Nasima Zehra Awan laments the media romances with sectarian Islamists while the country drowns
The August 21st editorial by DAWN is a good example of what is wrong with the media in Pakistan. “Hardliners and Flood Relief” is precisely the kind of vacillating apologia for extremists that is the bane of the local media.A media that has anointed itself as “Independent” for hounding out elected politicians at the behest of a powerful establishment, has failed in informing the public about the various Islamist militant groups and their agendas. In this regard, it is baffling that DAWN’s editorial prefers to maintain an Ostrich-like approach to the exponentially growing existential threat from these sectarian bigots.
President Zardari is absolutely correct in pointing out this threat. The exclusive bashing of elected PPP leaders is the national sport in our elite drawing rooms and reflects our impotent rage that can never be directed at the actual source of our problems but at those who cannot strike back. It is therefore sad that DAWN follows suit and completely disregards the warning of Pakistan’s elected president and chooses to maintain the establishment-led status quo in protecting its Jihadi assets.
In covering the hundreds of targeted killings of minority sects and religious groups like the Ahmadis, Shias and Christians, DAWN studiously maintains a policy of obfuscating the issue via the use of euphemisms. In doing so, it dishonestly creates a false symmetry between the victims (Ahmadis, Shias and Christians) and their killers, the vast nexus of sectarian Salafist Jihadi groups like Sipah Sahaba, its militant wing, Lashkar Jhangvi, Lashkar Tayabba, Jaish Mohammad and Harkat ul Mujahideen amongst a host of other related subsidiaries. For a newspaper that allies itself with Jinnah, the irony that the country’s Shiite Muslim founder would have been a fair game for these sectarian groups is completely lost on DAWN!
Since the beginning of the flood crisis, Pakistan’s media has preferred to lynch the elected government as opposed to galvanizing the public and the International community towards relief efforts. In trying to divert attention away from banned groups who are using the tragedy of these floods to increase their hold on Pakistan, DAWN has allied itself with the same reactionary and bigoted class that prefers an authoritarian future for Pakistan under an increasingly monolithic and supremacist identity that abhors a pluralist ethos. In both the 2005 Earthquake tragedy and in the current devastation caused by the floods, these sectarian-Jihadi groups have been facilitated and financed at the expense of the State to carry out relief efforts. While the Government has been consistently blocked, distanced, misrepresented and denied, the armed forces, which are constitutionally under the direction of the Government and who are funded by the public are lauded for doing what is their duty and what is customary in any part of the world. Similarly, the sight of banned sectarian groups who are being funded by the Punjab Government, openly discriminating in their relief efforts on the basis of sect (refer to the case of hundreds of Ahmadis being denied relief by Jamaat Dawa/LeT) is being glossed over and mostly ignored by DAWN and other similar corporate media outlets.
The reason that the International community is skeptical about giving aid to Pakistan is not because of Transparency International’s statistics that have remained largely the same since the last 4 years. Its because of the clear divide between a helpless and hounded elected Government that prefers to engage with the world and a jingoist establishment that wants to berate the Government for accepting foreign aid on a warped basis of honour(ghairat). The International community is skeptical because this aid is then siphoned off for buying more weaponary and toys for the Jihadi monsters who attack NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan when they are not too busy killing thousands of Pakistanis back home. The International community is skeptical about aid and relief efforts to Pakistan because it does not want its money to go to Jihadis and its own volunteers to be the targets of these Jihadis while they are in Pakistan.
The public credibility with the Government can be addressed in the next elections. However, how does one deal with the obvious lack of credibility of the media? In a drowning country, how does one deal with a media whose bias for Islamist militias has graduated from a blossoming romance to a full scale marriage. How does one make sense of how DAWN concludes its editorial:
“Also, the concept of charity is a major motivational factor with all religious organisations, not just Islamic ones. So the hardliners’ response to the floods is more likely to be guided by a sense of religious obligation than an opportunity to win more recruits.”
Really, charity!! Where is this charitable spirit and this religious obligation when the same sectarian militias are killing thousands of Pakistanis all over the land. How can one call this charity when the resources used by these Jihadi groups are the very same resources that have been diverted to them from the State and their local and foreign patrons. Where is this charitable spirit when relief is provided and denied on the basis of sect! In Sindh, Hindu families have publicly taken the responsibility to feed their Muslim countrymen. Non-Muslim countries are finally donating hundreds of millions to the PPP lead Government due to the efforts of the much maligned President and Prime Minister, even as two bit TV anchors like Talat Hussain can get away with their brazen lies to the BBC that the couple of hundred thousand dollars collected by him and Kashif Abbasi exceeds the entire collection of the Government! Yet, editorials like this one in DAWN and those shouting matches on GEO have only one agenda; malign the Government and glorify the Jihadis. If the latter is not possible, at least diminish their malevolence even if its means that facts on the ground have to be distorted. If these are the standards of the country’s premier English daily, one shudders to think what scurrilous rags that are openly beholden to the Jamaat Islami are publishing.
History will not forgive the negative role played by the Pakistani media at this crucial juncture. While the country is being ravaged by floods, the media spent more time cheering the shoe thrown at the President by a Hizb ul Tahrir activist; a shoe thrown in protest against the nascent democratic set up in Pakistan and in the hope of establishing a totalitarian caliphate. While floods ravage a third of the total area of Pakistan and have rendered 20 million people homeless, our media, including DAWN, has thrown its lot in with the establishment and its political game of lynching the elected political class, especially those from the PPP and ANP. Nero fiddled while Rome burnt and our media romances sectarian Islamist brutes while the country drowns.
Wait for the next editorials – “Al-Qaeda is a global charity movement” and “Taliban are a group of rescuers”!!
Comments on the posts from PTH:
I read Dawn’s editorial and I did not find it sympathetic to Jihadist cause. The editorial is merely pointing out the deficiencies of the state apparatus, and mentioning that hard-line parties will most probably not be able to use the opportunity as a marketing bonanza for their cause. There is nothing controversial in this opinion by Dawn.
What however also needs to be realized is that there is tremendous misery out there. And someone has to go out and feed the hungry, give medicine to the sick and provide shelters to the dispossessed. We can sit comfortably on the sofas and do our donations, but can we condemn the religious organizations for providing relief for the poor? I have no sympathy for LeT and JMs of this world. Their view of the world will preclude them from helping the minorities in this hour of need. They will remain retrogressive and parochial in their view of the world, and I will have all the contempt for them for what they stand for.
But I would observe their actions as something that is at the end of the day, helping the ones passing through cataclysms in their life. At some point, the action of helping the poor needs to be put in the context that it is a necessary one in the imperfect world where the government has been slow is providing full relief. Maybe it is out of government power to do that, but the relief efforts then get supplanted by the religious organizations of all colours.
I cannot sit back and in my conviction of my secular ideals say that the religious right wing has no right to help the poor. If they are helping the needy ones, that’s a commendable job. If they are trying to recruit people to their Jihadist cause, this is an unfortunate part of the whole scheme. A hungry stomach with no certainty of food is likely not going to listen to the secularism speeches for too long. But if this flood enforces one point, it is that the best the mainstream parties can do from now on is to invest in the institutions that develop a prosperous and stable society. With the population set to explode three fold in the next forty years, what are we going to do with another natural disaster that will affect three times the population?
On a similar note, regarding banning the Moudoudi’s books, I am not convinced that banning them is a good idea. We cannot fight intolerance with intolerance. An open discussion of his books and dissection of his barbaric and medieval ideas is only possible when his books are available to be read. I think Pakistani society is moving in the direction o fmore open critique of the previously sacred cows e.g. Sayeed Qutub and Moudoudi’s destructive ideologies. We ought to let this process continue and not give these folks any more support by forcing their writings underground.
I simply cannot bring myself to agree with the intellectual dishonesty that is being dished out by the media and in that regard, I have many problems with DAWN’s editorial.
DAWN, like most of the local media, has done a horribly poor job of analyzing the workings of Jihadi groups. How can they be so obtuse to the fact that any organization that is using the flood for its PR efforts will not meet with success in drawing more recruits. Your own response proves that these relief efforts will get these Jihadi groups positive PR. You mention that the Jihadi groups get to these places before the government and other relief agencies do. Ever wondered why?
This is because of a deliberate strategy by the security establishment to have Jihadi presence in every nook and corner of the country In the urban areas, this is achieved by building or taking over mosques in an organized manner where no area or sector is spared. It is really quite cellular and organized. The real training centers are kept in rural areas that are cut off. In the 2005 Earthquake tragedy, these Jihadi groups were the first to reach not because they were more efficient but because they were already present there.
During this time, I was informed that Ahmadi and Shia volunteers and doctors were told to stay away from many areas in Balakot; the militants doing “charity” there would not take too kindly to their presence in those areas. If they needed to work there, their sectarian identities were not be revealed at any costs.
Furthermore, these Jihadi groups have access to the kinds of resources that even the government can dream off. They control nearly 95% of all the mosques and madrasses in Pakistan, have access to billions of dollars that comes not just via the Gulf and via the sales of heroin and timber (another significant reason for these floods) but also via the State Zakat collections and even in the form of subsidies by the Punjab government. If they are ever caught after a killing spree of professionals belonging to minority sects, the ISI is there to bail them out. If their case ever gets to trial, our “Independent Judiciary” ensures that any and all evidence against them is deemed insufficient. Shouldn’t the media be covering all this with far more vigour than currently shown. Also, if these groups are banned, how is it that they and the army are the only ones who are allowed into most areas while government agencies and many NGOs are kept at a distance? How is it that the army and these Banned Jihadi groups are working side by side and taking credit for providing relief and why is our jingoist media buying this line!
The media, and in this case DAWN, is actually forgoing its responsibility to question how Jihadi groups are being given more and more space by the establishment. This is done not only to give them positive PR on the watery graves of the flood victims but also to choke the government. It is to convince the public that the political class is the only class that is to maligned while the establishment and all auxiliaries cannot be touched.
It is truly a sad day when we abdicate our responsibility and do not protest when the flood is being used as a photo opportunity by the Jihadis and their mentors to forward their agendas. The Cuban doctors of 2005 did not try and convert the Earthquake survivors to Communism. The Jihadis are not only doing some token relief work, for which they have been amply funded at our combined expense, they are also denying Ahmadis and other minorities this relief based on their warped beliefs. The battle lines in Pakistan are clearly drawn and some of us will oppose these murderers at every opportunity. Silence is not an option.
Tags: Ahmadiyya Muslims & Persecution, Asif Zardari, Christians, dawn newspaper, floods in Pakistan, Harkat ul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jihadi and Jihadi Camps, Misrepresentation of Shia Genocide, PPP, Shia Genocide & Persecution, Shia Islam & Shia Muslims, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) & Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) & Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ)