalists travelling with Pakistani President were booked in a Hotel as (PIA) Pakistan International Airline’s staff close to Heathrow Airport while President was staying in central London miles away. People ask what is the purpose of keeping this white elephant which is full of incompetence? No offence but poor Pakistanis are paying very heavy price to keep these officials here in London?

Press Officers posted abroad are considered as vanguards of the national interests of the state. They are front door/link to the out side world media and journalists. So if we spend tens of thousands of pounds on the decoration and presentation of our own front rooms and doors. Then people are not sure if current setup at the High Commission is able to cope with the media pressures in London. It seems that the office is scared to lodge proper official protests/complaints to the British Media for biased stories for example BBC Newsnight after the arrests of Pakistani students, and the terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore? It would be interesting to know how many complaints to the electronic media Ombudsman, Ofcom, BBC, and Press Complaint commission were made by the Press Office costing millions to poor Pakistanis.

There is no doubt that Pakistan get biased press from international media organisation for various reasons. The important question is what strategy adopted to counter this? Leaving the post of Press/media ministers vacant or replacing with a junior means (a) one don’t care abut the national interests of the state (b) no understanding of the threats to the country (c) one want to see failure? One can ask would you let a junior surgeon perform your heart surgery. Surely not. Then if one does not allow an inexperienced surgeon to perform his/her heart surgery, how come it is ok to place corrupt and incompetent officials to represent the country at a station like London? Some one said, ‘it is hard to teach these arrogant officials new media techniques as old habits cannot be changed and ‘it is hard to teach new tricks to the old dogs’?

At a time when millions are displaced in Pakistan, dozens are killed in military operation Qamar Zaman Kaira current Minister of Information and Kashmir Affairs was kicked out of an exclusive dancing club ‘Ghungro’ on 42nd Street in New York also branded as ‘Taliban’. The club is reportedly famous for having semi nude Indian dancers and might have cost $16000 according to press reports. The Indians were quick to break the story and surely have videos of minister’s mild to moderate activities.

When I asked Sherry Rehman former Minister Information in her office last year, ‘why your leaders and members of your government queue up to receive junior US officials like John Negro Ponte and Richard Boucher ignoring the green book protocols’? She said, ’you ask difficult questions’. Then she started giving her mobile number to members of British media delegation? She was the one who sent SMS messages to the foreign journalists regarding the nationality of Ajmal Kasab a suspect of Mumbai bombings bypassing the Foreign Office and Prime Minister House. Why?

Media war in the current scenario is part of the ‘psychological warfare’ against Pakistan, how much that angle is considered by the heavily infiltrated, corrupt and compromised establishment is anybody’s guess? If sacrifices of the Pakistani people armed forces, and security forces are not being fully acknowledged by the world media and international community then it is time to go back to the drawing board and make a viable, solution focused, robust ‘media strategy’ to counter media war against Pakistan?

(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is PhD in ‘Political Psychology’ and also studied Law at a British University)

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