Our Beacon Forum

Pashtoons and Pakistan Media
By:K. Hussan Zia, Peshawar
Date: Sunday, 29 April 2018, 8:27 pm

There has been a steam of articles appearing in the newspapers as well as the social media in Pakistan to protest against the alleged murder of Naqeebullah Mehsud and other hardships suffered by Pashtoons. If this is indeed true which on the surface it appears to be, it is tragic, totally unacceptable and needs to stop at the earliest. The heart of every Pakistani goes out to the Pashtoons who have suffered as a consequence, even if unintentionally.

The problem has its origin in the U.S invasion of Afghanistan when large numbers of Afghan Taliban took refuge in the Pashtoon border belt of Pakistan. For reasons best known to him, General Musharraf against all advice ordered troops into FATA. It led to large scale destruction and dislocation of the population. FATA became battleground and a veritable sanctuary for terrorists of all kinds, most of these supported by the Indian RAW and Afghan security agencies under U.S control.

The killer U.S drones were free to target anyone they liked including schools, wedding procession, public meetings and funerals. In an article on Facebook entitled ‘Are We at War With Pakistan?’ Congressman and at one time presidential hopeful, Ron Paul wrote, ‘former US ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, when asked to define who can be targeted by the drones, said: "The definition is a male between the ages of 20 and 40". (http://www.facebook.com/ ronpaul/posts/ 10152361365996686 .

Colonel Kilcullen, who has served as adviser to General Petraeus in both Afghanistan and Iraq, estimates the kill ratio of innocent civilians and terrorists is more like 50 to 1 (‘Death From Above, Outrage Down Below’ The New York Times. 16th May 2009). The Peshawar High Court in its judgement on a case about the drones put it closer to zero per cent.

Imagine having up to six drones circling overhead twenty-four hours a day, not for a day or a week or a month but for years on end, making a constant buzzing sound that never ceases. Anyone listening to it knows that it can bring death and destruction to anyone at any time. It creates a deep-seated psychological fear ---- a sort of unending emotional torture for all the inhabitants.

The lives of people in the area were changed completely. Children aged five to ten no longer went to school. Men were afraid to gather in groups of more than two or three. Weddings became subdued events with only close family members present. It was the same with funerals. (‘Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan’, NYU School of Law and Stanford University Law School).

In his book, Body Count: Global Avoidable Mortality Since 1950 (2007) Professor Gideon Polya at La Trobe University in Melbourne concludes that total avoidable Afghan deaths since 2001 under ongoing war and occupation-imposed deprivation amount to around 3 million people, about 900,000 of whom are infants under five (see also Washington DC-based Physicians for Social Responsibility (PRS) landmark study at: http://www.psr.org/assets/ pdfs/body-count.pdf). The vast majority of these have been Pashtoons.

These were egregious crimes against humanity and clear violations of international law. Yet, it did not offend either the government or the media in Pakistan at the time in any meaningful way. There were no media campaigns, public meetings or protest marches organised by any of the political parties or Pashtoon leaders against these gross violations.

This is just as true of the western media and other institutions. Mostly they too suffered no qualms of conscience at the horrendous and merciless persecution and blood-letting of innocent men, women and children

Now that the Pakistan Army has cleared FATA of the terrorist dens at considerable cost in terms of thousands of precious lives lost and normalcy is being restored in the lives of Pashtoons in the area, we find a sudden outburst of protest meetings and media campaign in effect accusing Pakistan of committing atrocities against them, her own people.

As if on cue, at the same time there has been a spate of articles in most of the prominent publications in the West including The Economist, The Manchester Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, BBC, Voice of America, etc. expressing deep concern and sympathy for the Pashtoons but only in Pakistan. There is no mention of course that their kith and kin across the border in Afghanistan are still fair game for U.S forces regardless of age or gender, as indeed they have been for the past more than sixteen years.

However hypocritical, it is understandable nonetheless for the western media exist primarily to protect and promote their national interests but what about the media in Pakistan? Whose interests are they serving? This is a question that has been exercising the minds of many a Pakistani for a long time. There has been no satisfactory answer so far.