Hope amid inherent biases!


Zaheer Bhatti

THE planned visit of Kate Middleton and Prince Williams from Britain’s Royalty to Pakistan brings alive fond memories of Princess Diana more recently, and the Queen of England’s visit of the country decades ago. Pakistanis have never lagged in traditional hospitality whose warmth the royal couple would feel the moment it sets foot on Pakistani soil. Elegant and rich in civility as the British Royalty traditionally is, one wonders if it could be sensitised about its disconnect with the British Political Administration’s tainted world view and the amount of negative flak it brings to the good name of the Crown. One wonders if Pakistan’s Foreign Office would care to assign someone to discretely broach the subject with the royal guests to see if their indulgence in the matter could smoothen out the rough edges of Pak-British relationship on that count alone.
Pakistan ever since its creation is having to face the fall-out of the raw deal in execution of the British Partition Plan ceding Muslim majority States to Pakistan, of which the State of Jammu and Kashmir continues to be the unfinished agenda, and bedevils relations between the two arch rivals since turned nuclear and threatening global peace; with India forcibly clinging on to the majority of the State and ever since, raising one bogey after another to stall and scuttle the core issue by obscuring world opinion mainly through pliant media. Inherent biases of the international media mainly BBC and The New York Times supporting a newly launched Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement loaded against Pakistan Army, and the French duo of L’ Express faking a video supposedly showing made-up guerrilla Afghan Taliban being trained inside Pakistan, are only a couple of recent examples.
Rewind a couple of decades, one was told about the dubious conduct of Reporter of ‘60 Minutes’ an American TV Magazine Programme, who having been provided access and audience with Mullah Omar in Afghanistan and allowed to freely record footage of the various developments during his rule, was informed that the ruler who had through a personal decree disarmed the entire gun-slinging Afghan population, brought Poppy cultivation to zero level and taken pronounced steps to empower Afghan women and bring them education besides ensuring peace and security to the entire country. As for testimony to the amount of public confidence enjoyed by Mullah Omar, I am reminded of a personal experience narrated to me by General Hameed Gul a former ISI Chief to whom as the chief guest at the National Day Parade that year, Mullah Omar revealed that it was a live ammunition Parade he was witnessing and that the armoured columns passing the dais and lowering their arms in salute were all loaded; an unprecedented display of confidence in the leadership.
As a measure of display of the peace and security established by Mullah Omar’s Emirates, the ’60 Minutes’ Program Reporter was asked to leave his jeepster and belongings parked unlocked anywhere in the open, which he did and found his belongings totally safe and untouched after several hours. The Interlocutor who served as guide for the Reporter in Afghanistan, excited by his experience revealed to an informed gathering in Pakistan’s Capital Town Islamabad, that the said Reporter who had come charged with a grossly distorted view of Mullah Omar’s Rule in Afghanistan was so impressed when exposed to reality on the ground that he appeared totally transformed after filming thousands of feet all over the country, and vowed to bring out the truth in his program on return. Sadly, several weeks later what one witnessed in an episode of that programme, was an entirely negative cut and paste version of Mullah Omar’s rule.
I was also reminded of a BBC cut and paste video within hours of the 1965 War showing Indian soldiers roaming the main Anarkali Market in Lahore at the time when the public including myself were enjoying the dog-fight overhead like witnessing a kite-flying match in which PAF Fighter Pilot M.M Alam accounted for 5 Indian jets in a matter of minutes. But worrisome in the backdrop of media disinformation, are recent developments propelled by Indian RAW via Afghanistan against Pakistan.
Amid such distortions and biases of the Western Media besides a totally one-sided view of Pakistan-India relations by the US in favour of India asking Pakistan to take sustained and irreversible steps to improve ties with India instead of asking India to reciprocate to Pakistan’s peace gestures, the news that the American State Department had declared Pakistan’s outlawed BLA, a separatist outfit led by Brahmdagh Bugti and Harbiyar Marri as a terrorist Organization, besides Jindallah, Jaish-ul-adl and Fidaeen-e-Islam, freezing all their assets and banning any interaction by US citizens with these banned outfits; though still no word against Tehreek Taliban Pakistan, comes as a pleasant surprise and vindicates Pakistan’s long standing stance about flagrant Indian excesses against it.
Although Pakistan had long before outlawed these groups which were being sponsored by India for operations inside Pakistan made known to Washington which constantly ignored the transgression until attacks on Chinese engineers in Balochistan, Chinese Consulate in Karachi and targeting of Chinese personnel in PC Gwadar, when the US appeared forced to take cognisance due to the Chinese with whom the Americans have bigger stakes than with any other country including India. Political and economic expediencies holding sway globally, no wonder that despite US desire to assign India the policeman’s role in the region, its economic detent with the Chinese while taking issue with India and its curbs over American imports and vice versa, speaks volumes about how international relations are tailored in the present-day world. With Imran Khan in Washington for a one on one with an equally blunt Trump, it remains to be seen if the Pakistani Premier is able to generate hope and mend fences amid inherent biases, by making his American counterpart see Pakistani issues through the Pakistani prism in the larger interest of regional peace and development.
—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.