Talk shows & news coverage
It is in this context that I would like to make some comments on the TV coverage of international events and TV Talk Shows, mainly those on foreign topics and issues. The common man is very much interested in major world affairs topics affecting Pakistan These days public is worried about foreign machinations in Pakistan , when it is claimed that foreigners are involved even in creating the Karachi disturbances and most worried about American involvement in stoking fire on our borders. And now cheekishly they have blamed ISI for helping Haqqani Group in attacking the US Embassy. Under the circumstances the more forcefully the Pakistani view point on the burning issues is presented the better. It is not every Tom Dick and Harry who can do it. Great care should be taken that the persons appearing on foreign relations topics know the area, have been in that area on some duration and this are not making comments on mere hearsay but have expertise on that area and the country. It makes great difference if the speaker knows the area well. Mere fact that they have been a professor and can speak English well is no title to express views on relations with that country. For example I find three persons the most knowledgeable on the situation in the Tribal belt, and Taleban and Afghanistan involvement in the situation, viz., Rahimullah Yusufzai, Brigadier Mahmood Shah and Rustam Shah a former ambassador to Kabul . This seems to be because they have intimate expertise on the area. Not every body can be an expert on an area, and not everybody in the media has that insight on events. I knew it from my ambassadorship on several posts. I used to hold my officers meetings to discuss the situation say in Beirut during the civil war and witnessed the difference between persons who had insight into the developments in that region or not. Similarly when I was ambassador to Egypt, on Sadat-Israel developing honey moon, I found that not every one of my officers could be so accurate on the course of events as some, and when Sadat hinted in the National Assembly that for the sake of peace he is prepared to go even to Jerusalem, only I predicted that the visit was to take place in a day or two, and the Americans have made all the arrangements for it that Sadat had decided to begin an era of appeasement with Israel . This was being vehemently contradicted even by top leaders in his party..
Nor having once been an ambassador entitles a person to talk about any country with confidence. Only the person who has been on that post, in recent past, or those who had kept themselves well informed of their area of specialization can be depended upon to speak on a developing scenario. Among the former ambassador for example Akram Zaki, Riaz Khokar, Tanvir Ahmed – or Abul Sattar – or their like have an edge over all others. This is not to complete the list of competent former career ambassadors. With rare exceptions among them, I do not consider political appointees ambassadors worthy of being counted as diplomatic commentators of foreign relations in difficult times like the present one.
Ours is Pakistani TV, and it be better if our view point on national events is reflected in TV. Undoubtedly some anchor persons do keep this point in view, like Imran Khan, Dani, Fesal Qureshi ( no relation of mine), Lukman, to name a few. So it is in TV Talk Shows. Firstly, persons participating in the TV Talk Shows waste much time in stuffing their talk with introductory remarks on the topic … “ but let me first say .. “ and some interlocutors present foreign view point rather than Pakistani views. I might suggest that when such persons are given the opportunity to present foreign concerns than on the same programs they should have co-discussants like General Qayyum. No objections to foreign point of view being espoused by some interviewers, but they should be confronted with national point of view. On defence matters General Qayyum presents a better view than any other so-called defence analyst. May I suggest copying BBC’s “London Calling” as a model for our TV Talk Shows. There is no suggestion to make TV Talk Shows a propaganda occasions, like it was the case in former Communist countries’ media once upon a time. Agreed that the beauty of private channels discussions is that they are not propaganda occasions but even then the national views should not be presented in an apologetic manner. For example none of the TV talks questioned Mike Mullen’s silly statement that Pakistan helped Haqqani Group to attack American Embassy in Kabul. These days the main topic even in public talks is Admiral Mike Mullen’s – if I may say so- silly statement that Haqqani group attacked American embassy in Kabul with ISI’ s help. What Pakistani interests are served by this so-called help to Haqqani Group as alleged by Mike Mullen and supported by White House spokesman. We are not a two tongued nation. Pakistan is not a maverick country or an Afghanistan where such an organization like ISI plays pranks or children’s games. Even if for its own reasons, in the interest of peace Pakistan has links with Haqqani Group what a stupid idea that what ever Haqqani group does is ipso facto supported by ISI. Idiotic logic. KPK Assembly and leaders have given a manly reaction to the idiotic threat given to Pakistan by Admiral Mullen. However, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani had made a very appropriate statement while talking on this silly accusation to the American General commanding centcom.
Some one has cautioned that rupture in relations would leave Pakistan as a smaller power significantly worst off. Have we forgotten what the small power Viet Nam did to a Super Power, what Iraq did to a Super Power, what a small country’s hostile group Taleban did to a Super Power in Afghanistan. Defeated by rag tag Taleban the mighty NATO and US are packing up in Afghanistan with a mission failed miserably, a pathetic picture of failure of Western armed might against a valiant local people defending their independence. Just a note: None of the persons named in this article are even my acquaitences.