MEDIA BLITZ FABRICATES AN IMAGE

FOZIA AROOJ (feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Feb 8 - 14, 2010

Terrorism is a curse. Pakistan has lost its sovereignty by fighting a proxy war for the US and Nato against Al-Qaeda. Despite tireless efforts to be an ally in the war on terror the image of Pakistan is deteriorating with every passing day. Even America and Europe are not endorsing our actions and assistance in combating global terrorism. US Vice President Joseph Biden referred to Pakistan as a "dangerous" state along with Iran. The Pakistanis have actually themselves become victims of senseless crimes. Most recently, the new Obama's administration has cautioned Pakistan that it would be held accountable for security in the border regions of Afghanistan and that the financial aids to it would be linked to country's performance in the fight against terrorism. How can we change the tarnished image of our country?

In today's world, where the biggest threat to human existence is terrorism, the global community continues to point fingers at Pakistan for one reason or the other. But as a matter of fact law and order situation in Pakistan is awfully bad since last couple of years. There were 60 suicide attacks in 2008 as against 56 in year 2007. During 2008, at least 852 persons including 712 civilians and 140 security force (SF) personnel were killed and over 1,867 persons injured whereas in 2007, 729 persons including 552 civilians and 177 SF personnel were killed and 1,677 persons injured. Its socioeconomic repercussions are multidimensional. Not only around the globe we are becoming notorious but economic conditions are also getting worse. The foreign investors are reluctant to invest in Pakistan.

Global media has portrayed Pakistan as if each and every citizen in the country is prone to become suicide bomber. As a result, Pakistanis are being scanned at the airports of Europe and America with backscatter X-ray machines, which is a matter of extreme disgrace. These machines are capable of looking through the apparel in order to detect explosive materials. But this is a sheer humiliation of the women traveling in veils.

Frequent bombings, deteriorating law and order situation, and displacement of the local population, have taken a toll on the socio-economic fabric of the country and especially the embattled Northern areas.

Education is under attack in Swat and different parts of the FATA. More than 190 schools have been burnt. It has grave implications both for the government's writ and bad for the future of education in Pakistan. Female education has been declared prohibited by Taliban which fabricates an awful image of Islam internationally.

Pakistanis image is tarnished after it being branded as a country with minimal prospects of peace and prosperity and a haven for terrorists and a political swamp. Very few strategies of attracting resources or people to engage in long-term investment will really work now. It should have been the government's duty to spruce up the country's image by creating conditions of peace and security. No planned internal or foreign media strategy has been developed to counter these allegations. The country is perceived as full of desperate, unstable maniacs.

At present, Pakistan is engaged in a media war which is planned and systematic. The country is not only the victim of physical terror but also of media terrorism launched by the sponsored foreign media blitz. Often, questionable and baseless stories are aired by the foreign media which besides tarnishing the image of the country are meant to put pressure on the Pakistani government, leading to an environment of uncertainty, fear and political turmoil. Why are VOA and BBC programs being aired on private Pakistani TV and radio channels?

Terrorism is a great hurdle in our socio-economic prosperity, political stability, geo-strategic sustainability and energy security. Development activities have come to a grinding halt in these areas. The international media don't focus on the positive aspects of Pakistan and simply portray the country as an exporter of terrorism. Regrettably, the authenticity and veracity of reports by the foreign media are not checked. Undoubtedly, Pakistan is passing through a critical phase of its history as it faces both internal and external threats. Therefore, the Pakistani government must act in a way befitting a period of conflict.

Wherever and whenever there is an act of violence or terrorism in any part of the world, howsoever remote it might be, we find foreign security analysts smelling in one way or the other traces in Pakistan. A deep-rooted trouble of sectarian violence, bad law and order situation and terrorism-related problems keep on contaminating Pakistan's identity flashing it on the global radar screen as the hotbed of 'religious extremism' and obscurantism.

This perception complicates things for Pakistan and for Pakistanis living or traveling abroad. Religious militancy and extremism are today a serious problem for the country. The face of intolerance and fanaticism that has been painted for us has left a dreadful scar on the personality and outlook of our nation. It has given us a culture of violence and hatred that our society had perhaps never experienced before in its history. Grave crises and acute problems within our own region have proliferated in a manner that has not only made us the focus of world attention and anxiety but also forced us to make difficult choices in our perennial struggle for security and survival as an independent state.

The image has been exacerbated by the recent high-profile cases of violence and assaults against women and systemic denial of justice to the victims. The unsavory gender biasness and mediaeval practices, which are barbaric and senseless, are not new to Pakistani society but in an increasingly interconnected world, they are becoming considerable human rights issue of global concern.

It can't be said that we are blameless, but there are forces, both internal and external that are only adding to the problems and are tarnishing the image of Pakistan. The invincible over 167 million Pakistanis are still hopeful, despite the chaos and the bleak picture painted by local and international media to demoralize the nation and to uproot patriotism from the hearts and minds of the Pakistanis.