Views on news – by Sindhyar Talpur

This is an essay not on the News itself, but presentation of news and the power of media. The question I’d like to put up is whether our electronic media showing responsibility?

On 19th July 2010 Pakistan and Afghanistan signed an MoU, whereby Pakistan agreed in principle to allow Afghanistan to export its goods to India, only one way. At the same time, Afghanistan agreed to allow Pakistan a transit to Central Asian republics which can only be accessed through Afghanistan.

On a rather mundane day at office, I saw an interesting turn of events on my television. This on a private channel which has recently acquired as head of its news and events department, a publicly anti-government “journalist” – to put it mildly. Reasons behind his stance notwithstanding, such frame of mind is highly unacceptable in a nascent media environment, but there you are!

The Channel, when it had the news of the expected signing, started to seek ‘advise’ from other people about the implications of the ‘treaty’. It was established, purely based on hearsay, that this was a treaty that will allow India and Afghanistan to do bilateral trade. This would be through land, air and sea and Pakistan is allowing this unilaterally on American pressure. To hammer the latter point home, Sec of State of USA, Hillary Clinton, standing with PM and behind the signatories, was looking deviously pleased in the clip shown again and again.

Economic ‘Experts’ were called to give their views on this ‘development’, and given the opportunity they lashed on it. It was unanimous that such a unilateral treaty was in no way beneficial for Pakistan. Then Politicians belonging to opposition were called up and they too echoed the same viewpoint. It was then asked was the Parliament consulted on signing of such a treaty? Answer was no! Implication that democratic government wasn’t that democratic after-all. It was then asked was it in Pakistan’s interest to allow Indian exports to go to Afghanistan? It was established that this would do nothing but harm Pakistan export and manufacturing industry. Finally it was also asked that did Afghanistan have anything to export themselves, being a country ravaged by war and all? It was established that apart from dry fruits, Afghanistan hardly has any legal export, but they do have numerous drugs and weapons available to export and this would give them a gateway.

It was quite a sight and all went well. Questioner seemed pleased with the answers he was getting, like a professor at a viva, nodding with approval on correct answers. There was however one glitch, Mr. Gohar Ayub Khan did slip up and consequently ruined the show. He did well initially and went along with the script, but in his effort to show his Foreign affairs experience, he made a stunning revelation. Mr. Khan revealed that Afghanistan and India actually didn’t need any space from Pakistan in Air or in the Sea. Both were already connected and hence had continued to trade for sometime. He tried to back-paddle, realizing his mistake, to add that India never allowed Pakistan any access in Nepal, Bhutan etc, but damage had already been done. He reiterated his earlier revelation, with the interviewer repeating the same with a look in his eyes saying – ‘you have failed me! don’t expect a call again in near future’.

The channel also brought this news to streets of Lahore and asked passerby their views on this development. We don’t know how many were interviewed and how many held a neutral or positive view point. However what we heard was all negative, and given the facts one couldn’t blame them – news as was presented did show Pakistan was doing this rather charitably. Especially considering Pakistan had only a day before been angry at India for being too inflexible and narrow at the peace talks, now they were giving their industry a boost?

That said, there was one fellow who half shouted that we wouldn’t let Afghanistan into Pakistan. It didn’t make sense to me either, but he must know something about an imminent invasion about which we have no clue!

It was of course later-on revealed by Information Minister Mr. Kaira that this was an MoU, which meant that it wasn’t binding as yet and specifics would be drawn later. That this only allowed Afghanistan a way through, and that too in exchange for way for Pakistan into landlocked states of Central Asia – which are currently highly sought after for their natural resources and being cherry picked by China.

Now while the issues of oblivious Parliament and Indian hegemony at American behest came to naught, there still remained the problem of Afghanistan and its illegal trade. The Interviewer then asked the Information Minister about it. There was a silence. He hadn’t thought of that! He just reiterated that viewpoint again and took his leave. I was left with my still shaking head, or is it just me?

Now we know that Afghanistan is going through a war, and as such has alot of weapons going into it, but doesn’t make much sense why those weapons would go out of it? They’d sell weapons when they are finished, its not finished yet – if anything there is trouble weapons going in Afghanistan – Also, Pakistan Afghanistan Border is the most porous in the world. We have failed to stop any smuggling so far, the Taliban move at will between the two countries, we have had this confirmed from US, Afghani as well as Pakistani officials and Army. So why would they use a legitimate route, which is likely to be full of check points? When they can do as they please, smuggling in any weapons they want and smuggling out any drugs. This slanderous allegation also claimed that Afghanistan had nothing but dry fruits to export! If he had said Afghan rug, I would have given it to him but he even failed to stereotype.

It was a failed evening in my view, I spent few hours switching back and forth, while I had the option of knowing about a 19th century antiques, the WW-II, the animals of Africa, what happened to Ronnie at Eastenders, relive Ross and Rachel getting together again, yet I choose this; like millions others no doubt. In the end, I was given misinformation and hype over nothing. Please notice, neither I, nor the Interviewer still know what Afghanistan actually exports but I do know that our government is very undemocratic, irresponsible and likely to sell-out given the chance or I think it is!

Thus the question remains is our electronic media acting responsibly?



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