It is not the first time that a fake story has made its way from a satire website into the mainstream media, but a hoax report that the US has added Pakistan to the visa waiver program has generated more buzz more quickly than I can remember. The US Embassy has even been forced to issued an official statement on Twitter calling the report a ‘spoof’ story.
There are stories behind stories like this, and this one has many chapters to it. The first chapter is, of course, about how unprofessional – and untrustworthy – our media is. As I said before, this is not the first time a fake story has made its way into the mass media. It probably won’t be the last time, either. We should be asking what other stories we are being spoon fed are inauthentic? If our so-called ‘professional’ media can’t even bother to check with the Embassy before running a story about a major change in visa policy, how can they be trusted to report on more sensitive issues such as Kashmir or Balochistan?
There is more to this story, though, than just a failure to check sources. The story is reported that Pakistan was added to the US visa waiver program to show appreciation for Zarb-e-Azb. By doing this, the wide spread reporting gives away more than might have been intended. It is not merely a story about poor journalistic practices, it is a story about our own insecurities.
After suffering for so long, we are desperate for Zarb-e-Azb to be a success. But every time we start to feel positive, another attack reminds us that things are not so rosy as official reports tell us. This is why we are desperate for American officials to tell us things are improving. ISPR has been saying it since day one, and even though we listen, we stopped truly believing them long ago. Army’s interest is in maintaining morale, not reporting the truth.
But we are also desperate to be accepted by America. Even your most anti-American friend who always complains about US imperialism and Islamophobia secretly wants to go there. Being added to the visa waiver program says that American looks at us not as possible refugees (or worse – terrorists), but as equals.
The story is obviously a hoax, though. The US recently announced that it would not pay the Army $300 million in Coalition Support Funds because it we are not taking action against Haqqani Network militants. Jamaat ud Dawah Ameer Hafiz Saeed who US has declared a terrorist appears as a special guest on TV shows. Do we really believe that they are going to reward us with a visa waiver?
Today, the story is a hoax. If we want it to be true, we have to change the conditions so that it can become true. If we want Zarb-e-Azb to be a success, we have to stop turning a blind eye to ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants and end our tolerance for militancy completely. If we want to be treated as equals, we have to stop treating militant leaders as our special guests.